We’re now done with the summer vacation arc, as our heroes are heading back to school. But, although we’re returning to a familiar setting, things between them all are no longer the same. This is what I mean when I say character drives action drives character: how will the changes in them affect the choices they make and how will those choices affect those around them? This isn’t to say that everything is suddenly altogether different; the shifts are more subtle than that. And some things, as we saw at the end of the last episode, have stayed the same. Or have they?
0:20—Taiga beats Ryuuji to the punch in greeting Minori (and probably saves him from being totally awkward).
0:30—Yup, definitely saved him.
3:16—This is a small detail, but it’s a nice one. Where is Ryuuji looking? Who is on his mind?
3:16—Another relatively small detail, but this is a cool visual representation of the Student Council president’s personality. She’s the type of person who crosses her legs like this, and she crosses her legs like this under the desk.
3:30—Another case where the still frame doesn’t quite do it justice, but this is a lovely cut of Minori, seen from (obviously) Ryuuji’s perspective.
4:36—There’s always that one guy in his underwear.
5:31—An interesting progression through Ryuuji’s thoughts. Who is first? But who does he come back to? I’d argue that before the vacation Taiga would have been the first one he’d think of, but now he’s got Minori on his mind. Like, really on his mind.
6:30—More changes. Taiga and Ami are still fighting every chance they get, but the insults they exchange in this scene are less heated than in the past. And this is a nice moment of a group forming. They come together in the hall to talk, even if they’re not all totally cool with each other.
7:11—There’s a lovely sort of irony in Ryuuji trying to bring up UFOs with Minori when he’s holding something as mundane and physical as Taiga’s torn gym pants. There’s of course, another layer in the fact that he’s trying to make progress with Minori while holding on to what’s probably the greatest obstacle between him and a relationship with her. If anything, Ryuuji feels much more like he has a chance with Minori now; he’s grasping at the one moment of true connection he’s had with her. But she’s shutting him out.
7:27/7:41—These shots are split up over half a minute of screen time (the third one is at 8:03), but it’s a nice little trick with the camera zooming in consecutively from the same angle, getting closer and closer as Taiga’s emotions get more intense, until they fill the entire screen. The progression is pretty cool.
7:54—A hypocritical line coming from him, and really not a great thing to say. He’s betraying a huge lack of empathy here. Unlike normal, he’s not trying to understand her feelings. He’s just talking at her problem.
7:58—This is the real indicator that he’s not coming at this from a place of understanding, because this is a freaking platitude that he drops on her. It’s totally detached from her actual situation and tries to generalizes her family situation without actually knowing it. I actually dislike Ryuuji a lot in this scene, because he’s missing really obvious signals. What’s his deal?
8:03—So it’s not surprise that she snaps on him, repeating the same thing she’s said before. And, as noted above, the closeness of the shot conveys the increased intensity of her emotions.
8:28—As Ryuuji complains about his dad (hypocrite), Taiga stares at her phone with an expression is somewhere between annoyance and regret.
8:53—Geeking out about this shot a little bit. Y’all know I love the curves in the wide shots Toradora! uses, but this one…they did it without actually using a curve line, instead creating the same affect with the desks. Your eye naturally completes the curve on the left side of the screen, and then they break it with the empty space on the left. Stuff like that tells me the curves are a pretty deliberate stylistic choice, because they didn’t have to take the desk out there.
9:24—I really like this shot, too. It’s strange angle just barely looking upwards at Ami.
10:46—I can only imagine how much fun Yui Horie had with this little joke.
11:23—Thank you, translators.
12:06—Okay, back to the serious stuff. Ryuuji’s lecturing Taiga here. “Open your heart” is just another platitude that he’s dropping on her; a clichéd line that is really at odds with the personalized kindness he normal shows her. Another clue that something’s off with Ryuuji in this whole situation.
12:24—This is such an uneasy shot: between the incomplete curve that’s formed with the tops of their heads and the gap between them and the light fixture that comes in between them, there’s a visual disconnection between them that complements how uncomfortable this whole conversation has made me. The angle’s weird, too.
12:47—I HATE that he says this to her. I HATE it. Sure, she’s just said she wished her dad would die, but he’s so detached from her actual feelings here. He’s not listening to a thing she’s saying. Just another in a long line of kind of terrible, level-headed things he’s said to her this episode. Again, what’s his problem.
13:12—Despite all that, Taiga trusts Ryuuji enough to send him as her ambassador to meet her father. Really, that’s a big deal, selfish an action as it is.
14:47—Minori’s been on his mind all episode.
15:03—Is this what Ryuuji wants for himself? It feels like we’re staring to close in on the answer here.
15:20—His never will. For me, this shot tells me everything I need to know. It’s the key to why Ryuuji has been so detached from Taiga’s feeling this episode. The lighting here is in really wistful, reminiscent, warm tones, as if these are Ryuuji’s own feelings.
16:06—She’s right. He’s sticking his head into something he doesn’t, hasn’t, and refuses to try to understand.
16:32—”Don’t betray me! Choose me! Pick my side!”
17:51—There’s something incredibly meta about the class employing clichés they know are false when casting Ryuuji and Taiga.
19:00—Again, the changes. Ami is actually helping Taiga here, prompting her gently to read her lines and engaging her in the class activity.
19:57—You know what I’m going to say. Curves. And another weird angle, telling us something’s not right.
20:23—My notes here literally read “no, no, no,” which is the sort of barebones thing I write when I’m having a strong emotional reaction to what I’m seeing.
21:02—And this is how he responds. It sucks to see it. Ryuuji’s made some mistakes with her before. This is his biggest.
21:16—Just look at her eyes. Her anger isn’t focused on her father here.
21:32—Cheap, cheap, cheap. But there it is.
21:37—And he finally realizes why he’s been so wrong about everything here. This is why he hasn’t been able to understand Taiga’s feeling—because he’s only been thinking about his own, vicariously through her situation.
21:49—But it’s too late for him to go back.
21:54—Because there are things that hurt Taiga more than betrayal. It hurts her to see him in pain, and so she caves.
22:17—It kind of makes me sick to my stomach.
22:25—This is what trying to convince yourself sounds like.
Ugh, yeah. I had kind of forgotten about this whole arc and I still only vaguely remember how it turns out. Which means right now this is just my gut reaction to what just happened. Reliving that final scene moment by moment doing this write up was…rough. It’s just a really sucky situation for both of them, and Ryuuji is the one who responds really badly to it, instead of Taiga. The fact that he has to physically bully her and emotionally hurt her to get him to listen to her, only to realize this isn’t for her own good is pretty indicative that he was far more in the wrong this time than ever before. It’s a pretty big deal to let your protagonist screw up that badly, so props to Yuyuko Takemiya for taking Ryuuji here.