And so, we come to the end of the first cour of Toradora! We’re now over halfway done with this rewatch, which is at once sad and joyful. For my part, I remember significantly less about the second cour than about the first: a common occurrence when I watch 2-cour shows. This has much less to do with the second cour being of lesser quality and much more to do with the fact that I tend to up my marathoning speed when I get to the back half of the plot. For Toradora! specifically, I was up until 5:30 AM finishing it the first time I watch, which probably means I did at least from episode 15 to the end in a single sitting. That’s a lot of material that I get to rediscover. But, before that, let’s polish off the Ohashi High School Culture Festival arc.
0:08—Stuff like this makes me feel like Ami dislikes Taiga far less than she used to. She’s doing her level best to get Taiga ready.
0:20—It’s weird that Minori never shows up, and I think that it shows her unease in this situation isn’t entirely rooted in her fight with Ryuuji. Minori’s not the sort of person to let issues with one person affect her friendship with someone else, especially someone as precious to her as Taiga. As we find out later in the episode, it’s probably due to her internal issues with the situation.
1:01—I think this is the moment Ryuuji realizes her father isn’t coming, how deeply Taiga is going to be hurt, and that he can’t do anything to stop it, because Taiga is more or less diving back into her standard “tsun” personality with this line about a gift.
1:16—More evidence that Ami is more on Taiga’s side now than she’s ever been before. She stops just sort of trying to convince Taiga to change the intro, but she’s leaving Taiga to make the decision, not forcing anything on her. It’s the same thing she did with Ryuuji last week. I also couldn’t help but notice that Ami’s backed up by the green chalkboard in this scene. It’s the exact same framing and color set used in episode 11 when she’s lecturing Taiga about participating in the class. Just as with that situation, Ami’s absolutely in the right here, and the visuals match up in a way that emphasize the parallels of those positions.
1:42—We’re back again to Ryuuji asking questions. “This is for the best, right?” “It’s not my fault, right?” “Isn’t this a good thing?” And, once again, when he asks this question, the answer will be “no.”
3:42—This little bit is hilarious on such a meta level. From my (very limited) understanding, verbal abuse is a big part of the dominatrix fetish, but here it’s Ami’s actual personality and her frustration bleeding through in the exact situation where she can pretend it’s part of an act. We know Ami’s nasty personality is just that…nasty, not sexy. So for that personality to get “acted” out in costume almost feels like Toradora! blasting the trope.
4:38—He gets the text and the chaotic sound of the gym goes totally silent. Everything unimportant goes away as he understands.
5:04—The tragic answer to this question is: because you genuinely, desperately wanted to.
5:19—”I was just feeling down about Taiga’s father showing up…” I think there are a couple interpretations of this: 1) envy for her getting her father back in her life, and 2) fear of losing her. I’ve talked before about how I think companionship is a critical component of Ryuuji and Taiga’s relationship. Her father’s appearance jeopardized all of that, but he didn’t want to admit it bothered him.
6:24—Shit. (Pardon my cursing, but that’s what’s in my notes because that’s all I could think in that moment.)
6:39—Then freaking Ami again proves herself to be an A+ friend in giving Taiga one last chance to change her mind about the intro. And, as much as it hurts, I kind of like that Taiga doesn’t stop her, despite the fact that Taiga obviously knows her father isn’t going to be there. Until she’s actually stepped out in faith, taken the action to allow him to reciprocate, she hasn’t really given him a chance. He lets her down, but she gave him a chance.
7:24—I love this shot. Taiga takes back as much control of the situation and of the camera as she possible can, given the situation.
7:40—At this point, it’s all he can do. Both this moment and the one immediately previous deal in partials. Partial control, partial support. Something’s been broken and it can’t be fixed, only built upon and changed.
7:49—After all the heartrending stuff we’ve seen already, this shot still is just…awful.
8:30—Sorry to break the seriousness, but this is so metal.
9:01—As with pretty much everything involving Taiga for the rest of the episode, this is simultaneously triumphant and absolutely devastating. She’s standing strong by herself, but she never should have had to do this.
9:13—She’s been let down by more people than just her father, and Ryuuji realizes he can’t do anything for her because this time she’s chosen to do it herself.
9:43—But, despite that, he recognizes she’s alone in defiance of her agony and finally, finally, understands her actual feelings and moves towards them.
11:20—Ryuuji most certainly knows, right here, that he’s not just racing for a dance. He’s racing for forgiveness and for something to redeem all the missteps he’s made in this situation. And maybe not even in relationship to Taiga. Forgiving himself is part of the journey he has to take here, too.
13:21—Ami sees Ryuuji come out in front of everyone else, and she’s basically telling the audience what we all ought to have seen by now.
14:54—But in the midst of one sort of love (Ryuuji’s for Taiga), we also get to see Minori’s beautiful love for her friend, too. Minori may not be Taiga’s best friend anymore, but Taiga is still Minori’s best friend. So she tries to send Ryuuji, the person she sees Taiga needs the most, ahead, at the literal cost of her own body.
15:14—”Ahead of me!” she screams at him. Remember, she said to him, “I entrust Taiga to you.” She’s already made the radically unselfish decision to let Ryuuji be the one who gets to Taiga first. In this race, and in everything else.
15:53—Seeing these raw outpourings of love for Taiga from Ryuuji and Minori immediately (and Ami earlier, but more subtly), only serves to make Taiga’s thoughts all the more devastating. This is the consequence of Ryuuji’s selfishness, her father’s horrible treatment of her, Minori’s failings as a friend, and the dreadful disappointment and humiliation the school culture festival has been for her: she’s closing up, denying that she needs support. Sure, she’s making a (bad) decision here, but it’s an instinctive reaction to very real emotional wounds.
18:11—Despite the mistakes she’s made here (not telling Ryuuji about the previous time Taiga’s father came out of jealousy), Minori is still a wonderful friend to Taiga. She reaches out with genuinely kind words.
19:44—These aren’t just words. They’re a verbal expression of all of Minori’s actions to this point.
20:06—Of course not! It’s one thing to hate your parent and say bad things about them; it’s entirely another for someone else to do it.
20:48—I think this moment is Taiga finally understanding Kitamura, understanding that all his kindness to her has been of the indiscriminate sort, the sort that is kind to everyone, the sort that she’s misread for thirteen episodes because she never knew any other sort of love.
20:56—Which makes this all the more heartbreaking. Is this the first time we’ve seen Taiga say “thank you,” much less in such a radiant way? This is a kindness she’s returning to Kitamura, a kindness she doesn’t think she needs anymore, a kindness she is shutting out. There’s a brutal reversal happening here: before the boy whose kindness first validated her emotions she closes up tighter than ever. And she’s doing it because she thinks she has to, and because she’s thinking of others.
21:37—Meanwhile, the boy and the girl who have shown Taiga their own brands of particular and generously specific love are talking to each other, and Minori’s guard is down lower than ever.
22:19—Ryuuji’s monologue closing out the first half of Toradora! is yet another lovely speech, as we’re shown the direction the show is going from here. “It’s time to put certain feelings aside…” But, of course, some feelings perhaps ought to be kept.
Congrats, everyone! We’ve made it to the end of the first half of my second favorite anime of all-time! Honestly, I was a bit worried going into this massive project—worried that Toradora! might not be able to hold up under the intense scrutiny I knew I was going to give it. I needn’t have troubled myself, because this process has deepened my experience of, appreciation of, and love for Toradora! in a way I never expected.
I’m pretty darn lucky to have found this show. I look forward to unpacking the next twelve episodes with you guys!