As expected, I had to do episodes 18 and 19 together, but I took notes in order, so hopefully I won’t be spitting out too much stuff about episode 19 in this post. But, I think, even if you haven’t watched episode 19 yet, you know where this is headed: a whole lot of heartbreak for everyone. I guess the big thing by way of summary for this episode is how much of it is lighthearted on the surface. Despite everything that we know is going on internally with our characters, there are a lot of fun and games stuff happening, like Toradora!‘s trying to distract us from the ugly pain that’s present and imminent.
0:32—Bro, that is so uncool.
1:19—So this is how the new Kitamura is.
2:36—Just want to point out this really sad moment from the OP. Kihara starts laughing suddenly, and Ami makes a face, only to join in a second later. Her friendship with those girls has been based on her fake persona from the beginning, but pretending to laugh when you’re outside the joke hurts.
3:29—Man I love these kids.
3:53—Such a tough exchange here for Minori and Ryuuji’s relationship. Remember, they weren’t really friends before any of this happened, so they have essentially no base to fall back on. Minori doesn’t say hi to him, barely acknowledges him, refuses to answer his questions…and then just walks away in front of him. Which show just how much pain she is in.
4:18—Again, we see Taiga worrying far more about others than about herself.
4:42—A fun shot for fun times.
5:34—So many games going on here; friends pushing friends, arranging relationships, playing coy, avoiding feelings, not being honest…it’s not unreasonable that Ami’s sick of it all. After all, she’s played the games longer than any of them.
6:02—He should be happy, right? But he’s not.
6:22—Ironic considering the role he’s played (or used to play) in Taiga’s own love life and the way Taiga has been working in his own. It’s also a pretty damning critique of Ami’s hands-off, hand-on meddling in the whole situation.
7:03—Truth comes out in the light. Right?
7:17—Again, she’s nailing this, but should she really be telling him? It’s not like he’s actually understanding any of what she’s saying to him.
7:27—She’s so right, and it’s hard to hear. Once again, though, she can tell Ryuuji this, but he’s not actually able to understand what she means. He’s too far in. Ami can only see this because she’s (somewhat) outside the situation.
7:49—”Your relationship with Taiga is really unnatural. You should stop this childish game.” She’s calling it a childish game, but that’s not what it’s always been. It’s only what it’s become due to the simple fact that people change. When this all started, it was a mutually beneficial relationship, a good thing. But people don’t exist in static vacuums. They change each other, and that’s what has happened here.
8:07—It’s not until after Ami has given all her “adult” advice that we get this shot of her curled up in the fetal position, like a baby. She can see all this, yet she’s still just as defenseless and childish as the rest of them.
8:29—She can’t handle the responsibility of adulthood, of her own words. She’s too much of a child, so she walks out and tells him to forget it.
8:36—The way she says this promises that she knows this from experience.
9:27—There’s so much empty, unfilled space in this shot. The three of them are crammed into like a third of the total shot, making the encounter feel claustrophobic despite all the emptiness. It’s like they’re far too close for their own good.
9:44—Minori’s smile vanishes fast when she finishes talking to Taiga and Ryuuji. She hasn’t even fully turned away before it’s gone.
10:59—Taiga can see through some things with the same perception as Ami.
11:11—Ugh, this line. Carry it by herself? Yes, that’s what she’s been trying to do ever since the culture festival.
11:30—The emptiness of her apartment is such a good metaphor for the emptiness in Taiga’s life. She’s talking about her family, about reaching out to them, but it’s still unused, incomplete space.
11:36—This is who she really is. How many chances has she given to how many people in the short time we’ve been watching her?
11:39—Why is it such a big deal to her? Really, why? Ever since last episode, every conversation she’s had about Christmas has been begging this question.
11:51—I love that she tells him exactly what she needs.
12:15—Again, the question is why? The answer is in her actions…
12:36—And in her words. She’s trying to give what she doesn’t have.
12:56—Because she could be talking about herself here.
13:02—Does it matter?
13:04—After all, sometimes certainty of belief isn’t as important as actually having something to believe in. Sometimes, you just want to believe in UFOs…
13:36—There’s just the two of them out in the middle of a big, big world. Taiga wants to be a part of it, to be accepted, to belong.
14:06—Here’s the answer to the question: it’s a memory or, perhaps more accurately, a dream. A time when everything was perfect, when everything was right.
14:31—It was a very happy dream, but a dream nonetheless. An imitation. An illusion. But, for Taiga, it is worth clinging to because there’s nothing else for her.
14:39—She wonders if it’s foolish, but if she stopped believing how would she go on?
15:51—This is the answer to all your problems.
16:16—Ami gives Taiga a really friendly look, one that says she actually cares about Taiga.
16:46—Like when Taiga forced Ryuuji to join the committee, she again demands his attention when she doesn’t actually need it.
17:48—”Everyone will be happy…It’d only be right…” It would be, but that’s not how life works. This is what makes Toradora! so hard to watch. It’s right for these kids to be happy. It’s right for them to be free and innocent and without suffering in their lives. But what is right isn’t always what happens.
18:15—It really is a lovely piece and is so easily extended as a metaphor for Taiga’s heart. Kitamura, as much as he’s been able, has made good on this promise. But, then, he’s maybe been the most honest of any of them. After all, he’s the one who faced the fireworks straight-on.
18:43—Ami is watching Taiga, too, and taking pleasure in her friend’s happiness.
19:08—Taiga’s heart shattering, and who is responsible?
19:34—And who is going to try her absolute best to mend what she’s broken? It’s her long-time best friend, the person who is suffering more than anyone right now.
20:06—She’s begging for a change at forgiveness, to try again.
20:28—But, just like Taiga, she’s going about it in the worst way possible. By isolating herself, by trying to do things on her own, by ignoring the people around her and hurting them in her desperation to assuage her own guilt and her own suffering. Taiga leaves Ryuuji to help, but you better believe that Minori’s self-inflicted suffering is killing Taiga just as much as Ryuuji’s pain over his father situation did. Minori can’t admit to anyone, not even herself, that she’s weak and in need of help.
20:48—Ryuuji’s selfishness is of a different order, although it seems to hurt Minori just as much hers does them.
21:11—And she can’t say anything beside his name because she’s so incredibly dependent on the walls she’s put up. Really, this is a tragedy. These kids are friends, remember, but honest communication between them seems all but impossible.
21:30—Damn. Ryuuji really believes this. “As many times as needed,” he says, perhaps meaning a relationship while holding up Taiga’s heart. It’s not fair to Taiga, though, to keep getting broken like this. Even if something is able to be fixed, that still means it was first broken.
21:38—He’s left propping one more person up. How many people have been dependent on Ryuuji all this time? His mother, Taiga, Kitamura, and now Minori? When will someone support him?
21:59—The same bleak setting as after the softball game from last episode reappears here. It’s a bleak, barren landscape, and it’s into this that Ryuuji calls after Minori.
And that’s that. Tomorrow is the Christmas episode. Tomorrow is the day when everyone pays for all the deception and avoidance and dishonestly to this point. At this point, it can’t be a spoiler to say that. It’s so painfully obvious in the way the characters all relate to each other in such opaque and tangential ways. But how could they have done this differently? Whatever you do, you hurt someone? You stay silent, like Minori, and you distance your friends in a way that’s almost cruel. You stay vague, like Ami, and you just confuse people. You close up, like Taiga, and you’ll end up destroying yourself. You stay still, like Ryuuji, and you force others to act when it’s your responsibility to do so.
As a final note, I noticed myself asking more questions in this write-up than in any previous. I think that’s indicative of just how indeterminate the answers Toradora! presents are right now. How do you fix this situation? I don’t know, and Toradora!‘s not telling. It’s just letting us see how things spin out when you do them like this.