Toradora!, Episode 19 [The Christmas Episode]

I know most people call this episode “The Christmas Episode,” but to me it will always be the “Christmas Bear Episode.” That moment was the defining moment of this show for me, the one that truly encapsulated everything about this show that I treasure and value. My first watch of it was truly a precious moment to me, and I’m eternally grateful that I’m able to relive it now. This is also the end of the third disc of the original NISA release that I’m watching, which means we’ve got six episodes left of this wonderful show.

And, of course, Merry Christmas to all of you who have been reading these posts, both on Reddit and on my blog! I never would have had the drive to finish this project if it weren’t for all of your kind affirmations, comments, and welcoming words to me. I know this is a special show for a lot of people, not just me, and I really am grateful to be able to share it with all of you. Now to write this thing…I wonder if I’ll cry again writing it…

Toradora!

0:22—So, we start off with Ryuuji trying, it seems, to hiding the phone call from Taiga and Taiga’s voice from Minori. Right off the bat, we know something’s up with him. Even if we don’t see it this episode, the wheels in his head are turning. He knows there’s something off in this situation.

2:33—Very few relationships in this show are as heartwarming for me as Yasuko’s relationship with Taiga. I’ve talked on and off about how Yasuko, for all her immaturity as a person and a parent, has her moments. With Taiga, Yasuko is constantly at her best, showering Taiga with constant love and acceptance. This is Yasuko’s greatest strength as a parent and it’s a perfect match for Taiga’s needs.

2:38—I have to love both of their initial reactions when they first see Ryuuji. Before moving into overdrive and relief, both Yasuko and Taiga are just stunned to see how good he looks. It’s a really nice family moment of a couple people who care a lot about Ryuuji being glad to see him.

3:31—Girl power is a fearsome force.

4:04—Even as they chat with each other casually outside the door, Ryuuji is taking care of Taiga. It’s as natural to him as breathing at this point.

4:49—Once again, Toradora! starts off lighthearted, as it does with most episodes. There are varying lengths of time before the episodes turn serious, but they almost entirely begin with comedy before modulating into the drama. It’s a very effective structure because it builds your affection and reattaches you to the characters every episode before bringing the full emotional weight of the narrative to bear on your defenseless heart.

Toradora!

5:30—Hnnnng.

6:32—Oh my gosh, this is so high school.

7:51—Once again, Taiga and Ami’s relationship, as with most things involving Ami, is depicted through the things they do with each other, not through the words they say. You don’t do a surprise performance like this with someone unless you’re good friends with them.

8:51—”Give me your smiles.” This is the line of the song we get as we see Minori breaking herself down. It’s a lovely shot, too, with the warm colors in front of her and cool one behind her: a kind of metaphor, perhaps, for the truth of Minori’s masks. Warm and bright on the outside, cold and pale inside.

9:42—This is always how we see her. Through a pane of glass, from the outside. There’s always a barrier between Minori and the world outside. It may be invisible, like glass, but it’s very much there.

10:07—HHHNNNNNNNNNGGGG!?

10:52—This conversation between Ami and Ryuuji is entirely hued by insinuations and implications. “You didn’t know she was leaving? Why not?” “Why would she leave?” “Maybe something’s going to happen.” Once again, they’re all supposed to be friends, but they continue to struggle communicate honestly with each other.

Toradora!

11:04—Instead, they plan on their own and act on their own…

11:21—And here, Ami is no better than the rest of them, because she insists on playing the game from the outside in her own isolated bubble. But she’s still playing the game.

11:26—Her frustration betrays just how much she cares about the trio of Taiga, Ryuuji, and Minori (yes, those are in a deliberate order). She can’t stand watching it happen, and she can’t interfere totally, and she can’t stay out of it. She’s certainly seen where this is all leading and is taking her own dose of suffering along with that knowledge.

12:21—Taiga sits alone, wrapped with the greatest symbol of the fact that she’s not alone.

13:01—A crushing line. Hopelessness. Disbelief that she can change, that her world can be different.

13:05—This one is even worse. She admits to herself that what she’s believed in is only a construct to keep herself upright. The UFO is just fireworks. Watching people give up is always a painful experience, and to see someone like Taiga, who has fought for hope for so long…it’s anguishing.

Toradora!

13:15—I’m remembering her conversation with Ryuuji about the stars and, how, although they look close, they’re truly far apart. That’s how Taiga feels, as if she’s nearby to those she loves, but isolated by a great, invisible distance.

14:02—The show just has to hammer us again and again with this as she clutches the scarf.

14:19—I kind of forgot how much humor is in this whole encounter because of how desperate it feels for Taiga and how genuinely loving it feels for Ryuuji.

14:35—But, of course, she has to ask. She has to know if she can believe again.

14:46—Because this means everything to her. It means so much that all she can do is laugh at how absurd the whole thing is: being alone, getting scared, finding a Santa Claus bear hanging outside her window. This could be fine comedy material, worth a laugh. But it’s not.

15:07—It means everything to her because her dream came true. “It was a very happy dream,” she said last episode. So she embraces it with everything she has, because she knows it won’t last.

15:27—It means everything to her. And this is the purest expression of love that Ryuuji has made in all the time he’s known her.

Toradora!

15:34—So much so that she’s reduced to a simple “Wow,” as if she’s in awe.

16:00—But she knew all along that it was a “make-believe Santa Claus coming to a make-believe good girl.” But she still had, for those few minutes, something to believe in! It didn’t matter whether it was a boy in a bear suit or a UFO or really Santa Claus or just fireworks! All that mattered is that she had something, someone to literally cling to in her loneliness. Even if it wasn’t real. Even if she knew it wasn’t real. Even if could never have been anyone else but Ryuuji. She still had it. Something eternal grasped in a moment. So the emotion she expresses internally and out loud is gratitude. Because even just the moment is worth having for her.

16:54/16:58—Ryuuji’s already making excuses not to go, showing what his crush means to him and what Taiga means to him.

17:04—And so, Taiga lies. And lies and lies all throughout the rest of this conversation, even as she tells him she didn’t want to lie to Minori. She closes up, tries to be self-contained, internalizes the pain.

17:14—As she does this, she acknowledges that change is coming.

17:41—”Santa already came!” And she pretends that’s enough, that only a glimpse of the moment is all she needs. I’ve taken all I can from you, let me give it back. But that’s a selfish, isolated way to think. She never stops to ask if this is what he really wants or needs.

Toradora!

17:47—Her desperation is bubbling so close to the surface, though, that Ryuuji very nearly grasps it.

18:21—A perfectly symmetrical shot, divided between the lonely sky and her empty apartment. All that’s left is Taiga and the symbol of Ryuuji’s care.

19:01—And then we’re privileged with the excruciating experience of watching Taiga go through the consequences of her actions, step by awful step.

19:24—Until the lies finally break down around her, until the dam breaks, just like it did in her fight with Kano. It is the supreme moment of honesty from Taiga in the series, a total admittance that she cannot do this on her own, that she wants her dream to be more real than just a dream, that she wants Ryuuji and she needs Ryuuji and she loves Ryuuji. The star once again is knocked off the tree, but this time she’s done it herself because she’s lied for so long.

19:51—But it’s not her fault. That is the most heartbreaking thing of all. Taiga never understood how much she cared for Ryuuji until she realized he was about to leave her. It’s only through the results of her lies that she’s been able to see truth. But how else was she to know? How could this image of her screaming on the streets after a boy who is long gone been avoided? There was no way to do it. It was impossible for her to know until right now.

Toradora!

20:14—As if seeing Taiga in her own, raw pain wasn’t enough, we now get to see Minori do the exact same thing that has brought Taiga to this point: cover up her own feelings and lie.

20:51—She can’t even wait to hear what she already knows. Her only thought is to “end” everything right there and then to run away.

21:12—So, she tells the biggest, saddest lie she’s told yet. This is worse than Taiga saying she realizes Santa Claus isn’t real. This is Minori saying that she still believes that her UFOs and ghosts are out there, but she has chosen to stop looking for them. It’s one thing to accept the reality that your dreams of love aren’t out there; it’s another entirely to know that they are and refuse to pursue them anyways. The fact that Minori has pushed herself to this point…it’s a horrible, horrible thing to do to yourself, and yet she does it because she wants to protect someone.

21:35—The falseness of her mask is brutally revealed here. She mimics her own happy actions, but her salute is half-hearted, her eyes covered with her hat. Everything we’ve seen of genki Minori is shown to be a sham because the illusion can’t persist when she no longer truly wants to keep it up.

Toradora!

21:52—”It’s Christmas. Give me your smiles.” Hahaha…haha…ha…ha…


Yeah, so Merry Christmas everyone! Feeling the Christmas cheer after that episode? Yeah, me too…

I’m going to try to have a post scheduled for Christmas Day, but forgive me if I don’t quite get it up on time. Likewise, the post on the day after Christmas might come in a little bit late as I don’t anticipate I’ll have the time necessary to watch the episode, take notes, and write the post on Christmas Day. But, we’ll see! I’ve made it this far; it’d be a shame to fall off the pace now.

24 thoughts on “Toradora!, Episode 19 [The Christmas Episode]

  1. @5:30 Kitamura is even more fond of getting out of his clothes than Hosaka from Minami-Ke

    “Taiga sits alone, wrapped with the greatest symbol of the fact that she’s not alone.”
    You SO nailed that! And the scarf stayed behind with Taiga. Hope.

    @16:00 Taiga promised to shed layers, but here she peels layers from Ryuji.

    From the wonderful, sweet moment of Santa Bear twirling Taiga, we take a precipitous fall, but a cathartic one.Out of the pain, a way forward is beginning to be cleared. Bittersweet, more bitter than sweet.

    And I have no idea what Minorin is saying. (Neither does Ryuji, but he makes agood guess) Out of a cast of poor communicators she takes the prize. What’s eating Minorin?

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    • “I have no idea what Minorin is saying.”

      Do you mean at the end? I think it simply means that she’s decided to not pursue a relationship with him, thus also choosing to turn her back on her own hopes and dreams. That, for me, is what makes her rejection of him so heartbreaking—because it’s not just her shooting him down; it’s her rejecting herself.

      Like

  2. The more I rewatch Toradora, the more I am convinced that Minori is gay or confused about her sexuality, and that she loves Taiga.

    Take this episode. Why does Minori witness Taiga lamenting Ryuuji? Minori should not be in that location at that time. Taiga’s entire plan was to send Minori to the school to meet Ryuuji. That’s why she’s so anxious to push Ryuuji out the door. Minori should be at the school, but she’s not. Instead Minori is coming to see Taiga at her apartment. Minori has no intention of meeting Ryuuji at all.

    However, Minori is beaten to Taiga (in both time and love) by Ryuuji. Minori witnesses the object of her affections declaring her love for another. This is a direct parallel to the Kitamura arc. And like Taiga, Minori takes the same action, though with a lot less violence. She seeks out her rival, and pushes her rival towards the person she loves.

    Thus her words at the end of the episode. To me, they make a lot more sense for someone who has been rejected (albeit unknowingly) in love, than someone who is spurning love.

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    • Book 7 actually addresses why she was in front of Taiga’s house. Quote:

      “Taiga wouldn’t know until later, but when she ran out from the entrance of her apartment, at the same time, Minori had been there on the other side of the street. She hadn’t just been passing by. She had come to the apartment to hear what Taiga’s true feelings were.
      And then, and then, and then.
      After seeing all of this, Minori understood; what she had suspected hadn’t been wrong at all.”

      Minori’s not dumb; she knew that Ryuuji probably planned to confess to her, so she wanted to know once and for all where Taiga stood before she made her own decision whether to accept it. That goes back to “guilt all gone?” from ep 16, where the photo in Taiga’s planner and Ami’s insinuation made it seem like Taiga’s true feelings lay elsewhere and not with Ryuuji. Minori still wasn’t convinced though, just confused, because she thought she understood Taiga better than that. Now she has her answer.

      There’s also another nice bit of imagery in this episode, where Minori’s listening to Ryuuji’s phone message and she can hear Taiga shouting at him. Even when it’s supposed to be a private “reach out and touch someone” moment between the two of them, even one as simple as a phone message, they still can’t get away from Taiga’s presence looming in the background.

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    • I’ve been keeping an eye out for this since it was brought up a few episodes back, and I’ll be honest: while I see where this interpretation makes sense, I really don’t think it has that much actual grounding in the story other than the one line at the end of the festival arc where she (jokingly, I would say) wonders if she prefers girls.

      Minori certainly loves Taiga (as a friend), but I think making her role in this story about her sexuality completely ignores the core purposes of the narratives and appropriates the story into another, unintended direction. The fact is that queering Minori’s role in the story almost necessarily changes the kind of thematic lynchpin I think she’s set up to be. Personally, I find her internal conflict to be much more compelling (and much less clichéd) if she is just a friend who cares a lot about Taiga, not another potential love interest for Taiga. Guilt over wanting Ryuuji, whom Taiga loves and needs, rather than being heartbroken that the girl she loves is in love with someone else, is a much more interesting way to take her character.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t like the idea of making Minori into someone whose motivation is romantic love. For this episode, I think it’s just as easy interpret her presence at Taiga’s apartment in different ways as it is to interpret it as her being in love with Taiga. Minori, as we’ve seen, has pretty darn good people sense, so it would have been easy for her to realize that if Taiga was convincing her to go to the party to see Ryuuji, Taiga would be alone. As a good friend, which Minori generally is, it’s pretty easy to see her making the choice to deny her own feelings (which she does anyways) and go to keep Taiga company rather than seeing Ryuuji.

      All in all, I think you have to do a lot of reaching to end up with a gay Minori and it kind of feels to me like applying a modern interpretive lens to a text that doesn’t really warrant it. We aren’t really given any overt reasons to think that Minori is anything other than what she says she is: a friend of Taiga’s.

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      • The thing is, if you’re right, then I believe that Minori’s sacrifice at the end of this episode is thematically wrong for Toradora, and weakens one of it’s major messages.

        One of the major messages in Toradora is that it is wrong to believe that you understand someone better than they do themselves, to make decisions for them. For example, the arc with Taiga’s father is Ryuuji not listening to Taiga, to hurting her because he thought he knew better. The arc with Kitamura has Kano doing the same thing, rejecting Kitamura because she thinks that’s best for him. In my view, Toradora says that this is wrong, that honest communication is the way forward.

        When Minori rejects Ryuuji, she is not only sacrifices her own happiness, she sacrifices Ryuuji’s happiness as well!

        Ryuuji has been pretty consistent about pursuing her. To reject Ryuuji for Taiga’s sake means that Minori has to believe that she understands Ryuuji better than he understands himself. Previously, Toradora has been very consistent in saying that this is the wrong choice.

        I mean, think about it. Suppose Ryuuji has feelings for Minori, but only considers Taiga a friend. If this was case then Minori’s action just ends everything badly.

        There have been 3 previous confessions and rejections in Toradora.

        1. Taiga rejects Kitamura. Correct because Taiga does not love Kitamura.
        2. Kitamura rejects Taiga. Correct because Kitamura does not love Taiga.
        3. Kano rejects Kitamura. Incorrect and causes pain because Kano denies her own feelings.
        4. Minori rejects Ryuuji. Correct because Minori denies her own feelings?

        That just strikes me as inconsistent with everything that Toradora has tried to say in the past.

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        • I think you have to be pretty reductive to come to that conclusion, though. I agree that Toradora! says honest communication is the way to go, but it’s not as if honest communication doesn’t also have the potential to hurt people. It also, I don’t think, totally damns the attempt to care for others by seeking what you perceive to be their own good. After all, this is exactly what Ryuuji has done for Taiga almost since the beginning. Sometimes, it causes problems, like at the pool. Other times, he gets it right (like with the bear scene this episode) and does something incredibly loving for her.

          A few episodes back, another commentator on my blog kind of (very nicely!) called me out for trying to pin Toradora!‘s musing on childhood vs. adulthood into a strict binary, and I’m going to reframe that insight here in this situation. Let’s take a look at the 4 examples you bring up.

          1. I think we can all agree on this one.
          2. But this one is a little more ambiguous, because Kitamura did once like Taiga, and he offers to become her friend. Is it the right to reject someone, but still say “we can have a relationship, just not the relationship you want?”
          3. This one, I think is even more ambiguous. Kano may have hurt both herself and Kitamura by denying her feelings, but the end result, I think, is undeniably good. Kitamura thanks her for thinking about him first. Kano may have made a decision that was painful, but sometimes adults have to do that. I think it is overly simplistic to just look at the surface of the pain and say, “Yup, she was totally wrong.”
          4. Here, though…I don’t know where you’re getting the interpretation that Toradora! or I are saying she made the right decision. It seems very deliberately framed to show how much pain she is in by doing what she does. But, still, she’s doing it because she is thinking of Taiga’s feelings and she doesn’t want to hurt her friend. It’s both wrong and right at the same time. And this in no way contradicts the message of not thinking you understand others better than they understand themselves because Minori already knows how Taiga feels. She’s doesn’t have to guess at understand Taiga; she just saw Taiga’s feelings.

          It’s not as simple as right-wrong. Unfortunately for everyone.

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    • “The more I rewatch Toradora, the more I am convinced that Minori is gay or confused about her sexuality, and that she loves Taiga.”

      She’s not. The coming episodes reveal her intentions behind her actions, and it’s something else that she has for Taiga.

      Like

  3. Personally, I don’t believe that Yasuko’s anywhere near as oblivious as she makes herself out to be. Not that I think she’s faking her personality as such – I do buy that she’s naturally airheaded and ditzy and happy-go-lucky – but I don’t for a second think she’s stupid. That woman is aware of far more than she lets on.

    Like

      • I agree. I think the other cast members forget this because of how airheaded she normally comes across as, but Yasuko has clearly had some harsh but valuable life experiences. It’s just that her usual demeanor doesn’t show it.

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    • For sure. I remember when she told Ryuuji, “Taiga always says the opposite of what she means.” And the way she treats Taiga speaks to a great understanding of what Taiga, as a child, needs.

      I definitely didn’t mean to imply that Yasuko is a dimwit or anything like that! I think she’s just another person, with her own set of strengths and weaknesses. She’s very good at certain types of parenting, and not so good at others (maintaining the household).

      Like

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