So, we finally come to Ryuuji’s arc. I don’t remember the entirety of what happens with him here, but he’s the only major character left who hasn’t undergone significant development, we’ve got three episodes left after this, and if he doesn’t change everything that’s happened up to this point will have gone to waste. All the factors necessary to push him to change have come to bear: the revelation of Taiga’s feelings, Minori’s continuing distance from him, and Ami’s consistent, pressuring presence. Whether he likes it or not, the status quo he’s been holding on to has been shattered and how he picks up the pieces will define him as a person and a character.
0:43—It’s pretty funny how Yuri just shrugs off his outburst in class, offering an easy out for him and the whole class just goes along with it.
3:07—He’s pretty small here, out on the roof himself. Pretty obvious that Ryuuji’s lonely without Taiga around.
3:42—As we know by now, in this show hiding things from people is a Bad Idea.
4:01—Kitamura very seriously looks like he’s not going to let Ryuuji off the hook this time, but he ends up backing down and acquiescing to Ryuuji’s request. Unlike Ami, Kitamura has some distance from the situation and is essentially deciding to let everyone figure things out for themselves, which means letting Ryuuji again dictate that the status quo is king. Is Kitamura making the right choice here? I dunno. Ami’s meddling may have been painful for a lot of people, but at least something happened. Kitamura leaves the agency with Ryuuji, but it doesn’t really look like Ryuuji is going to use it.
5:28—The “career plans” conflict in the high school setting is pretty much a cliché at this point, but for Toradora! it actually adds nuance to the ongoing discussion of past-versus-change. Because it comes in after the thematic groundwork has been laid, it simply adds to the dynamic of the discussion, rather than trying to serve as a tired conflict all on its own.
5:51—Pretty hilarious animation moment here. Noto stays frozen, presumably because they didn’t want to animate him calming down, even as Ryuuji recovers and starts talking to Minori.
6:08—Kind of funny how Minori has now taken on surface “tsundere” behavior here with the eye-poking.
6:16—She’s working again because it’s a distraction for her. If she’s busy all the time, she doesn’t have to think about or worry about all the stuff that’s bothering her. She’s running.
6:47—I don’t even know what’s happening here but it’s funny so okay also curves
7:15—Yup. Minori’s mask is really strong, sometimes to the point that it makes absolutely no sense. And she hurts and confuses others by keeping it up.
7:49/8:00/8:11—Hallelujah, he’s realizing it…wait…no, cut that out…phew, okay he’s on the right track. It doesn’t matter if he’s wrong or right about why she’s stayed away. It’s much more important that he continues to think about it and to think about it in terms of Tagia’s feelings, not about external factors like her family. That’s not what he has to respond to. He has to figure what to do about Taiga, and Taiga alone.
8:54—Yasuko is such a good mother!
8:59—Really, an awesome woman and an awesome mother. You know, I’ve talked a lot about love in the context of the way Minori and Ryuuji care for Taiga, but how about the way Yasuko cares for her son? She’s really a fantastic model of being the best parent she can, even in their hard circumstances. They’re poor and she has the kind of job that doesn’t offer much room for ever advancing, yet she still wants the best for Ryuuji and she still keeps on a happy face, one that’s not a mask, but it genuinely thankful for the good things in her life. She constantly makes sure he knows she loves him. It’s pretty awesome to see.
9:44—In other words, if she doesn’t have something to bring them together as family, she might as well quit doing everything I’ve just talked about. The meal time she has with Ryuuji (which also expands to include Taiga and Inko), that’s what keeps her going. That’s why she works despite their situation. Again, when a parent tells a child what’s important to them, they’re telling the child what ought to be important to the child.
10:10—Oh man what the heck. This came out of nowhere: episode 22 and now we get a flashback to right after Ryuuji’s dad died? But it’s perfect timing and it builds Yasuko and Ryuuji’s relationship while casting an altogether new perspective on Taiga’s family situation. Does having a deadbeat father necessitate that she be miserable? Yasuko doesn’t think so.
10:24—Ahhhhhhhhhhh look at this nonsense!! Ryuuji lays down his apron next to a bowl of oranges. Now, if you read my post for last episode, you’ll know that I was gushing a bit about how well all the theme music fits the core messages and values of the show. But this here is something else entirely! This is taking a symbol from the ED music and bringing it into the actual show. “Orange” is a song all about growing up and wanting to be grown up, so when Ryuuji lays down his apron (the symbol of where his is most grown up) next to the oranges, there’s both a symbolic resonance and a bit of a bittersweet feeling. In some ways, Ryuuji has grown up too fast, and some of those habits are part of the reason he’s struggling so much right now.
11:09—An abnormally normal conversation considering the circumstances. But Taiga’s gone, right? So things are still sort of in suspension, when, really, this should be the time Minori and Ryuuji figure things out.
11:39—What is this nonsense you’re spouting, Minori? This isn’t good nonsense. This is just stupid.
11:49—”This is something I can see.” The refrain of these last few episodes and a line that had a profound impact on me when I first watched the show. Minori seeks certainty; it’s what she’s been chasing since the very beginning.
12:01—Ami’s having none of Minori’s “seeking hardship in youth” crap. We don’t even get to see her face here, letting us know she’s still ticked off despite having blown her top, which is most likely due to the fact that Minori is again pretending something big (the fight) never happened. If things haven’t changed now, Ami probably has given up on ever seeing them do so.
12:03—But this face says she might be more hurt than angry.
12:42—Hahahahahaha Ami really lets loose on people when she’s down in that corner.
13:12—Minori thinks she’s talking about Ryuuji, but I think she’s really talking about herself. After all, this is exactly the way she is.
13:18—Ahhh this shot is so important! Back when we saw this scene the first time, I made a big deal out of how a lot of the shots excluded Minori’s eyes when she was being honest. But here, we get her honesty and her eyes. It’s like she’s facing something authentically for the first time, and it has beautiful symmetry with her line about chasing “something I can see.”
13:34—Wow, Minori’s desperate to be understood, even as she continues to veil her revelations in metaphors.
13:39—Ami has to appease her own guilt, too.
14:00—And that’s tough for Ami to hear, because the freedom to choose is still something Ami doesn’t have herself.
14:57—We get this kind of weird angled shot as Ryuuji ponders his future, again reflecting the way engaging with the possibility of change upsets his world.
15:15—We know exactly why Yasuko is doing this and it’s so much different than the reason Minori got a new part-time job this episode. Yasuko is working for others; Minori’s only doing it for herself.
15:59—How many times has that hairpin changed meaning? Another chase of the way physical objects modulate in relation to the changing people around them.
16:37—Ostensibly, Ryuuji’s just going to let Yasuko in, but the close up on the door handle gives us a quick visual clue that something big is on the other side of the door.
16:43—Or, perhaps, something small, but very, very important. 🙂
16:53—The line between loving parent and jealous lover is razor thin.
17:13—Followed up by a fun shot with those curves we haven’t seen in a long time!
18:34—Check out what’s on the right wall as Ryuuji comes up with pretty much any excuse he can to keep Taiga there. And the wall/paper have the same color scheme as Taiga.
18:59—Something about her just seems so…settled, in a way she hasn’t ever been before. She’s no longer simmering under the surface, but at peace.
19:02—Noooooo whyyyyyy would you drop this awful line on us now? Everything about the scene was telling us exactly this and then you just had to go ruin it, Okada! The base of their relationship is companionship and we don’t need Ryuuji to tell us or himself that.
19:55—”Were you able to find out how Minorin really feels?” Where is my place?
21:12—Another common location shown from a new angle. Change is coming, even to the most familiar place in their relationship.
21:29—Oh, now this is super cool color work. Ryuuji’s sweater is matched to the curtains in Taiga’s apartment, while Taiga’s white coat is matched to the white light of his room. Awesome.
22:12—We’ve already seen his hand tighten as he deals with what he thinks she wants, so this word comes out pretty loaded: affectionate, loving, and maybe just a bit sad.
Three episodes left! We’re going to make it to the end! I don’t have a lot of closing notes for this episode as things are pretty open-ended right now. But at least with Taiga back we can expect to see things start to change. It’s pretty interesting to see how much of the action she drives in this story and how much the story’s drama is really centered around her. Ryuuji may be our viewpoint character, but there’s plenty of evidence to argue that Taiga is the main character. But it is Toradora! and the tiger and dragon are both important.