Well, this kind of broke my resolve not to marathon this show without taking notes. I’m going to blame my memory, which knew the scene in the computer room was coming but didn’t remember that it came this episode. In other words, I was pretty shocked when I realized what was about to happen and that was the end of me not watching the show just to watch it. Don’t worry! There will still be notes for the last two episode (it would be ridiculous not to finish this project after coming this far), but I felt it was necessary to note that this episode was the one that got me.
0:16—It feels like even Kitamura is pushing Ryuuji now.
0:35—Yuri flipping out over her students’ inevitable PDAs was one of the comedic highlights of the episode.
3:28—This line speaks to more than just Ryuuji’s future as an adult, but also to the situation he’s in right now. “You’re the one making the decision now,” Yuri tells him. And that’s it. Ryuuji is the person who has to change.
4:09—It’s crazy how casually intimate their conversations are. They both just share their deep fears with the other without even a second thought.
4:26—We’re getting the answer to Taiga’s strange calmness. In the past she’s been concerned about where she came from, about things she couldn’t control, but now…
4:53—She’d been wishing for things she could control, as if she could reassert control over her life once again. But now, it seems like she’s come to terms with the fact that she can’t change how things are, and found some measure of steadiness in that understanding.
6:43—”Isn’t that your thing?” Ryuuji asks her. Ami, we see, is thinking about the future, contrasting her with Taiga, who can’t even grasp her current situation.
7:19—Ami is the last person you’d expect to say something like this, but it’s an indication of how much she’s changed. She was happy for things to be the way they were, but things she couldn’t control started moving around her.
7:24—No analysis here, just a pretty shot.
7:27—And she tried to stop it. “Everything would have turned out just fine,” she muses. This whole episode is basically a reflection on the illusion of control. Ami tried to mold the world, to protect Taiga, to force Ryuuji to change, but none of it worked the way she wanted it to. Even so, it was her friendship with Taiga that compelled her to try.
8:38—Taiga’s pretty integrated into this family, to be calling Ryuuji to let him know Yasuko was sick.
9:23—We’re getting more relationship equalizing here. Ryuuji’s falling apart, and now it’s Taiga who is there at his side, doing her best to hold him together. But he has to let her.
9:51—I really appreciate that she refuses to let him go alone. It’s not just that she loves him; it’s that she can see he’s hurting and she doesn’t want to let him go on hurting himself.
10:20—These two lines work really nicely together. Ryuuji thinks the answer is to grow up more, to be able to control more, while Taiga already understands that there are just some things you can’t take responsibility for. The universe is a chaotic place and it’s no one’s fault when they can’t control it.
10:44—The world is a scary place to take on by yourself.
11:01—It’s much better to have someone at your side.
11:41—This whole scene has been lovely; even though Taiga’s mismatched and without her coat and has her uniform unbuttoned and not put together at all, she’s still offering hope.
12:07—Family helps family, and Yasuko has been critical in assimilating Taiga into the Takasu household.
12:22—Yasuko, too, has accepted that bad, unfortunate, and sad things happen in this life. That’s why she’s the one who comforts Ryuuji, not the other way around.
12:36—Obligatory twintails Taiga.
13:08—Part of me wants to think there’s some thematic relevance in the fact that Haruta was the first to get a girlfriend, but I think it’s actually just Takemiya toying with us.
14:26—More proof (as if we needed any more) that Taiga and Ami are really close as Ami shows up at Taiga’s summons.
15:02—Of course Taiga’s been watching Ami and Minori? Remember how fast she responded to Ryuuji and Minori’s fight? Her friends are the closest thing to a family that she’s got and she wants them to be at peace.
15:50—Ahahahaha is it a thing in this final arc to have an awesome Ami burn every episode?
15:57—Like you have any place to talk.
16:12—Isn’t this just what she wanted?
16:33—Really, she just wanted one person to like her, but it’s deceptive of her to try and pretend she’s not happy that others have accepted her, too. Both Taiga and Minori, despite their fights, have stuck with Ami throughout all of this. She can’t pretend she’s alone any more.
17:11—”If I were to give you chocolates, would you be happy?” At this point, these lines need no explanation. There’s one person Taiga cares about more than any other, and she’s more concerned about if he would actually like the chocolate than about how it would make her feel.
17:31—It’s a beautiful gesture that she wants to make the chocolates herself. It’s almost like Christmas all over again for her, like she wants to let her friends know that she’s watching out for them, just as she said earlier to Ami.
18:07—And then, suddenly, we’re here and the animation is getting turned up and wow I was not ready for this right now.
18:22—Of course, they have to build this up as if everything is totally cool. Minori and Taiga are getting along well, Kitamura is his usual self, the same for Ami and Ryuuji.
18:25—Remember what Ami said way back at the beginning? That she was jealous that Taiga could be so open with her feelings and still have people love her? For a second, she’s allowed to think that maybe she wasn’t wrong to hide, but…no, Taiga is the same.
18:35—As much as I love Minori and Taiga’s friendship, sometimes I think I love Ami and Taiga’s more. There’s no doubt in my mind that Ami would help Taiga again in an instant.
19:20—Something about this shot was really striking, but at first I couldn’t figure out why. I think it’s because of how crowded the frame is with all the computers. Along with that, the whole motion of the shot is tilted right, straight towards Ryuuji. And then, everyone except for Taiga is absolutely still.
19:54—Ami has to be unhappy that she’s about to see Taiga get hurt all over again.
20:06—There’s a lot here. Minori is freaking out on Takasu for doing the exact same thing she’s done, but she can’t see why he’s doing it. She didn’t hear what Ryuuji did, that Taiga wanted to keep her feelings hidden. But she does know that his lies are going to hurt Taiga, just like hers did. She’s a hypocrite, but that doesn’t make her wrong.
20:10—Toradora! doesn’t use close-ups on characters eyes often, but when it does it’s explosive. As a side note, Yui Horie killed this scene. Toradora! as a whole is one of her finest works for covering a vast range of vocal styles while keeping the character voice consistent, but this here takes her normally bubbly tone and lowers it into a rocky place that totally captures the whirlwind of chaos in Minori at this moment.
20:29—Remember when I said that Taiga had come to terms with her situation? Right here, Minori’s trying to drag her back into the chaos where she has no control and make her try and impose some sort of order on it. Taiga had already made her choice to give up on Ryuuji; now, she’s been asked to reverse an already painful decision and make another one.
20:39—Someone on ask.fm asked me if I thought Kitamura got the short end of the stick as far as character development goes, but look him in this scene. He’s a treasure for this show. It wouldn’t be the same without him, just the way he is.
20:43—Kitamura and Ami are totally in sync in what’s probably their most united moment as friends, and here, even though Ami’s taking a jab at Taiga, there’s no venom in those words. Just friendship and sympathy.
20:48—Another big shot of the room, but the key part here is that Ryuuji hasn’t moved. Both physically and in terms of resolving this conflict, he still has yet to make a decision.
21:00—Once again, Taiga gets pinned up against a wall by someone who is trying to impose their idea of what is best on her. Last time, it was Ryuuji about her father; this time, Minori about Ryuuji. Unlike before, though, Taiga won’t let her friend’s words change her mind. She runs away, rather than listen.
21:42—Finally, Minori makes her decision explicit. She wants to choose how she becomes happy, and she’s chosen something other than a relationship with Ryuuji.
22:00—For a moment, it seems like Ami’s talking to Minori, but Minori is no longer the person who needs to change. This is Ryuuji’s arc and the time has come for him.
22:24—At last, he’s going to move.
All the reflection on being able to control the world around you early in the episode was such a nice set-up for the conclusion of this episode. After all this time trying to preserve the status quo, everyone has finally realized that things can’t “stay like this forever” and each other them is doing what they feel they need to do in order to move forward and help each other do the same. Ryuuji can no longer stand still because the world he’s been standing on all this time—a comfortable world where he helps Taiga get with Kitamura and she helps him get with Minori—is irrevocably gone, and everyone else has recognized it. You may not be able to control what happens around you, but you can control how you respond to it and Ryuuji is finally about to act.