So, we’ve come to the end of what has been an unexpectedly massive project for me. Before I dive into the final episode and my thoughts on it, here are some stats:
- 46 pages of notes
- 1,055 Screenshots
- 35,271 Words
- Over 40 hours total time spent watching, taking notes, and writing
- Personal favorite posts: Episode 9, Episode 20
Believe me when I say this project was worth all of that. Re-watching things is always something of a scary experience, because you never know if the show is going to be able to meet the idealized version of it you hold in your head. For a re-watch to match the original experience is a rare thing, and while this particular watch of Toradora! didn’t match the sheer emotional heft of my first watch, it was an incredibly valuable experience on a number of levels. To see that this beloved show had the technical prowess to the beauty of its story was incredibly gratifying, and this project has also served as a phenomenal exercise in developing my own ability to critique cinematography and visual language. But enough about me, let’s finish this!
0:29—It doesn’t take Yasuko more than a second to overcome years of family estrangement in order to get to Ryuuji. In another show, we might have had a dramatic staredown with the door handle, but Toradora! is too good to its characters to do that.
0:38—A fun shot for what really is a sort of funny moment.
1:05—Wow. There is truly nothing else Yasuko’s mother could have said in that moment that would have been kinder, more generous, and more needed than this. It’s a recognition that Yasuko isn’t a failure and an acknowledgement from her parents that she’s never had before.
1:27—Everything about this part of the episode just feels good. Taiga by Ryuuji’s side, his reconciliation with Yasuko, Yasuko’s reconciliation with her parents. It’s just warm.
1:36—Yasuko’s suitcase isn’t bulging with frilly clothes like Taiga’s was last episode, but inside her suitcase is just as much childishness. Yasuko may look put together on the inside and her problems may not leak out as much as Taiga’s do, but she’s still insecure inside.
1:51/1:59—This is such a wonderful reflection on the childhood/adulthood theme. Yasuko is reincorporated into her family via family roles (her father lecturing her, her mother spoiling her). She’s a child once again, the child she never really got to be. She gets to be a little girl again with her parents; she gets a chance to stop being an adult all the time and just be a child. She gets a chance to just be loved.
2:23—Toradora!‘s symbol of family, everyone. A molting, stuttering bird that’s loved despite all signs that it ought not to be.
2:45—Super pretty shot. Notice where the light is: inside. The warmth in this shot comes from inside the house, where the family dwells.
3:08—We all know this to be false, but Yasuko needs to hear it from someone else.
3:19—The fact that it comes from Ryuuji is just…well, it’s perfect and it’s a potent reversal of their child-parent roles, once again. Ryuuji is the one comforting Yasuko this time, and his line here is reflective of the way dynamics between parents and children change over time.
3:43—Again, we see Yasuko’s past (Ryuuji’s father leaving her) surface again. Your scars don’t go away when you become an adult; you just learn to live with them.
4:01—And then this line caps their conversation from 3:19. Although their roles were reversed, Ryuuji once again falls into being her child. “Watch me,” he tells her. He may be growing up, but he still needs her in his life. She’s his family, after all.
4:49—This is some fantastic blocking/body language work. Their proximity to each other and the way Ryuuji is slightly slouched, hands in his pockets, just breathes casual intimacy without need to have them touch each other. And, like on the bridge last episode, they’re framed within a tiny window in the context of a larger frame.
5:32—Toradora! honors its themes with everyone. Yasuko and Ryuuji have been reconciled with their respective parents, and Taiga will have to do the same. Ryuuji calls it sharing their happiness with everyone, but it’s more about Taiga coming to terms and learning to live with her deepest scar. Until she’s truly confronted her family history, she’ll never really be free of it.
5:48—Ryuuji’s head turns from looking at the window to looking at Taiga and the visual effect is truly striking. It’s as if there’s a solid line drawn straight from his eyes to hers.
6:04—Excuse me while my heart stops beating for a second.
6:39—This is only the first shot, but Taiga and Ryuuji get parallel shots as she’s talking about their relationship. They’re a tiger and a dragon. They’re equals, and the camera echoes that truth.
7:02—Gah, this is so good. “It’ll hurt if we kiss.” Yes, this is what we’ve seen all throughout this show. Loving people can hurt, but it’s still worth it.
7:14—Again, the shot compacts them to only a part of the frame.
7:46—So when we zoom in, the full effect of everything else being blocked out is to create what is probably the most intimate shot of the entire show.
7:48—But this might be my favorite shot from this scene. Taiga on her toes. Ryuuji awkwardly bending his knees. In their incompatibilities, they are some how a perfect match. It’s just another reflection of how loving someone takes effort, requires you to bend and stretch yourself for them. And in doing that, something really beautiful is born.
8:27—There’s no need for split screen backgrounds or off-balance shots anymore. Everything is the way it ought to be, so we get these even, symmetrical shots of them. It’s not as obvious as in shows like Monogatari or Utena because of the mundanity of the scenes, but Nagai likes symmetrically as much as either Shinbo or Ikuhara.
9:13—More of their wordless communication. Taiga wants to face her mother alone; Ryuuji wants to be there to support her. But Taiga is going to equalize their relationship in yet another way. Like Ryuuji has come to terms with the way his family is, Taiga is going to do the same.
10:12—I love that we see her back at her “lonely” table, listening to her mother’s voicemails. Her physical space at this point has been permanently altered, even though the physical details are identical to what they were at the beginning of the show, her relationships with people who aren’t even on-screen (that includes her mother via the voicemails) are constantly tellings us that Taiga’s no longer alone.
10:27—We can’t ever get away from this. Taiga’s mother has just thrown a tantrum ala Kitamura or Yasuko (or even Taiga and Ryuuji), proving that even the woman who, in her brief scene, seemed to be the epitome of consolidated adulthood, isn’t fully an adult herself.
10:55—Love this shot. Simple, yet beautiful.
11:07—How long has Taiga been pretending she’s exactly the opposite of this? But it doesn’t matter that she’s like this now because she’s still loved.
11:33—When she goes, she leaves Ryuuji’s scarf behind, the symbol of his support for her. This is something she needs to do herself.
11:44—It’s pretty special how they all crowd around him like this. Their body language is pretty interesting, too. Minori’s leaning into the desk, Kitamura is look straight down at Ryuuji, and Ami’s scowling with her arms crossed. All three of them are deeply involved in this, but still each in their own ways.
12:21—Yuri gives possibly the best advice of the show in this scene, but it’s so like Toradora! to immediately undercut that with the classroom exploding into action. It’s not that either course of action (Yuri advocating a silent support, the class immediately reaching out) is wrong; they’re just different ways to dealing with the same situation.
12:37—But this is the one that represents that Taiga isn’t alone anymore, and that’s the more important one for Toradora! to show.
13:04—Another disappointingly selfish moment from Minori. She’s hurt to see Ryuuji without Taiga after giving up, but she hasn’t even tried to understand the situation. She’s just acting on her own feelings. Understandable, but not great.
13:28—Taiga leaving is a hard thing to accept, but that’s all he can do. Minori later says that Taiga’s being pretty selfish, which is true, but Taiga’s also trying to take everything she’s learned from her friends and make changes in her life. Ryuuji’s doing what he can to respect her decision, even though it hurts him.
14:23—Seeing this…this is what Ami hid from everyone when she promised to return the handbook to Taiga.
14:26—Ah, what a lovely shot. Ryuuji’s eyes go from widened to narrower, a beautiful expression of both how much he loves and misses Taiga. Sadness and affection in the same expression.
15:09—As Taiga’s working to figure out her own happiness, we see people she (inadvertently) made happy in the background.
15:17—Ami, again, understands Taiga better than anyone other than Ryuuji. She’s so generous with her ability to be happy for others.
15:26—Gorgeous shot here foreshadowing Minori’s coming speech on the meaning of the picture.
16:32—Minori is the best equipped to understand the meaning of this picture, because it’s reflective of both her own mission in life and of all the time she’s spent looking at the sky for UFOs.
17:12—This is the beautiful cap on Minori’s arc, the last “thing she can see.”
17:18—No episode is complete anymore without Ami making a hilariously snide comment about someone.
17:35—But then she turns around and thinks of Taiga. Amiiii you are so good.
18:07—We are so lucky we don’t even know
18:33—It’s nice that we’re going to get the cap on Ami’s arc here in this room, the one where she and Ryuuji had their biggest talk. The room where she (inaudibly) confessed. So it’s nice that it’s also the place where she can finally admit what he meant to her and move on.
18:55—Like I said, Ami’s greatest show of maturity is her understanding that she’s still a child. So of course she would hate having to pretend she’s an adult. We’ve seen how necessary being a child once again was to Yasuko; Ami needs the same time to grow. Ryuuji and her other friends at Ohashi gave her the chance to do that.
19:07—”I didn’t want everyone to like me.” She’s learned something, just from watching Taiga and Ryuuji. So much of Toradora! is about how the people around us help us to change for the better, and we get to see Ami’s part in that here.
19:53—Here we get a bit of classic Ikuhara School imagery, with the jet trails in the sky. But, of course, there are two of them.
20:54—So, Yasuko is going to grow up a little bit, too.
21:22—And there’s the cap for Kitamura. He’s been able to both be in love and fulfill his potential.
22:34—Damn that is a beautiful shot. Beautiful things, I believe, ought to be spoken of or shown in beautiful ways.
22:51—Back to the very first place he found her.
22:58—I love that we see this from Ryuuji’s perspective. It makes his first profession of love feel all the more personal and all the more true. Lovely directorial work.
23:14—Things change, but the important things stay the same. That’s why they’re still bickering, just like they always have. It’s the perfect (dare I say only?) way to end Toradora!
Now that I’m here, I don’t really have much else to say. Everything I wanted to say about themes, visual direction, and characters has pretty much been summed up in these 25 posts. Perhaps, then, I should I offer a few thank yous. Firstly, thank you to the /r/anime Christmas re-watch of Toradora! Without that re-watch to spark this idea, I doubt I would have ever actually started something like this. Secondly, thank you to everyone who read these posts, especially those of you who commented both on my blog and on Reddit. I have problems staying on track with long projects like this, but all the positive feedback and discussion these posts have generated kept me determined to see this through to the end. Thirdly, although they’ll never see this, big thank yous to Yuyuko Takemiya, Tatsuyuki Nagai, the voice cast, J.C. Staff and the rest of the creative & production staff for this show. It’s a gift to be able to own and watch this show. The end.
And, of course, the final screenshot album is now finished! Enjoy!