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!
I think it’s kind of a good thing that I ended up marathoning this episode and episode 25 yesterday, because I was much more equipped to take notes when I wasn’t on the verge of tears the whole time I was watching. Of course, I teared up in places anyways, but that’s to be expected with all of the good stuff and painful stuff that happened in this episode. But the dam has finally broken on all of the pent up emotional suspension that’s been ongoing for almost twenty episodes, so the release is much easier to watch that some of the stuff that’s in between. We’re almost to the end, so let’s do this!
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.
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.
Yeah, so I had kind of totally forgotten almost everything that happens in this episode, which was a good thing because holy crap that was intense on so many levels. Ami is all over this episode but, like with last episode, the predominant emotion we get from her, except for in a few spots, is angry. Really, this is just the logical outcome of everyone holding back for so long. They’re away from home, away from normalcy. It’s the perfect time for the status quo, no longer held up by their ordinary routines, to come crashing down.
Episode 19 is kind of a pivot episode for a lot of people, an iconic and emotional one that, as I wrote, was Toradora!‘s defining moment for me. But because that episode was such an emotional watershed for the series, it’s easy to forget how intense the penultimate arc of this show is as we watching everyone try to cling to the status quo that is radically different, even opposed, to the way their relationships are now. That’s the game Ami’s frustrated with—that, with all the evidence to the contrary, Ryuuji, Taiga, and Minori continue to insist that the way things were before was the right way to be.
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…