Welcome to the second installment of my anime by episode collaboration with Negative Primes, in which he reviews ep. 2 of Shiki and I look at ep. 2 of Toradora!
For a second episode, a lot is certainly going on. To start off, we get a closer look at Minori’s (Ryuji’s crush) character. She’s your typical deredere – or at least, she tries to look like one. Her enthusiasm for Ryuji and Taiga’s “relationship” is over the top, but so is her melodramatic side. Right before turning to face Taiga and Ryuji, Minori grimly utters the line “the sun is dry.” I think it’s pretty much a given that Minori has some fairly strong feelings for Ryuji. I sense disaster?
Primes: If you think Minori returns his feelings, I’ll take your bet and raise you! *drops poker chips on table* But seriously, I can see why one might think that at this early point, but trust me that she’s more complicated than that. I even got the impression at one point that she might be a lesbian. (She isn’t.) It’s this layered complexity of its characters that makes Toradora truly shine.
Alright then (I am definitely not betting against someone who watched the whole thing…). That makes things a lot more interesting!
While it looks like Ryuji’s feelings towards Minori may be reciprocated in some way, Taiga’s love for Kitamura is outright rejected – in the second episode! Wow, this pacing is awesome (unironically so). Taiga is inspired by Ryuji to confess her feelings to Kitamura, and Kitamura very tactfully friend-zones her.
Primes: Kitamura’s rejection of Taiga may seem to come quickly, maybe even too quickly at first. I can’t wait for you to watch episode 4, though, which places this scene in an entirely new light!
Just how many twists should I be expecting?? I shall look forward to that.
More importantly as of right now, Kitamura tries to get Taiga to realize how much Ryuji means to her, which is a pretty ridiculous development. By now, I’ve realized how wrong I was in assuming that Taiga is an archetypal tsundere because of her reputation in the anime world. There’s more depth to her tsundere-ness than that. Tsunderes don’t just punch and kick and demand too much from people using contradictory language. Although Taiga does do all of these things, she’s capable of a sincere and well-articulated love confession. It’s interesting that Ryuji is the only one she’s tsun towards. Perhaps it’s because Kitamura is something of an unattainable ideal, while Ryuji actually interacts with her and shows her kindness, which she feels the need to return but has no experience as to how.
Primes: I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of Taiga’s character. Again, none of these characters are stereotypes; and the further you get into the series, the more you feel the pain and passion they are suffering. It’s beautifully done.
As is to be expected, here comes the “tiger” and “dragon” metaphor! Ryuji, with a “ryu” (龍) in his name, represents the dragon. Taiga stands for “tiger” for obvious reasons. In Chinese/Japanese folklore, the tiger and the dragon are natural rivals – kind of like the vampire and werewolf in Western traditions (wow, how did I manage a Shiki parallel?). In this episode, Ryuji and Taiga do get in the way of each other’s romantic pursuits.
Yet, I have trouble seeing dragons and tigers as equals, even outside the context of this anime. I did a tad of research on the topic, and this article (in Chinese) supports my opinion by pointing out the fact that the dragon is the one that’s associated with emperors/holiness as a mythical existence, while the tiger only exists in the realm of reality, and is more often a threat to people than a protector of them. Well, back to Toradora!…the situation seems to be reversed, with Taiga’s fierceness and Ryuji’s submissiveness. Yet, Taiga is the one who is becoming dependent on Ryuji, while so far, Ryuji doesn’t necessarily need Taiga.
Primes: Thank you for your explanation/exploration of the Dragon and Tiger imagery. I’d like to hear more about this as you watch more. I don’t know Japanese or Chinese, so this is like a window into a layer of the story I couldn’t get on my own. (Nice Shiki allusion, too!)
I…will try my best, and we’ll see how it goes!