Collab Projects · Episode Reviews

Anime x Lit Crit: Vampires & Valentines – Toradora! 03

Welcome to installment 3 of my collaboration with Negative Primes! Read about girls beating up their weaknesses in Toradora! here (and violation of sacred boundaries in Shiki here and here).

toradora 3.1 restaurant waitress

Ryuji postulates that Minori has family issues to take care of when he learns that she’s juggling multiple part-time jobs at once, and Taiga responds by warning him to “stop assuming things.” Wow, this was said like it was for me. To be honest, I thought the same thing as Ryuji in regards to Minori’s jobs. I was also one to assume that Minori had feelings for Ryuji and that Kitamura didn’t for Taiga…

toradora 3.1 assumptions

Taiga’s warning implies that Ryuji has assumed other things in the past or has the tendency to assume things. This probably applies the most to his infatuation for Minori and her cheerfulness at this point, as Minori is obviously a more complex character than that (more on this later). Does Ryuji assume things about Taiga? The main thing he thinks about Taiga seems to be that she needs to be babied. This is true up to this point, so maybe it’s not about Ryuji mis-assuming, but Taiga’s need to overturn this assumption.

Primes: I think you’re right: It makes sense that Ryuji habitually assumes things about others—as do we, the viewers. And part of the delight of this story is how it rips those assumptions apart. Maybe it’s just a guy thing, but I see my high school/college self in Ryuji, assuming the cheerful, high-performing all-star girls were the ones that had it all together and would make the best partner. Some life experience later, I now know that the biggest smiles are often bridges across the widest chasms in broken hearts. And we’re all broken: The only question is, do we acknowledge it?

Weird, I usually find myself attracted to quiet, stoic people. I wonder what others have to say? We’re all broken…does that mean we were born whole? I’d say that we’re all lacking in some way, but I suppose broken makes sense. Anyways, I must brace myself for Minori’s back story…

Of course, Taiga’s words are for the uneducated (or too well-educated) watcher like myself too. Predictability is one complaint I’ve heard that people have with Toradora!. A guy and a girl who fall for each other’s close friends end up growing close to each other, and *spoilers* they eventually get together! Yet, this same show manages to subvert almost every other expectation I have. Haha, I guess I get to entertain those of you who have seen the anime with my naive predictions!

Primes: We’ve all been there! I actually dropped Toradora! after a few episodes the first time I tried to watch it. So glad that I picked it back up later!

Ahaha, that happened to me too. And same, I’m happy I get to talk about this anime here!

Apparently, Kitamura had been “observing” (stalking?) Taiga before, which is why he’s surprised when he is led to think that Taiga can bike. Instead of swooning or showing apparent signs of being flattered, Taiga grows frustrated that Kitamura is no longer watching her. To learn how to control any vehicle comes with increased autonomy, and as Kitamura says, increased access to the wide world as well. Taiga’s world, however, is currently limited to getting senpai to notice her, which is no longer a goal to work towards after the friendly rejection.

toradora 3.2 bike

While Taiga acknowledges her crisis but still puts effort into changing her current state, Minori gives me the impression of being a desperate escapist with her workaholism and unreal cheerfulness. But then again, I could be wrong! To Minori, she is apparently “beating up her weakness.” Instead of letting herself experience fear when trapped in the storage room, Minori insists on singing and appearing optimistic.

Primes: I think both of these apply to Minori. She’s somewhat in denial of her weakness, and somewhat trying to conquer it inasmuch as she’s aware of it. It’s like her subconscious is thinking, “Weakness is bad! Therefore I must either deny it or overcome it! I cannot be weak!” 

You captured Minori’s tone there!

toradora 3.3 minori's weakness

I guess what the issue is is that Minori feels fake to me. Taiga, the tsundere, is ironically the one who feels much more sincere. Remember the scene where Ryuji calls his life “fake” in the beginning of the first episode? Each of our central characters struggles with their identity. What separates fake from real though? Is it appearance vs. feeling? That may be a thing with Minori, but for Ryuji and Taiga, I feel like the issue is that they don’t even know what they’re feeling or what identity they’re pursuing. Consequently, what feels unsatisfactory ends up feeling “fake.” Ryuji’s feelings for Minori may be fake, because he fails to see past her cheerful front and appreciate her as a real person rather than an ideal (though that seems to be changing). It’s harder to say whether that’s the case for Taiga, but Kitamura does feel like a senpai archetype. He is certainly behaving quite fakely when he confesses his previous interest in Taiga and walks away with a big smile shortly after. And then there’s the relationship between Ryuji and Taiga, which is fake because they’re not supposed to be dating, despite what everyone else thought last episode. Hey, I’m starting to get Nisekoi vibes from this show.

Primes: That’s a critical set of questions to answer (both in the anime and in real life!). We tend to think of “real” emotions as being spontaneous, natural, and uncontrived. That’s a peculiarly modern way of looking at things, though: prior to the modern period, emotions that were deliberately conjured up were also considered real, not fake, emotions. The appearance and the reality can be the same—just as (minor spoiler!) the appearance of a dating relationship between a couple of anime characters will turn into a real one… Nisekoi! I miss you! Ship Chitoge forever!

What, no. #BestGirlOnodera(Kosaki)! Shipping disagreements aside, I’m very interested in the pre-modern view on conjured emotions. Are we talking about Europe? I suppose that’s for a different post though.

Plot twists, pretenses, self-deception? This anime is going in an interesting direction.

7 thoughts on “Anime x Lit Crit: Vampires & Valentines – Toradora! 03

  1. About pre-modern emotions: Yes, I was primarily thinking of Europe/the West. The modern idea of the self as an interior subject that is more or less cut off from an exterior objective reality originates with Descartes, and continues with Freud arguing for the existence of the unconscious. Prior to that, the self wasn’t seen as interior or cut off from the other. So how did the pre-moderns think of it? As constructed through performative acts, that is, by deliberate choices in how one behaves. Including showing emotion. What we consider artificial, vs natural and spontaneous, was seen as both natural and artificial to an age that considered one’s self to be constructed. (In part; there’s also an element of the self which they would view as given and not constructed, which sets them apart from post-modernity. But that’s a digression.)

    So for example, if you look back at Augustine’s Confessions (often considered the first autobiography, that is, a full-fledged first person account of the story of one’s self), you see Augustine writing, “I wept for Dido [in Virgil’s Aeneid] but I did not weep for my sins.” He’s claiming that his emotions were actually wrong, whereas today you tend to hear “Emotions are not good or bad (or at least not bad); they just are what they are” or “You shouldn’t repress your emotions”.

    Hope that helps!😺

    Liked by 1 person

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