Hello! It’s finally time for Toradora! again. Have you noticed that you can never predict when a new episode review comes out on this blog nowadays? Gyahaha…I fear I am becoming rather sporadic.
Primes: *stares sheepishly at his own toes after not posting for an entire week*
What do you mean? You wrote four posts last week (I went and checked). You’re not going to beat me if we’re talking about unproductiveness here, ahaha…
What immediately stood out to me in this episode were the storm clouds outside the classroom window. I was going to remark on how Toradora! is the first anime I’ve seen to change up the weather outside for funsies, before I got to the end of the episode and realized that it was all to prepare us for a bigger storm.
There’s nothing special about storms occurring at dramatic moments in anime (or in any type of media), but with this Ami-centered episode being entitled “The Real Me,” I’d say that some nice pathetic fallacy is at work here. The storm coincides with and reflects Ami’s decision to abandon her facade “Ami-chan,” and is both a breakthrough and an identity crisis in my eyes.
Primes: Yes! The Pathetic Fallacy! Which, by the way, has nothing to do with the usual meaning of ‘pathetic’. 😀
Hmm, I still don’t understand why it’s even called that, so I looked it up. Apparently, some dude named Ruskin “coined the term ‘pathetic fallacy’ to attack the sentimentality that was common to the poetry of the late 18th century, and which was rampant among poets including Burns, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats” (Wikipedia). Well…that’s kind of rude.
Ami’s problem isn’t solved by renouncing “Ami-chan,” because there’s still the question of “what’s left”? Like the passing of a storm, however, I believe Ami will naturally start to recompose her sense of self after this episode. This is also because I doubt that the anime will dedicate another episode to her all that soon. Surely, the struggle is still on for Ami, but at least she has gotten over the hardest part of it!
Primes: It’s ironic, isn’t it, that you have to renounce who you think you are or who you pretend you are in order to be who you really are? At least, I think that’s what Toradora! implies.
Yup, and I would agree. Now let’s backtrack a little and talk about all the lead-up. From the start of the episode, the weather outside suggests that such a breakdown/breakthrough is upcoming and inevitable.
Primes: I think it’s especially telling that Ryuji comments that they’re “in for a stormy season” while staring, not at the storm outside, but at the conflict centered on Ami in the classroom.
Oh, I didn’t actually catch that! That definitely makes my point more valid. In the context of Ami and her identity conflict, this is because her stalker has just tracked her down to her current location. She must either admit defeat to her weakness and continue hiding from her stalker, or toughen up and tell him to scram or else. In this sense, perhaps this A-1 protagonist-looking boy (note: always known to be good self-inserts) can be seen as a representation of Ami’s fear of others’ judgment, which is probably her greatest weakness. Ami loooves attention, but at the same time, she is just as wary of the external gaze. A stalker, with the unhealthy feelings of infatuation and hostility that he embodies, makes for a good metaphor for Ami’s weak self, if we wish to consider him symbolically.
Primes: Can we also say that this incident also represents two very real, way too common situations? One is how men can treat women when they objectify them; the other is how the lives of actors, singers, models, etc., can be ruined by the pressure of always being in the spotlight and hence always having to look perfect. Both are a result of the perversion of the “I-Thou” relationship to the “I-It” relationship (for an explanation of these see my earlier post; #ShamelessSelfPromotion). The stalker’s gaze is one which reduces the other to an object, rather than recognizing her as another subject, a person, with whom one can enter into a relationship (in the most general sense of the word; not implying romance here). Later in the episode this is represented pretty vividly when he sees Taiga and, without any permission, starts snapping pictures of her—in a symbolic sense, turning her into an object.
In Catholic moral theology, a distinction is made between uti and frui, “to use” and “to enjoy”. It is said that we are to use things and enjoy people; but all too often we get it backwards. We enjoy things and use people. “Enjoy” here is used in a narrower sense than in everyday English; I’m not suggesting we can’t, say, enjoy anime! It includes the sense of being aware of the other as a different subject: Imagine, for instance, two lovers who do nothing for a long time except gaze into each other’s eyes. But when you watch anime, the anime does not watch you back (except, perhaps, in Soviet Russia!).
Thanks for bringing that up! Though I’m not sure the average person can experience as much ecstasy in staring contests as John Donne’s speakers, there’s definitely something unique about a conscious human interaction. Hmm, having just returned from a delightful cat cafe, I wonder how animals fit into the equation?
To tie together our interpretations of the stalker, can’t you also say that Ami herself is somebody who uses people and enjoys things? Looking at how she manipulates Ryuji and her classmates, junk food (and Kitamura?) might just be Ami’s only friend.
In terms of external stimuli for Ami’s breakdown, there’s Taiga and her bestie Minorin, who take on pretty aggressive roles in this episode. I still think it’s pretty mean of them to bully Ami about the fact that she hides her muffintop and pretends to be skinny… I mean, Ami is fake as heck, and I’m sure you’re doing the best for her, but still…
Taiga also tortures Ami when she offers her home for Ami to stay in by making her imitate over 150 different voices. Some of these voices include: Lincoln, Susano-o, Amaterasu, Uzume, Quetzalcoatl, Matthew, Judas, Mona Lisa, The Thinker…and of course, Michael Jackson guiding a bus. That’s one way to get Ami fed up with having a fake identity…
Primes: Oh gosh that was so funny! I’m still laughing about it. 😀 Ahem… The whole “Diet Warriors” scene is so over-the-top that at first I thought it must be one of the characters dreaming. Nope! It does, however, provide a quick way of showing off the personalities of at least four main characters (Ami, Taiga, Minori, and even Ryuji). And the later “impressions” event gives us more insight into Kitamura, Ami’s only real friend, who likes what Taiga does to Ami and asks her to do more of it!
It was funny, but I still thought it was mean…
I’ve been thinking about the whole natural vs. constructed selves thing we’ve been discussing. From the terms the characters use to describe each other and themselves, it would seem like the anime conforms to the modern view, where there is a definitive “real” self for one to discover, while all the other ones are “fake.” From this episode, however, Ami looks like she’s on her way to constructing rather than unveiling a new self. She even says explicitly while she stares down at her cowering stalker: “Who cares about personalities!” Perhaps the anime is breaking the very binaries it set up with Ami’s change. In this respect, Ami is already one step ahead of Taiga, who has not yet been forced to even question which part of her is “true” or “fake.” Ami herself doesn’t see this, because she only envies how Taiga seems to be her “true self” (a.k.a. “selfish” and “reckless”) all the time, which is what allows Taiga to charge at a suspicious fellow without even thinking.
Primes: I like your observation about the anime setting up its binaries and then shattering them. And I think it ties into your previous observations about the mythical subtext of this show. We have the Tiger, the Dragon, and the Oni—except that up until now the Oni appeared as an Angel (to use the stalker’s term for her). Isn’t there something in Oni mythology about them being able to change their shapes or appearances? Certainly there is with the Western equivalent, the Ogre. So now you have a creature who is capable of appearing as anything choosing to appear in a form that is unmistakably itself, rather than a form that could be mistaken for another kind of creature.
Actually, I think that’s a tidy way of describing the paradox of the constructed self vs. the natural self. Oni—and by analogy, humans—can decide how they appear to others. That doesn’t mean, however, that each appearance is as honest as any other. Put another way, the self is created, and yet not every self you make is created equal. The perfect self, TD seems to say, is the self that admits you aren’t perfect. The best form for the Oni is the ugly, ferocious monster, not the beautiful angel.
I like this a lot~ And I’m not sure if the typical Oni shape-shifts, but I can recall a few instances in anime/literature where they do.
Primes: But can anyone fall in love with an ugly Oni? That seems to be Ami’s question to Ryuji at the end.
Well…there’s always the idea of perception differences – even if you don’t think you’re beautiful, someone else might. In Ami’s case though, I think it would be difficult for anyone to just accept her Oni side as “moe” (other than the anime-viewing audience, of course). If “the perfect self…is the self that admits you aren’t perfect,” would this self stay satisfied with all the flaws? Wouldn’t you just strive to create a newer version of yourself, now that you’ve admitted your flaws? I’m assuming that admit =/= accept. Ami is definitely going to be bratty, but I think she’ll continue evolving.
It was nice to have the focus shifted from Ryuji and Taiga to someone else (though I still adore our central pairing). From the end-of-episode preview, it looks like I’m in for some silly fun next episode! Stay tuned.
Primes: Thanks again! Cheers!