Collab Projects · Episode Reviews

Anime x Lit Crit: Vampires & Valentines – Toradora! 8

As if one pool episode isn’t enough, here comes pool episode #2! Oh, by the way, you can check out Primes’ newest Shiki review for our discussion on Masao’s character, Tatsumi’s manipulation tactics, and further literary parallels here.

Primes: Can you ever have enough pool-or-beach episodes? *remembers Darling in the FranXX‘s* Yes. Yes, you can. But in Toradora, at least, it’s worth it. 

Hmm…you guys are all making glad I never started Darling in the FranXX.

Taiga and Ami have a 50 m swimming race to win Ryuji for the summer this episode. It’s all looking good…except Taiga can’t swim. For a week or so, she barely tries, and when she finally puts her mind to it, it rains. Unlike the stormy episode we got (featuring Ami), the weather in this episode changes at least four times, and doesn’t always serve a practical purpose in the narrative. Similar to the Ami episode though, the weather has the function of representing Taiga’s fluctuating feelings towards Ryuji, or rather, her inconsistent display of her feelings.

Primes: That’s a neat point about the weather mirroring a character’s feelings again, albeit in a different way, and once again one that I missed on my viewings. 🙂

toradora 8.1 pool bogus boobs
Thank goodness Ryuji sewed the bogus boobs on

For my part, it was the music that struck me early on. Unless I’m mistaken, the music during Taiga’s “training montage” sounds inspired by the theme from Chariots of Fire. Obviously they didn’t straight up use it, but the style of the music, its tempo, the kind of instruments used, and so forth—all seem to call the other to mind. And it occurs to me how intriguing it would be to think of CoF in terms of anime tropes. I mean, in some ways the film could be understood as a kind of Shonen “underdog for the win”, though at the same time one could argue that both Abrams and Liddell are hardly underdogs since they both are extraordinarily talented runners. However, they do both have their uphill battles (one is discriminated against because he’s a Jew, while the other is a Scottish pastor and not a professional athlete) and have to work hard to dominate their Olympic races. An anime based on this could be really interesting.

I haven’t seen Chariots of Fire, but that does sound interesting. I can imagine how the music must have enhanced your enjoyment of this episode!

This episode is also quite a turning point in Taiga and Ryuji’s relationship. For the first time, Ryuji and Taiga have a fight that involves both sides getting hurt by each other. I do have to say though, not even now is Ryuji close to being angry. Rather, he’s frustrated over the fact that Taiga is incomprehensible and that he doesn’t know how to help, or so it seems to me.

Primes: I would concur. I’ve heard it said that men try to understand women and solve their problems, whereas women just want men to listen to them. Or as Jill on an old Home Improvement episode told her husband Tim, “Be supportive and shut up!” Whether the stereotype has any sort of widespread validity is a conversation for another day; it certainly seems to be valid here, at least. Ryuji thinks he understands Taiga, interrupts her, tries to solve her problems, and only succeeds in antagonizing her. For her part, Taiga is trying to get the words out—an act that seems to require a certain amount of courage for her—and Ryuji won’t give her a chance. 

That’s a good way to explain it. Taiga being such an aggressive tsundere, I often overlook the fact that Ryuji could have backed down in many places and only focus on Taiga’s faults (not that I don’t still adore her). Taiga, on the other hand, has to deal with many issues, most of them having to do with pride: her fear of defeat, jealousy of Ami and Ryuji’s intimacy (another fear of losing), and the fact that she is even getting jealous over Ryuji – her servant/dog. To disguise her weaknesses to others and herself, Taiga resorts to harsh words and violence. And this is how a tsundere works, as Yasuko observes.

toradora 8.2 yasuko quote

Primes: Let’s hear it for Ryuji’s mom! She made a foolish decision early in life to get married very young to a man who abandoned her; she’s working a sketchy job at sketchy hours; and she seems very much an airhead at first. But here she demonstrates how shrewdly she does understand human nature and especially the personality of someone like Taiga.

Yes! I sure hope we keep getting more of her. She adds a dose of fun and unexpected wisdom to every other episode.

Ryuji goes with his usual spirit of self-sacrifice and says “at least I’ll be the only one forced to go to Kawashima’s beach house,” which is frankly a dumb thing to say. Is Ryuji senseless in his altruism? Kind of reminds me of a certain harem protagonist by the name of Koyomi Araragi (cue Nujabes: “save the day, the night, and the girl too”). Disclaimer: I’m only about 10% through the entire Monogatari franchise. While Araragi might have a bit of a martyr complex, Ryuji is a lot less dramatic (maybe thanks to the studio too). Is his helpfulness entirely unconditional though? How selfless is he? Ryuji’s character gets far less spotlight than Taiga’s or Ami’s, so perhaps it’s still to early to jump to conclusions about him.

Primes: I confess to not having started Monogatari. Add another one to the list, Jeeves! Anywho, you’re right that Ryuji seems awfully braindead when it comes to understanding what is happening to Taiga. I don’t expect him to understand her perfectly (Taiga herself said she doesn’t understand what’s going on inside her), but to at least get an inkling that Taiga might have feelings for him? And this is an issue I have with a lot of animanga male characters: They seem 110% clueless about some girl possibly liking them, and if they do get a clue they seem completely disinterested. It’s funny, or as the case may be dramatic, but hardly realistic, IMO. Heck, it’s its own special brand of stupidity, a chronic and widespread illness that should get its own medical name.

Bakemonogatari would actually have been a pretty good choice for a collab like this too. As for the oblivious male character thing…it’s totally a harem protagonist trope (how else are you going to have a morally correct situation in which a guy is intimate with ten infatuated girls at once?). Or, it can happen in shounen series, where the protagonist must focus on training and fighting rather than starting a romance. What would change if Ryuji is a more sensitive character? Or say, if Taiga does date Kitamura, would they be as compatible? I can’t imagine Taiga ever being comfortable enough, haha. The anime is called Toradora/Tiger x Dragon, so maybe crass x crude is necessary after all.

Ryuji’s lack of care for himself can be a problem though. When he gets struck unconscious by falling dudes (yeah, don’t ask) and causes Taiga to swim back (!) to him and lose her race, Taiga accuses everyone present for not caring about Ryuji and claims possession of him. Evidently, Ryuji is in need of protection too, at least according to Taiga.

Primes: We all are. Your question as to whether Ryuji’s care and attention to others is in fact selfless is an intriguing one: Have we seen anyone do much to take care of him up until this point? His mother works to support the family; other than that, I can’t think of much apart from the occasional encouragement or advice from friends. And is it healthy to always be giving so much without some source to provide the same back to you?

As a (for all practical purposes, at least) single parent, one of the first things that had to be drilled into me when my wife was hospitalized was: Take care of yourself first, so that you can take care of the rest of your family. I’ve come to realize how important this is, and I don’t think Ryuji understands it yet.

Very good point. Self-care is important!!

toradora 8.3 ami reaction face
Ami’s reaction at the touching episode climax

By the end of the episode, Taiga has figured out how to incorporate her newly found love for Ryuji into her law-of-the-jungle worldview – he is her dog, and she his master. It simultaneously asserts her power and justifies her attention towards Ryuji. So all is well, for now.

5 thoughts on “Anime x Lit Crit: Vampires & Valentines – Toradora! 8

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