Collab Projects · Episode Reviews

Anime x Lit Crit: Toradora! 16

Tears, bruises, and cringey confessions. This is the kind of anime episode that makes me feel like I missed out on something during high school!

Primes: What, no kendo fights in your classroom? Seriously, though, I felt this episode succeeded in conveying the emotional anarchy that dominates the teen years: soaring giddiness, crashing dreams, feelings that seem to run oh so deep and yet can turn on a dime. And yes, cringey confessions–of which I certainly made my share!

No kendo fights, unfortunately. Cringey confessions…fine, maybe.

The subject of unrequited love is once again at the forefront. If the last episode was about mellow introspection, this episode is when everything bubbling inside culminates into an eruption.

Primes: Last time I posited that Kitamura’s superego could no longer constrain his id. This time, it seems like everyone’s superego is taking the day off!

toradora 16.1
Domestic abuse on top of everything?

So, Kitamura and Kano! There was plenty of foreshadowing, but it was a shock nonetheless. He went from Taiga to Kano as quickly as Romeo went from Rosaline to Juliet. Wait…probably even quicker. What is different is that he lived long enough to reflect on the past and evaluate the decisions he would make.

Wow, the Romeo and Juliet parallels just keep hitting me (probably because I recently watched a theatrical rendition of Shakespeare in Love). Like Romeo, Kitamura has “go big or go home” tendencies, and confesses in the most dramatic way possible. Like Juliet in the relationship, Kano is the one who addresses the barriers between Kitamura and herself and opts for an indirect approach – she doesn’t drink fancy poison, but she does choose to be the sufferer by putting on a show of coldness to protect Kitamura (and herself) in the long run.

Primes: Hey, why is it that Kitamura stays alive, unlike Romeo? Is it that his feelings aren’t as strong as Romeo’s? That he has better sense? Because I kind of get the feeling that neither of these are primary factors. The main difference to me seems that Kano has a much more level head than Juliet. If Kano had, say, faked her death, what do you think Kitamura would have done?

Hmm, that is true. But I’d also argue that Kitamura wouldn’t have it in him to do something drastically tragic if Kano faked her death, based on the hesitant and responsible part of him that we get to glimpse in this episode.

toradora 16.5

This isn’t Kitamura and Kano’s show, and the two characters aren’t manifestations of passion. Kano, as mentioned values Kitamura’s career and her own, and is determined to believe that high school love doesn’t last forever. With how rational and reticent these two are, the situation really wouldn’t evolve if not for Taiga.

Primes: I think it’s worth reflecting, while drawing comparisons with tragic literature, on the insight that a tragedy occurs because the hero thinks he is in a different kind of story; in another story, the same patterns of behavior might have resulted in a better ending. Oedipus thought he was in a Sherlock Holmes-esque mystery novel, when he was unwittingly in an early draft of Game of Thrones. (Incest, murder, intrigue, and gouging out eyes: it’s all there.) Romeo emulates the lovers in early medieval troubador songs, who would die together rather than be separated by death; he then would be praised as they were. Except that his girlfriend wasn’t actually dead…

And Kitamura emulates the principles that are rather standard in Shonen stories: work hard, uphold what you believe in, and support your friends, and you’ll win the prize. Alas, his “prize” is another human being, and people can’t be won like a Dragonball competition. So the story he’d written for himself didn’t work out, and he couldn’t take it: a classic tragedy.

What a neat reading (reading?). I spent a long time trying to expand on this: Kitamura thinks he’s a shounen protagonist, but he’s actually in a _____? We’ve established in previous discussions that Toradora! doesn’t conform easily to genres/tropes (despite how it seems), but given my knowledge of the series so far, how might I fill in the blank? “High school drama”? “Coming-of-age story”? What is to Kitamura a personal tragedy is a small segment of a long series featuring an ongoing journey of sorts. The point where Kitamura reaches a similar conclusion with resignation, I suppose, is the catharsis (after he hears Kano’s confession). He was definitely aware of the futility of his efforts prior to this, as is evident from his multiple breakdowns and self-aware reflections, but he needed a moment of purging before he can move past this mess.

toradora 16.3

That fight had style. The rough animation and anti-physics realism reminded me of Ping Pong the Animation. My favourite part is when Kano screams “I’ll die to be as simple-minded as you!” – a remark bringing her attitude from sarcastic to sincere. With “sincerity” being the fight’s overall winner, I half-expected something to bring Kitamura and Kano together as I watched, but I really should have known better.

Primes: I think Toradora is kind of about things not working out the way we want or expect, ya know? Like, it’s that’s not always a bad thing, even if it’s a painful thing.

“Being able to say that you’ve fought is more important than winning in the end.” It’s a recurring theme in Toradora!, and this episode revisits it quite literally. Life is about changes, and Toradora! suggests that struggling against them is an essential part of adaptation.

Primes: Let me emphasize that last point: struggling is a part of adaptation. If you just remain passive in the face of challenges, you don’t grow; if you struggle and never come to adapt… again, you don’t grow. Life requires you to fight for something while knowing the goal is not victory, but germination. 

This episode is also a rare one that made me pay attention to artistic choices, not once but twice: that reddish filter in the final scene with Minori was pretty damn ominous. I’m anticipating something horrible next episode as her character arc finally commences…

Primes: M wha ha ha!

Uh oh…

Anyways, I think this may be my favourite episode so far (I did decide that Kano was my favourite character back when she first appeared. I have a thing for side characters), and I have a hunch that things will only get better from here on!

Primes: Better and deeper! 🙂 

Alright, I’ll look forward to it (with a hint of worry).

toradora 16.4

7 thoughts on “Anime x Lit Crit: Toradora! 16

  1. In a true tragedy, the protagonist(s) are dragged inexorably to their doom by their flaws. Romeo and Juliet have to both be flawed in a complementary way or the final tragedy doesn’t happen.

    Kitamura and Kano are both flawed but the flaws are not mutually reinforcing. Ergo, no poison or happy dagger.

    If I were to put together a list of the ten greatest anime, “Toradora!” would probably be there. If I narrowed the scope to “romance” or “coming of age”, it would be high on the list.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent discussion! I think this was a really good episode that represents what I like about the show. I enjoyed how each character has their own personal philosophy and the show never really treats any one of them as being wrong. Kano could have been written as more insensitive than misunderstood; for the most part characters are only treated as being wrong when acting inauthentic to what they want our who they are. It’s a really neat way to create conflict and respect your characters; hope you keep enjoying the series and having good discussions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! I agree with you. Toradora!’s treatment of conflict is rare among high school anime.

      What do you mean by “Kano could have been written as more insensitive than misunderstood”?


      1. No problem it was a fun read. Basically I was getting at how the show does well with duality, that characters like Kano and Ami could be portrayed as characters we’re supposed to hate or see as an antagonist of sorts. It tows the line that it does feel cathartic to see Taiga smack her with a Kendo stick but they give her enough of a rationale and a redemption that I felt you can still emphasize with her. It is a much appreciated dynamic that I personally liked about the show.

        Liked by 1 person

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