Primes and I are back with another pre-Christmas party episode!
Primes: Let the Christmas-preparation hijinks begin!
The overarching motif in this episode, I think, is the idea of roleplaying. Ami is the first one to bring it up with her accusation that Ryuji and Taiga are “playing house.” She points out that Ryuji is trying to act like a protective father to Taiga, though he secretly wishes for deeper (romantic) intimacy.
Primes: Roleplaying, eh? Ami’s preaching to Ryuji, so she must be a cleric. Ryuji’s playing the role of a knight, trying to rescue Taiga (and like the knights of medieval legend, that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily in love with her–yet, at least).
A fun way to think about it. I’m not so familiar with D&D myself, but that sounds reasonable.
My first thought was that this is a rather unfair claim. To me, “pretending” implies having the intention to craft a false appearance. Yet, everything that takes place in Ryuji’s home feels comfy and natural. And of course, Ami’s under-the-breath confession undermines her accusation quite a bit.
Primes: Cleric Ami rolls a 1 attempting to seduce Ryuji. He doesn’t notice her confession and comes closer to falling in love with someone else.
Yup, sucks to be Ami sometimes. But still, given how the plot is unfolding, there might be significant truth in Ami’s words.
Primes: From one perspective, “tragedy” is when you think you’re in a different kind of story than you actually are. In other words, there’s a mismatch between your story and your chosen role. Ryuji is prime for such a tragedy, since Taiga doesn’t need him for a knight: She is one herself–Chaotic Neutral, I’d warrant, except she’s going through a Lawful Good phase in prep for Christmas.
Then, in Taiga’s home, we learn that Taiga isn’t merely satisfied with playing the role of “good child,” but is determined to tackle the role of Santa himself. We get a cool thing where Taiga and Ryuji have a conversation about gift-giving intentions while a soundless montage of Taiga delivering presents goes on. Perhaps this suggests some sort of fissure between intention and reality?
Primes: I’ll say. Santa’s a Cleric, Taiga’s a Knight. Taiga trying to play Santa is like casting Lara Croft as the Easter Bunny.
A brief historical note, though: The original St. Nicholas, although a bishop, is on record as having punched another bishop in public. In the nose. So he and Taiga might actually hit it off.
Okay, that’s wild. Now that you mention that, I do vaguely remember reading something about St. Nicholas having been in prison.
Near the end of this dialogue, Taiga says that she wants to be there to “watch over” those who didn’t have anyone to watch over them.
Primes: Taiga = knight, amiright?
Pretty accurate! In a sense, maybe Taiga wants to be the figure she lacks in her own life (whew, Utena Syndrome). Which leads me to wonder if Ryuji also wants to be for Taiga the figure whom he lacks in his own life?
Primes: Ok, I haven’t seen Utena. What is Utena Syndrome?
Oh, it’s a tangential reference and I’m pretty sure I made it up. Like Taiga, Utena also seeks to become her childhood saviour (a prince) rather than the one being saved (the princess).
I spent some time thinking about “pretending” vs. “being” after this episode, which led me to an interesting Quora thread on pretending vs. acting. According to Quora User Anurag Kumar Choudhury, the difference between “pretending” and “acting” is that in acting, the audience is engaged in the performance that the actors intentionally put on for them; it is a “social agreement” between cast and audience, and therefore, “acting is the truth.”
Primes: Maybe, but let me play the Devil’s Ace Attorney: A social contract is a particularly Western (modern) idea. From Ancient Greece until the Victorians, the continual charge against art of any kind is that it’s a lie. So I would caution against an ahistorical reading of drama in a given culture.
I mean, our word “hypocrite” literally means “a mask an actor wears”. So somewhere the line between drama and deception got blurred.
Yeah, I do find the claim to be fairly one-sided, and I am also not passionate enough about acting to call it “the truth.” Nevertheless, I find the perspective interesting; after all, anyone who enters a theatre with the intention to enjoy themselves is agreeing to pretend that the stage is a hypothetical reality, even if just for a few hours.
If this is true, does Taiga’s Santa roleplay become genuine because she herself acknowledges that is a part of “a beautiful dream” but keeps on striving for it, and because Ryuji is also complicit in it? Is Ryuji’s support alone enough?
Primes: I do think it’s genuine in any case. When we strive for our ideal, how can we fail to be the best possible version of ourselves?
But I don’t think Ryuji’s support alone will suffice to sustain Taiga’s dream. Ryuji’s putting himself on way too high a pedestal if he thinks he can fill every void in Taiga’s life. Sir Ryuji tries to heal Taiga, rolls a 4.
Does Ryuji’s “playing house” fall in the realm of pretending then, because nobody really seems to have that much self-awareness? But even pretending has the intention to deceive as a prerequisite. Though I suspect the pretenses will thicken now that Ami forces Ryuji to be aware.
And to throw in another curveball, what about Minori and her attachment to guilt? Honestly, I still can’t say very much about her as of right now. But Ryuji’s insistence on being a supporting figure and Minori’s stubborn self-blame seem to be equally confining roles, to each other as well as themselves.
Primes: Ah Minorin, the Enigmatic Rogue! Thief of hearts! Master of Disguise, so good she deceives even herself! Wielder of the +2/+2 Cursed Bat!
Wow, I can’t believe that star was actually fixed. Minori and Ryuji must be jigsaw geniuses???
Primes: I’m gonna say they rolled characters with high wisdom and luck stats!
That is one answer to it!
And that’ll be it from us for now! Still waiting for Minori’s backstory, hopefully revealed next episode or soon.
3 thoughts on “Anime x Lit Crit: Toradora! 18”
All the feels and hugs for Taiga. I’m really enjoying reading your discussions on this, I’m learning a whole lot. Need to research Utena syndrome, I wonder how much tbat goes through a therapists mind for trauma survivors.
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Utena syndrome is a term I made up to describe a character’s inclination in the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena. There may be a more legitimate word in the field of psychology, and I would be interested if you do go and find something!