Collab Projects · Episode Reviews

Anime x Lit Crit: Toradora! – 20

Yup, it’s time for another installment of your record-breakingly long collaboration series between me and NegativePrimes!

Primes: Running on two years now, right? A testimony to our perseverance and Toradora‘s quality!

During the last months of inactivity, I got through the holidays, applied for grad school, compulsively applied for a few jobs I don’t need, applied for one job I might actually need, and did plenty of baking. [Update: I got the job and now work at libraries.] What about you, Primes?

Primes: I… went on vacation?
Oh hey, before we forget:
Screenshot_20200126-200149_Crunchyroll

Happy February, haha!

Now, Toradora!. This episode may not look like a lot in terms of plot development (not after what happened last episode), but it’s certainly not devoid of interesting stuff. In particular, it presents us with many images, both ones featured on screen and ones implanted in our imagination.

Primes: And characters. Loads of character development. 

Yes, can’t forget that.

Before anything, in case I forgot to say this in previous episode discussions, I just love Taiga’s white winter look. It’s a new year, but she hasn’t stopped aspiring to be Angel Taiga (which is, at the same time, something I feel sorry for).

Primes: Angel Taiga? * imagining a tiger with wings *

winged tiger
Like this? Roman mosaic

Big stuff happened. To recap: Ryuji was rejected, Taiga had a breakdown, and Minori came out of hiding for long enough to crush Ryuji before running away in the end. But in an attempt to move on, the characters find themselves too attached to the familiar status quo. A good amount of character interactions in this episode are encapsulated by the spoiled school field trip. The Okinawan hotel burns down drastically without an explanation, and the destination is changed to a ski resort with a shortened schedule. This contrast of fire and ice, coupled with Yuri-sensei’s aggressive insistence that everything will be “just the same,” is like a comical attempt to run cold tap water over already burnt flesh.

Primes: Dark humor, indeed. And don’t forget that Ryuji “summoned” the fire. Perhaps not literally, but at least symbolically in his mind. He even apologizes to his friends for the changed plans. I’m thinking this indicates his tendency to take on others’ burdens even when he has no business doing so. He’s the “cause” of his own getting burnt.

Uh-huh.

toradora 20.2

After the confrontation last episode, Ryuji simply succumbs to the fire, by literally having a hospitalizable fever. He wakes up as perturbed as before, and is pushed half-dazedly by Taiga into pursuing Minori a second time. Taiga, however, is determined to snuff the source of the fire by distancing herself from Ryuji and eating cup noodles, forever. Taiga tells Ryuji (and herself) that the only reason he was rejected by Minori is because she depends on him too much. Yet, in the beginning of the episode, Taiga can’t help but open her window to check on Ryuji. At school, she even tackles Haruta for taking Ryuji’s present for Minori without permission. Not that she isn’t usually violent, but the point is, getting over Ryuji doesn’t seem to be so easy.

Primes: She’s being violent on someone else’s behalf for a change.

Hmm, you’re right. I think this might be the first time.

toradora 20.5
Surprise Clannad cameo?? (“Furukawa Breads”)
toradora 20.3
subtext: “cafe Renaissance”
toradora 20.4
subtext: do not enter

As for Minori, cheery denial seems to be her default course of action. Denial, complemented by escape, where denial is too difficult to carry out. This prevented her from visiting Taiga’s home ever since things got awkward with her dad. Minori tries to cut her hair and speaks of her “Mr. Lady” days with short hair, but in the end her change is barely noticeable. Out of the three, Minori seems the most desperate about preserving the status quo. What kind of change then, might she be striving for? To actually be as sincere about expressing her feelings as she consistently acts like she is? I feel like we are headed to a “coming out” story of sorts, in the few episodes that are left.

Primes: *whistles innocently*

You know, I actually had a friend in college who was a lot like Minori. Her name was Bethany, and she was active in all kinds of things, sports and otherwise. She shaved her head once. And the way she dealt with relationship stuff resembled M’s. Very concerned about sincerity and consistency. A really great person. Though unlike Minorin, she would never have skipped a dance for any reason!

Meanwhile, I have a totally Taiga friend who is still in denial about her love life after seeing a guy for over half a year. Can’t name anybody here…

Back to the cancelled Okinawa trip for a bit, to something you touched on earlier. Even funnier is Ryuji’s automatic instinct to apologize when Taiga complains to Ami about what happened to the school trip, as if claiming responsibility as the arsonist. Ryuji may be a pretty dense guy, but he’s not your high school harem protagonist either. He senses the tension in the air, and feels guilty for the harm he caused Taiga, Minori, and Ami (more obliquely). Apologizing for the burning of the hotel is thus symbolic, and shows how sensitive he is to Taiga and Ami’s moods during their conversation.

Guilt really does compel the main cast in this series. After musing on how nice it would be for everything to stay the same, the episode cuts to a shiritori word game on the topic of “bitter things.” A distracted Ryuji produces the word “ganbaru” (to put effort), which his friends help him justify with the logic “wasted effort is bitter.” Does this say something about the conflict of desiring to “stay the same” while having to put bitter effort into moving on? Or is it about the pointlessness of putting bitter effort into staying the same, which Ryuji and others are gradually becoming self-aware of?

Primes: Or is it just this lesson, which I’m always reminding the little Primes about?

Screenshot_20200126-201056_Crunchyroll
Bitter words written by a bitterer person.

Well, they are certainly too self-aware to go back to whatever they were before now… Besides, the main cast has constantly been evolving since Episode 1. The “status quo” that the characters are so desperate about clinging onto hardly ever existed.

That’s a good thing, right? And yet, I think it’s pretty normal to assume that we know someone to be a certain way, as if they aren’t constantly evolving. It really irks me when people behave as if they perfectly understand someone else just because of one or two past experiences. Of course, it’s not like most of us are superb judges of others’ character or our own- – much like the folks in Toradora!

Nobody knows anyone else better than they know themselves, and most of the time we aren’t even great at knowing ourselves, so… all aboard the bitter and fantastic merry-go-round of life (sorry, I just happen to be listening to a good song)~

toradora 20.6
Chilling with madeleines and hot tea~

8 thoughts on “Anime x Lit Crit: Toradora! – 20

    1. It’s been delightful! I was worried that checking out books might get monotonous after a while, but I’m two shifts into branch training and it’s already much more than that. Thanks for asking~

      Liked by 2 people

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