Penultimate episode analysis, here we go!
I said last episode was intense. Well, I was wrong. Intensity is relative…
Primes: So true! This is one of my favorite Toradora episodes!
In our last discussion, Primes asked if I thought “[the main characters will] finally see the ghosts and UFOs they believe in.” I suggested that a sign of their growth was that they were no longer so afraid of confronting what they deemed “invisible” or “vague,” because they were starting to adjust to the lack of clear boundaries in life.
This is only half-correct, since the Toradora! spirit is not complacent, but highly proactive. Yes, the characters are taking great steps into the not-so-visible, but they’re not just going with any flow either.
“Run toward what you can see.” I think the “you” here is quite important, because Minori and Ryuji are finally realizing that “seeing” is a subjective experience, and what is observed is individually valid and unique. Both of them have striven to take responsibility for others while suppressing their own feelings and needs–to set their eyes on what must be objectively good for everyone–but now they’re acknowledging the unintended damage this has done.
Primes: Do you think this tendency to suppress one’s own heart for the good of others is stronger in some cultures than others? I see this come up a lot in anime, and it seems to me that things are different in North America.
Collectivism vs. individualism, I guess? When I took psychology, Japan seemed to be the favourite culture for comparative studies on collectivism and individualism. The definition I memorized was that collectivist (usually Asian, Middle Eastern) cultures see individuals as part of a whole, while individualist (North American, European) cultures emphasize the individual’s autonomy over the group’s wellbeing.
I’ve struggled with this concept of dividing cultures into these two camps because it seemed so difficult to put such labels on cultures with enough delicacy, without leading people to conclude that Asians abuse individual rights or that North Americans are divided and selfish. (Based on current world events, it can be so tempting to use both as justifications for prejudiced agendas.) But that’s me going to far! I may be hesitant about citing cultural dimension theory, but I definitely agree with your observation, and think it might be one reason I relate more to anime than Western media especially when it comes to the genre of romance.
Minori starts out by confessing her love for Ryuji, which she buried after perceiving Taiga’s attachment to Ryuji. I was somewhat prepared for this after previous episodes, but also, not really. Wow, Minori.
Primes: So. Dang. Good. Minori’s confession gives me such a rush! And it makes me wonder whether, in an alternate timeline, if Minorin had agreed to go out with Ryuji before Taiga ever became a part of his life, would they have made a good couple? I don’t think that Toradora suggests that we have to find our “one true love”; it seems to me rather to say that true love is built through the shared experiences of a couple. But I also don’t think it’s saying that any two people can have a successful relationship.
I think the chemistry between Ryuji and Taiga is too good for anyone else to match up to, but who knows? I’m not a fan of “one true love” either, and Ryuji x Minori might just work out.
Ryuji follows Minori’s confession by confessing his love for Taiga, not without Minori’s pressing. “I want to hear it,” she says.
Thus, this episode is also about the power of language. Because everyone thought they were being objective, they failed to recognize that others don’t always perceive their actions (or inaction) the way they intended. It’s where the spoken word becomes important.
Primes: “And the Word became flesh”, as the Bible says. The spoken word makes something take on a more real, more concrete form.
Anything that has power also has the potential for harm, and Ryuji unleashes this fresh power onto Yasuko by accusing her of using his future to make amends for her own mistakes. Everybody in Toradora! gets their own outburst, it seems, and Ryuji’s is certainly as clumsy and injurious as everyone else’s. It starts out with an expression of his guilt and heartbreak at watching his mom overwork herself for his sake, before spiraling out of control into a series of charged accusations. Seeing Taiga’s irresponsible mom suddenly show up to claim Taiga was probably another trigger (Taiga really stood up to her mom though!).
Primes: Geeze, Ryuji, how could you cut your own mother’s heart like that? Sometimes anime characters have all the delicacy of a bull in an ICU.
Oh, anime teens certainly aren’t the only ones capable of that…
Who needs a few more surprises now? Not me…but wait, maybe. Yes. …Yes! While running away from their moms, Taiga pushes Ryuji off a bridge by accident, Ryuji (who was kept intact by anime logic) proposes to marry her out of the blue, and Taiga voluntarily dives from the bridge too.
Primes: If there’s any one moment in the series I dislike, it’s this one. That fall should have killed them. How dare you ruin this precious moment with your Looney Tunes physics!
Yup, they should have died. Who likes rom-coms anyways?
At this point, they suddenly remember that they never communicated their feelings to each other before, and decide to do so. They make a great deal about who goes first too, and would have confessed together had they not been interrupted. Classic.
The rest of the episode continues to reinforce the idea of “saying it out loud.” Ryuji and Taiga have no choice but to announce their elope plan to their friends, who each declares their disapproval but pitches in to support them in their own ways. Curiously, even Yasuko seems to have a vague idea of what Ryuji’s plans are, because she runs away from home herself and leaves Ryuji with a single heirloom to present to his estranged grandfather. The episode ends with Ryuji introducing himself to his already shocked grandparents and presenting his “bride” to them before they’ve had time to react.
Primes: I find this last scene very precious and sweet. *sigh*
I was still in shock at that point and might have sympathized with the poor grandparents a bit too much. But yes, precious.
The main cast of Toradora! hasn’t become well-adjusted “grown-ups” who are at peace with the mad world around them. Ryuji comments that Yasuko is “just like a child” for spontaneously running away from her job and home, but isn’t too alarmed because he knows he’ll see her again. On the train with Taiga, he doesn’t chide Taiga for bringing junk food in “adult-like flavours” instead of a real lunch either.
Going off on a slight tangent, I’ve been thinking about how one of the biggest distinctions between being a teen and an adult is that nobody really tells an adult to fix things about themselves, because they assume that whatever’s wrong with an adult has been that way forever and is a part of who they are. That, and the fact that people are generally polite to adults. At some point, you start making personal improvements and pursuing certain things because you see merit in them, not because you’re trying to fix yourself to fit others’ expectations (or your perception of their expectations).
Primes: You’ve never had someone tell you as an adult to fix something about yourself? What a wonderful world you must live in!
My mom tells me to fix myself all the time but I’m not sure I’m an adult to her.
Primes: 😀 Ok, just kidding; but it does happen, though I think there’s an expectation that as an adult you’re not beholden to anyone else as you mature.
Yeah, I have this chronically late neighbour who’s forever 1-3 hrs late to everything. People are harsh about it all the time, but they don’t expect to change her just with words, and know that it’s not their place to force correction upon her either.
Growing in age removes the external pressure of people telling you what to do, and with that, the internal compulsion to conform to certain standards of appropriateness or “maturity.” So in this sense, recognizing that there’s no “true grown-up” is a key aspect of growing up? Ryuji and Taiga are indeed just running towards what they can see. It means diving into the invisible and drawing their own boundaries and links.
Primes: Or that being grown up is different in nature from how we thought of it when we were kids?
I don’t think I’ve ever thought about how growing up happens as a kid. As a kid you just…expect it?
Bizarre as it is, I guess I’m excited to see Ryuji and Taiga get married (do I get to see that, or am I supposed to go read fan-fiction?).
Primes: You’ll find out soon enough! 😀