The complexity of Kawashima Ami

It is undeniable that the focus of Toradora has always been on the romantic struggles of Taiga and Ryuuji. Even the title itself has been derived from their physical or actual similarities with their representative animals. I will talk about them, but I will also attempt to shed light on the reasons as to why I believe Toradora is an excellent show.

She looks even better than Ryoko.

She looks even better than Ryoko.

Episodes eight and nine contain scenes which contain great examples, and these examples feature Ami. I even think Ami’s more complex than Taiga, especially after the sixth episode, despite her short stints of dialogue.

At about 7:20 into the eighth episode, Ryuuji sees Ami sit by the vending machines, and they initially engage in small talk. Her coquetry, deeply rooted in her personality, immediately surfaces. When the viewer wonders whether what Ami is showing is merely a facade or not, Ami quips a phrase that reflects that she is herself around Ryuuji: ‘is Takasu-kun an idiot?’ By merely the use of the word it is revealed that she does not hide her real self from Ryuuji: he accepts her for who she really is.

The scene also subtly infers that she is tired from the question that she fires at Ryuuji. She asks whether Ryuuji is tired as well. Putting up a facade is a tiring job; that’s what we all do during the first day in school, at work, or at another man’s home, and most of us can say (yes, I as well) that it is enervating. Think about what Ami has to put up with. Her defense mechanism is her facade; Ryuuji, to her, I believe, is a breath of fresh air. He is among the few people who doesn’t expect anything from her and who has seen who she really was without flinching. Overall, Ryuuji is also simply a nice guy.

Ryuuji remains steadfast, however, that Ami is merely toying with Taiga and him; and he cannot be blamed. Ami is a commercial model and a beautiful face; hers is a face and a beauty that is pursued by many people. In his typical fashion, he requests Ami not to provoke Taiga so much and finishes his statement with his own realization of his self: he is a scary-looking person; everyone is afraid of him; and so it must be that Ami and her two-faced personality is merely using him to vex Taiga. He also accepts this; it is with calm that he replies to her teases: ‘you don’t intend to invite me either way.’

‘I was serious, you know,’ was her reply. It is only there that, at least for me, it started to sink in that Ryuuji for Ami isn’t just another tease. He isn’t just another guy to play around with and throw away. Her feet tapping subtly reveals (at least for me) a tension that she doesn’t want Ryuuji to sense: she is actually serious with trying to win and taking Ryuuji away. Her melancholic look after Ryuuji proceeds to go only serves to paint her complexity even more.

Placed in Ryuuji’s shoes, one could understand why he simply walked away. Despite Ami being serious, he doesn’t know and couldn’t perceive of it: she is a paragon of the female body (despite the fat), and he an outcast because of his scary looks. She herself has not yet surpassed her personality to speak frankly with regard her feelings, and yet she tries.

It doesn’t stop there, however.

I like her more than Taiga.

I like her more than Taiga.

In the next episode she toys around with Ryuuji again. It happens in the shower and Ryuuji is traumatized to such extent that he couldn’t speak for some time.

Starting at about 15:40 in this episode, Ryuuji and Ami are left alone once more to themselves. She begins once more with her characteristic jocose coquetry, mimicking Taiga this time. When Ryuuji compliments her that he would never get tired looking at her, she warily smiles and prods whether it was a compliment or not. Ryuuji replies that things are complicated, and again it appears:

‘[…] Let’s go to the seaside now if it’s all right with you.’

I believe, and am pretty certain, that the statement was an invitation. Ami also waited until there was no one left except them two. It was sadly drowned by the voice of Minorin; she no longer repeated what she said, and passed it off as something unimportant. This event reveals two aspects of her character: the first is that she’s afraid of being told no by Ryuuji, and the second is that she is investing herself emotionally in Ryuuji: a girl doesn’t normally invite a guy alone to enjoy the seaside.

The crowning point of the episode, however, as many bloggers have already mentioned, was the scene between Minorin and Ryuuji and their conversation about ghosts. No longer will I go in detail about what they’ve talked about; the ghosts in their discussion, however, are those that are figurative and not literal.

At 18:50, just at the point where Takasu speaks of people thinking of ghosts not existing even if they do see it, the scene shifts to Ami beautifying herself with a mirror, initially being contented before being in possession of a look that was second-guessing. At this point of the series I think Ami grasps that what she feels for Takasu is something that is beyond merely friendship. Yet she keeps on second-guessing herself, and in turn only hurts herself and makes Ryuuji feel a lesser person. Her quips keep on putting Ryuuji down, and I believe she knows it, but cannot as yet find of a way to channel her words more properly. The subtlety is simply masterful.

At the bottom of things, Taiga is really only a victim of misunderstanding, both of herself and from others; from what we’ve seen she is slowly realizing the difference between infatuation and love, and also of knowing herself more and more. It’s a beauty to watch, but I have always enjoyed observing unrequited love more. Beneath all the humor and comedy of Toradora lies a pathos that I have yet to see after the initial episodes of Kimikiss and yet to see completely after Honey and Clover.

While I’m certain that Ami will never end up with Ryuuji, I simply wish that her defeat (in the game of love) be presented with finesse and style. That way, despite everything, I will never stop rooting for her, just as I didn’t with Yamada even in the face of that beautifully-rendered rejection scene of H&C’s sixth episode.

Toradora, as of now, is a great anime.

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22 Responses to “The complexity of Kawashima Ami”

  1. Relm Says:

    From the girl I loved to hate to the girl I feel most sympathetic for. Ami’s a wonderful, enigmatic character who’s added a lot of spice to a show that’s already pretty complex. I suspect that her poor timing (getting Ryuuji’s attention after Taiga) and her inability to drastically change how she tries to get close to Ryuuji means she’s so far behind Taiga that she doesn’t have a chance at catching up at all. Ryuuji’s simply not the kind to be baited by teasing but that seems to be Ami’s favoured method of getting attention–if not her only.

    I definitely agree that it’ll be a treat to watch her keep on trying.

  2. Baka-Raptor Says:

    I’ll download it … but One Outs is better! :3

    lolol

    Get thee to a Kawashima Ami.

  3. mellow_bunny Says:

    Wow. Thanks mike I hadn’t thought that deeply into Ami’s ways. I’ve been to busy fanboying Minorin. I guess this is why i’m enjoying ToraDora so much. Because it can be.. explained out a little more xD! Shows seem much more interesting when you read posts like this about them xD!

  4. RogerOskaner Says:

    Wow, now that was something. I just want to mention how your analysis matches with the more detailed subtext in the novels. And yeah, the facial and body expressions are very telling, the director is definitely intentionally including them, the attention to detail in this show is actually fairly surprising, I missed some myself. In the novels Ryuuji makes a note of how she looked “gloomy” staying inbetween the pop machines alone, and also how she looked “surprisingly like a normal teenage girl” when she was confused at his “It’s complex” comment. I don’t know, I thought it was interesting.

    Relm brought up a good point, her teasing seems to be the only way she knows to get attention (Kitamura says she’s been doing it all her life) but with Ryuuji it seems a bit different, like the half-hearted stomach ache or the over-the-top shower scene, and of course the villa bet.

    Yeah, unrequited love stories have always been a favourite of mine (recently fuelled by reading Midori no Hibi – Ayase!) and even though we all know how this’ll end, seeing Ami change and develop as she deals with probably her first actual love interest with Ryuuji will be just plain awesome.

  5. Shiro Says:

    … I do feel like wanting to write this… for an unusual reason.

    But yeah. The twists in Ami’s character made her from a despicable character into one who inadvertently won my pity. Although a part of me still says “You deserve it, you idiot.”

    … I’ll write what I think myself. Because for some reason I’m motivated.

  6. lelangir Says:

    I think you’ve set straight my ambivalence towards Ami (too lazy to figure her out) – I was questioning if she was serious towards Ryuuji or just being a tease. Of course by archetypal/memetic course Ryuuji will end up with Taiga; I think it would be much more interesting if they pulled of a successful RyuujixAmi. [is that even possible?]

  7. Michael Says:

    Relm:

    We all know that she will fail. What we want is to see her propelled to be a better person because of her realization with that failure. I think it’s what endears us to Ami.

    Baka-Raptor:

    Stop parroting me! 🙁

    mellow_bunny:

    The same case was with me as regards Code Geass R2. I was too busy fanboying Lelouch and CC as my OTP that I forgot the show was pretty bad. :/

    RogerOskaner:

    Thank you for the compliment. As I’ve said before, I never lost trust in J.C. Staff especially because they produced three of the best anime series I have ever seen: H&C, H&C II, and Shingetsutan Tsukihime. I didn’t only think it was interesting, I think those subtle scenes deserved a post. 🙂

    Exactly. I want to see her grow because of her love and of Ryuuji’s kindness.

    Shiro:

    At first I also thought she was a bitch, but right now I love her even more than Taiga.

    lelangir:

    I don’t think so. But I would most definitely like to see them try.

  8. Ami-chan, Ami-chan. Just, what are you? « The Lookout Post Says:

    […] I saw this, then I read this as well, makes me get finally motivated to have a say of my own. And I once started from […]

  9. Kurogane Shiroikaze Says:

    Good post. What you’ve just pointed out is truly all the reasons I love Ami now.

  10. Baka-Raptor Says:

    Get thee to Stop parroting me! 🙁

  11. Ryan A Says:

    Queen Bitch ftw, I’ve always liked the type… because they usually have an amazing fleshing when they are dynamic; learning to love, falling in, etc. Ami is serious about Ryuuji, and it should only grow from here, and hopefully bring out something more beautiful. She’s pretty win, but perhaps I give Minorin more attention because I know quite a few girls like Ami in RL (Welcome to , but none like Minorin. ^^

  12. ghostlightning Says:

    Part of why I think this is a good show is how subtly Yuusaku is used to be the ‘audience behavior template’.

    What I mean like this is that we’re invited to view people (at least the characters in the show) through his eyes. He’s decidedly non-judgmental, and is more concerned about authenticity than right or proper behavior.

  13. TheBigN Says:

    I do like that I’m starting to warm up to Ami as the show goes along. I don’t really like her that much still at the moment. 😛

  14. Michael Says:

    I keep on rewatching the two episodes, and I’m hoping that she can transcend herself sooner or later.

  15. lolikitsune Says:

    You know what one minute problem still remains with Ami?

    I had it a second ago, but I lost it. I’ll come back to this topic when I think of it.*

    She looks even better than Ryoko.

    But wait—she looks exactly the same as Ryoko! Hurray generic character designs? Hurray characters being defined by their clothes and hair color? Fuck.

    *Oh I just remembered—SHE’S A FUCKING BETCH

  16. Michael Says:

    BETCH. BETCHA BY GOLLY WOW.

    hahahahaha

  17. lolikitsune Says:

    DOGGONE IT I meant like in Kelly

    “Don’t be a betch” etc.

  18. robbieb Says:

    so when should we expect part 3 of your ami x ryuuji blog? considering how good the content is in ep10

  19. Michael Says:

    It will come later this evening, if all else is good. 🙂

  20. Candelaria Leier Says:

    alright so i stumbled randomly upon your topic from this other site that wrote about some diet solutions? Anyways, i took the time to read your article but i’m slightly confused… Either way, you’re a awesome writer and i wanted to take the time to write a thank you! I’ve bookedmarked your site for future reference.

  21. confuse Says:

    as i watch this anime i also a bit confuse regarding ami’s feeling for ryuuji feel pity for her too 🙂

  22. Bloss Says:

    Fire up ‘Yes’ from the Toradora albums on Youtube and you’ll see that this guy has all his observations smack dab right.

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