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.
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.
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.