Toradora 18: from retrogression to forward action
There is absolutely nothing that is difficult to understand in this episode. What happened could not be attributed to any astrological occurrence; neither could it be attributed to simple coincidence. There were a few happenstances, but the episode was purely one of deliberate action. I pertain to action not with the general connotation of violence; I pertain to action with the property of intention.
As usual with this arc, Minori was still a bag of nerves. She remained neurotic and obviously tried to avoid Ryuuji. She used her softball practices as excuse not to be with Taiga and Ryuuji. It’s quite obvious that she realized Ryuuji’s feelings for her, and with Ami’s statement she no longer has reason to dawdle and dally around: this made her more quixotic than usual.
Speaking of Ami, she finally showed herself and finally had more than a few lines. But before she and Ryuuji were left alone in the storage room, Noto once more tried to set Kitamura and Taiga up and Nanako urged Kihara to follow them. During these moments it is quite obvious that Taiga no longer blushes even when Kitamura talks to her directly and even teaches her how to hold scissors. J.C. Staff in this series has been notable for putting meaning into even simple expressions: I can only assume that Taiga has gone beyond that stage of nervous infatuation for Kitamura, especially after her discovery that he likes someone else.
After they all went out of the room, Ami engaged Ryuuji in a pointed conversation. Ami, sharp and witty as always, picks Ryuuji’s vibes of discomfort. He flatly denied his jealousy, and likened it more to an annoyance with people who want to participate in someone else’s love life by being rumormongers. Ami accurately likened this discomfort to a father losing his daughter to a marriage. She knew that Ryuuji liked Minori and she also knew that Ryuuji was determined not to lay his hands on Taiga, and compares this situation to an unforced game of house. In the end, she correctly intuited that it was mere pretension. Her suggestion was for him to drop the act and start over so that she could also have another chance.
I believe that was a confession. I don’t read the novels, but I doubt she would say that as a mere fabrication. Her nail-biting suggests that she was hesitant and to some degree, scared of what Ryuuji would say. Nail-biting is an involuntary tic that often comes out during fight-or-flight situations: these would be primarily situations of uncertainty, fear, and choice (often occurring simultaneously). Besides, Ryuuji couldn’t see this act (were it one) adding more doubt into the assumption of fabrication. As always, however, Ryuuji doesn’t hear her whispers.
I’m of the belief that Ami is a strong girl. Especially after Ryuuji empowered her, I believe it would be very difficult for anyone to break her down. Yet I can still feel the difficulty of living with knowledge that the guy (probably the only one) one has been attracted to has one as a third-wheel at the highest position despite one’s immense affluence, supreme beauty, and wonderful disposition. Her situation is only made more difficult by having two of her close friends in the top two positions. In the end she could only murmur to no avail . . .
Yet in this tragic situation for her she was able to lead Ryuuji to a choice, something which will be very evident later on the episode.
During lunch Kihara invited Ryuuji to eat with them: knowing Kihara, it was probably going to be about Kitamura and Taiga’s closeness. Ryuuji dodges this with the reason of accompanying Taiga to the post office despite her efforts. Her unwillingness to bring him was due to her preparing presents for her family. Despite being left in the dust and practically an intruder in her own home, she wants them (along with the orphans she took care of, Ryuuji, Yasuko, and probably Minori) to be happy. She has faith in Christmas because Santa appeared to her in a dream when she was a child and gave her a gift. The more profound basis of her belief in Santa Claus, however, was that she had faith that there was always someone looking out for everybody. To her it was Santa Claus. She wanted even the most destitute to have hope; indeed, beneath her incomprehensible, misunderstood and harsh exterior also lay a caring girl.
I believe Ryuuji had his epiphany during what happened after they returned to school: he recognized that aside from Kitamura, Taiga also has him and his family. He also believed that he would be successful to persuade Minori to come to the party. However, after they finally assembled the huge Christmas tree obtained by Ami, a softball broke through the window and toppled it over, with Taiga’s star being broken in the process. The criminal was Minori, and it was confirmed a little later that it was because of her having spaced out.
After the incident Minori shook with grief and regret. Despite this Taiga, ever-caring friend for both Ryuuji and Minori, left both of them together. Despite Minori’s disapprobation, he helped her anyway and actually was able to reconstruct the star to almost as before. Within a few lines, we also have proof of why Ryuuji would very possibly make most girls fall for him and of his choice being made:
Do what you should do. I’m not helping you, I’m just doing what I should do. It’s for my own sake.
I think anyone, even idiots, would understand that as a confession, especially in that situation. These lines illustrated Takasu’s ingenuousness, caring, and friendship. The broken star acted as his metaphorical reply to what happened between her and Ryuuji: it can be fixed; it will be fixed; I will make sure of it – and I will wait for you. I doubt the star shining perfectly atop the fixed Christmas tree was merely for decoration: this is one series that follows Chekhov’s rules well.
. . . and I wait for the next episode impatiently.