Toradora – 19: joy to their world
Christmas. For most of the Christians, and most of the world, it is a time of celebration. It is the fulfillment of God’s covenant: the Son that He promised to save us from ourselves arrived and arrives on Christmas. It is a time of heavenly rejoicing: the Savior has come.
The stark contrast with the actual mood of the episode was a very brilliant move by J.C. Staff. Despite the lights and the ostentation, the mood of the characters weren’t in tune with the zeitgeist.
The episode started with the Christmas party nigh. In preparation for the party, Taiga gave Ryuuji her father’s suit (since it didn’t fit him anyway) as they both prepared for the coming celebration. Before being called by Taiga, however, he attempted to contact Minori one more time to no avail. Taiga still wholeheartedly tried to help Ryuuji and Minori get together, while Yuri-sensei decided to get classes about the wise purchase of apartments. Despite her newfound energy to live a fantastic single’s life, she remained to be sensitive to the matter of being single.
Kitamura seemed to have channeled his rejection to building up his body and being the comic relief of the class, and without stating things obviously, Ami and Taiga seemed to have an understanding between themselves, as they successfully orchestrated their duo without Ryuuji even knowing it. Meanwhile, on her house, Kushieda still vacillated between going to the party or simply staying at home. Going back to the party, Kitamura continued with his hijinks during the party as Ami conversed with Ryuuji regarding their performance. If I remember correctly, it was the first time Ryuuji praised Ami directly (Ami blushed, too).She was the one who told Ryuuji that Taiga went to Minori’s place to ‘welcome Santa,’ then would go home. Ami, perceptive as ever, knew that an inexorable collision among their feelings was bound to happen. Ami was frustrated that Ryuuji didn’t listen to her back then, although I find that it was no fault of Ryuuji. I myself wouldn’t understand her if she consistently clouded her statements with metaphors and allusions – certainly not at that age of theirs.
Even with Ami’s pointed words, however, Ryuuji failed to understand the seriousness of the situation. His only thought was to reciprocate Taiga’s efforts to be a Santa to him: he wanted to be a Santa to her as well, and quickly rushed out of school.
At her house, it could be seen that Taiga remained dedicated to the cause (to her end of the bargain) of pairing Minori and Ryuuji together. She even lied to her best friend so that Minori would go to the party. From that alone it is obvious that she treats Ryuuji as someone truly important to her, someone she believes she should allow to be happy. She realized something more in her solitude, however: there is no Santa. She firmly believes that her solitude will last her entire life. Subconsciously, however, after this self-reflection she sniffed Ryuuji’s scarf, paused, and stated that she would be all alone as she drifted off to sleep. When she was awakened by a tapping in her window, she warily went to it, only to discover that it was Santa: since she tried so hard to be a Santa for him, he also wanted to return the favor. He played with her and stayed with her for a while. His companionship was enough of a gift for her, and she realized it only when she pushed him to go to Minori.
It felt all the more painful, though.
I believe it all started when Taiga was estranged with Ryuuji for a significant amount during her suspension. One is brought to reflection when one is left alone to oneself. To some people looking within is something that is very scary because it is an exposure of one’s faults and a realization of one’s imperfections; to others it is a respite, a discovery of truth about one’s self. I guess that’s why there are extroverts and introverts. But one realizes a significant amount of one’s self in solitude, whether intended or not. It felt all the more painful because she knew he loved someone else, and loved her dearly. She also knew how much her best friend already liked Ryuuji, but was avoidant, and she didn’t know why.
Then, like a cataract, she realized the truth of her feelings towards Ryuuji.
All her actions of harshness and disrespect towards Ryuuji weren’t going to be turned back by a kind act on Christmas.
They both like each other.
That’s practically what is important in a relationship. So long as that exists, that quantum of solace (quoting James Bond), it will flourish. Taiga realized this, but she already had let him go. Her attempts to catch up with him were futile: he doesn’t like her beyond as a friend, and he likes someone else who likes him as well. She could only bawl over on the roadside. (I was already crying at this point.)
Minori saw this, however, and her actions near the end of the episode were quite reminscent of Ocean Waves (I also absolutely loved that movie): she rejects Ryuuji because she saw what her friend truly felt. Had she not seen Taiga’s breakdown I have heavy doubts she’d remain single for long. She put her best friend above her feelings: it is quite obvious that she hated to reject Ryuuji, as she moved her cap down for Ryuuji not to see her eyes, and quickly just said her piece and ran away. She couldn’t even bear being questioned by Ryuuji as to why. All Ryuuji could do was faint with tragedy: in a snap, he was rejected.
Ami clearly realized that her role was merely professorial in this episode; Minori realized her role as a transcendent friend, but hurt another friend in the process (a la Ocean Waves, indeed); and Taiga finally realized that she was in reality looking for Ryuuji. It’s a very simple episode, but the ending is anything but uncertain: it’s going to be between Ryuuji and Taiga.
I, for one, am not disappointed. While I’ve read some people whining about a lot of material not being included from the novel, I can only tell them that the novels aren’t anime. Anime was never meant to be a novel visualized from its tiny details; it was meant to be a more visual medium. If you can’t stand that, go read books.