Toradora! seems to be reaching its end far, far too fast if you ask me - Unreasonable though it is to expect this wonderful series to go on for hundreds of episodes, I really don't want it to end if I'm quite honest.
Anyhow, after jumping on the coach to their hastily arranged skiing holiday last time, this episode sees the class begin what must be competing for the "worst holiday ever" award. While the snow is good and the skiing fun, the tension amongst almost everybody in the group is palpable, and it's no time at all before the arguments begin. First up is Maya, whose desperation to get closer to Kitamura causes a ruckus almost right from the start, putting a dampener on the first day. This is however small fry compared to the scenes between Ami and Minori later in the episode.
Now, I've all but outright praised Ami a few times in recent instalments for being the one person able to step back and take a broad view of the series' various relationships, commentating on them in her own vague yet biting fashion, yet here she takes it too far, all but bullying Minori about her feelings towards Ryuuji. This eventually comes to blows, ending up (accidentally) with near lethal consequences for Taiga, a rare moment of actual peril for this series that surely solidifies and finalises the show's final choice of romantic pairing.
As per usual, this episode is wonderful in more ways than I can really describe here, managing to be funny on the one hand and genuinely touching on the other. Even during the arguments and emotional outbursts so frequent in this instalment, there's a certain restraint and subtlety which adds to both the realism and the tension of the situation - Whereas so many shows would go down the obvious route of someone blurting out a truth that they didn't want known in mid-argument to progress the story, Toradora! seems to understand that real life arguments don't work that way, and that much of what is said or being argued about is often impenetrable to anyone who isn't familiar with the situation surrounding those individuals (as, of course, the viewer is here). Even Taiga's disappearance isn't made into a grandiose cliffhanger, but simply a short but intense crisis which ends in a suitably sweet (if very slightly contrived) way.
I've said all of the way through that I don't mind too much who ends up with who in this series, liking as I do the foibles of all of the major characters, but I thought this belief might be tested by the time I reached this point. Well, it hasn't, and I still loved every second of this episode even though the likely conclusion perhaps wouldn't have been my first choice if pressed.