Friday, 20 March 2009

Toradora! - Episode 24

After that intense ending to the last episode, this week's Toradora! was pretty much going to have to hit the ground running, and that's exactly what it did, with Minori and Ryuuji both chasing after Taiga, Minori confessing her own feeling towards Ryuuji in the process. They don't manage to catch Taiga before she leaves the school grounds however, which leaves Ryuuji having to patch up Minori after a hallway fall - A perfect opporunity as it turns out for Minori both to explain her motivations and say a goodbye of sorts to the guy she loves.

This leaves Ryuuji to continue the hunt for Taiga, which turns out to be a simple enough affair, but this is when things start to get a little crazy - Not only does Taiga's mother appear on the scene telling her to come and live with her new family, but Yasuko tags along, furious as Ryuuji for working on her behalf over concentrating on his studying. This in turn causes Ryuuji to blow up with some rather harsh words for Yasuko, and before we know it our new couple (of sorts) are both on the run from their respective parents.

Normally, such behaviour would involve a brief period in hiding before returning home with tails between legs, but Ryuuji seems to have taken the entire thing far more seriously, suggesting running away with Taiga until he's eighteen, then marrying her so that they can be together for ever - The phrase "sudden" doesn't even begin to describe this plan.

Luckily for the pair of them, they still have their friends to rally around them, so Ami, Kitamura and Minori (perhaps most importantly, donating her entire life savings to the couple) all do their bit to try and help with Ryuuji's plan, no matter what their true thoughts on the matter are - That is, after all, what friends are for. Even Yasuko seems to understand what is required to some extent, leaving Ryuuji with the opportunity to meet and stay with his grandparents for a while.

To be quite honest, I'm not sure what to make of these major plot developments at all - I know love can make you crazy, but this episode has turned Ryuuji from an eminently sensible and logical young man into a somewhat deranged one who verbally abuses his own Mum before deciding to run away and marry a girl he hasn't even properly declared his love for yet. To my mind, this is just a little too out of character for him, and I'm finding that a tough issue to resolve internally.

That aside (although I'm not sure you can just put such a major plot point to one side like that) this episode once again offers up some beautifully emotional moments, mostly courtesy of Minori - From her hurried explanation of her feeling for Ryuuji through to her selfless giving up of entire life savings, she puts everything on the line for the two people she cares about, and watching her break down when left along with Ami after Ryuuji and Taiga leaves was honestly heart-rending. Ami's brief flicker of sadness when forcing Ryuuji to admit that he loves Taiga was another masterful little moment, a brief slip of her mask that spoke volumes with little more than a slight change in expression.

So, I'm really not too sure what to make of this episode, which has me a little worried after loving this series from beginning to end thus far - In Toradora! I trust though when it comes to bringing us an ending worthy of this marvellous series, and even when I can't feel comfortable about some of the plot development I can't help but absolutely adore the way this series portrays love and friendship in general, with the subtlety and importance it duly deserves.


Felicity said...

This is what I meant last week - the fact you find Ryuuji's actions "out of character" means the studio really didn't do a proper job of depicting Ryuuji's breakdown, immaturity and tenuous mental state over the last two episodes. That's disappointing, because the novels made the desperation he and Taiga are both feeling at this point far more evident. Bummer.

dazed, confused said...

Aside from Ryuuji's sudden fall from grace, there's at least one other giant character "flaw"/"plot hole" that seems much too obvious to go unaddressed...though given the way things seem to be headed, perhaps the "oversight" will stay just that. Ami and Minori apparently love Ryuuji so much that they cannot bring themselves to tell him, fight for him, take actions on their feelings, what have you, unless it's either far too late, or they've accomplished their objective of making sure he and Taiga are together. I'm no expert on Japanese culture, but from the anime I've seen that is not just some common "self-sacrifice" theme. To me, it feels a bit too much like contrivance. And for Ryuuji to be "looking for answers" about Minori in ep 21 (and really, it's much more than that) and running off with Taiga three episodes later...I can't help but question the "honesty" of the storyline. Why make Minori and Ami so interesting and such a part of Ryuuji's life if he's all for Taiga?

Kexiu said...

Ha! Yes I watch Toradora too, and this review is definitely better than the one you gave to White Album Episode 11 I'm starting to become your fan... only if you could change you opinion towards White Album though.

Hanners said...

I think Ami and Minori's behaviour is actually a key tenet of Toradora! - This show isn't just a love story, it's also (and arguably is primarily) about friendship.

In the case of both Minori and Ami, they've chosen the path of friendship and looking out for a friend over some kind of love rivalry. This is perhaps particular pertinent in Ami's case, where she desires friendship above all else (and achieves it in this episode), and when it comes to Taiga and Minori's relationship with one another I don't suppose any real explanation is necessary.

With that in mind, personally I wouldn't want to call that factor of the series "contrived".

dazed, confused said...

I agree that Toradora! has been about the importance of friendship, but that theme to me has been diluted as of late.

The following theory may seem a little controversial but I don't think it's too far off the mark: Ami and Minori's suppression of their obviously strong feelings for Ryuuji derives in large part from their belief that Taiga needs him most. In other words, to them she is the most weak and helpless. Yes her family situation is the worst among them, she had a terrible rep in school and she seems quite fragile under the constant scowl. Just one problem - both are wrong about Taiga. She is a mess in many ways and clumsy at the worst possible times but she is stronger than they know, as expressed in ep 13 and actually seen in ep 20. The "tragedy" of the situation is that Taiga was outnumbered in the "fight for Ryuuji" where Taiga and Minori kept trying to push him away from themselves and towards the other -- the stalemate was shattered by the added "meddling" of Ami and even Kitamura. Sending Taiga into a frenzy influenced the highly impulsive actions of this ep.

It's far from the whole answer of course, but one contributing factor to the current "pair up" was a misunderstanding of Taiga's inner strength. Maybe it's because I've always disiked that kind of plot device ("the misunderstanding") that the current story arc rings a bit hollow to me...unless Minori and Ami can admit that in their "watching over" Taiga, they have also been patronizing her as well as being a touch hypocritical. They stand as guilty as Taiga for not expressing their truest feelings to Ryuuji, but having the majority they undeniably shaped his choices to a significant extent.

kadian1364 said...

If there is one thing I hate, absolutely HATE, when I'm reading various blog reactions to anime I'm watching, is when the bloggers or commenters constantly harp about this or that little thing that's different from the original manga/novel/game/what have you. Of course prior knowledge is going to highly color one's opinion of a key scene or event. It's like watching a great sports game and listening to someone that already knows its outcome. I just want to scream, "Enough already!"

However, in this situation I feel the complaints of said bloggers aptly explain Toradora's shortcomings: the series is rushing. It's practically been flying through source material since the beginning, and nowhere is it more evident than here.

Not enough time has been taken to properly develop characters and set up events, which is why things like Ryuuji's change of heart and the marriage proposal seem shockingly sudden and come out of nowhere. While the power of individuals moments remain intact, like Ami demanding Ryuuji to proclaim his love for Taiga and Minori handing over her entire life savings to her best friends, those scenes, and whole episodes previous, feel unconnected to each other because we never really know what versions of the characters we will get.

I guess I feel like it would've greatly benefited Toradora! if it were to spend a couple more episodes to round out and build the elements that contributed to this climax. To reference my previous sports analogy, I now feel like I'm watching the last quarter of a great championship game, except I skipped the first three quarters. I'll get the great ending, but I can't help but feel that I missed something important.

Felicity said...

dazed, confused makes some good points but I've gotta disagree on the point about Ami and Minori "letting" Taiga have Ryuuji! While Minori and Ami both wanted to help her out at first, that misunderstanding has since been cleared up for everyone. The reason Minori gives Ryuuji the giant farewell (and to a lesser extent, Ami does too, although I believe her feelings were never as deep on the romantic side as Minori's) is because she realizes that while he likes her, HE'S IN LOVE WITH TAIGA. Minori and Ami didn't push him into feeling that way or shape his decision by withholding their feelings for him. When Minori finally confesses to Ryuuji, he has already realized he's in love with someone else which is why she tells him goodbye.

Sure he's liked her back for a long time, but he has also been developing a deeper kind of relationship with Taiga for a long time too. Once he himself realizes that Taiga's the one he wants to be with him and his family always, Taiga's the one he can't let go, Taiga's the one he's wanted to protect all along, the other girls are able to give up on him without regret because they know he's made his decision. It may be bittersweet, but it's not a self-sacrifice or a misunderstanding!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with dazed, confused 100%! watching this anime for the first time i get the feeling that both Minori and Ami are holding back. And that they are not expressing there true feelings. Takasu has liked Minori Since the first time he layed eyes on her. I dont know if you believe in love at first sight but is what I believe it is. And all i can say is this show is really messed up now... I don't like where its heading and if it finishes like this I would have to give it a -8 on a scale to 1 to 10!

dazed, confused said...

Felicity - no question Ryuuji and Taiga love each other. I've suspected it since ep 8. But when does very strong friendship/kinship become..."let's get married?"

That's my problem with this series so far, given what we know. Minori has actively pushed Ryuuji away from her, ep 19 being the most notable incident. She keeps thinking Ryuuji loves Taiga. That's true, but Ryuuji has also wanted to pursue a relationship with Minori all the way up until at least ep 21. She also kept thinking Taiga loves Ryuuji. Also true, but Taiga wanted to pursue a relationship with Kitamura until at least ep 16 or so. Ami played a big role in derailing Ryuuji's relationship with Minori on some level...her admission or half-admission in ep 21 says a lot.

I won't go into all the details here, but to me the undeniable fact is that Ryuuji has been influenced by factors outside of his control, like Taiga in a way on ep 23 -- indirect and direct forces have pushed them together. Personally, I don't like that. I'd have liked the both of them to somewhat more calmly and coolly see all the cards on the table and make their choices without so much outside interference. We may never know what decision Ryuuji would have made if Minori and Ami had told Ryuuji how they felt before it was too late. Then there's the "meddler" Kitamura, but that's a different story...