Toradora!: The First Fight

Now they have a lover’s dispute of sorts, and they still don’t realize things! Of course, Taiga actually, genuinely mad at Ryuuji is a frightening thing to behold…

I’m not for sure what, exactly, transpired between Taiga and her father (and I don’t think we’re supposed to know that right now), but he doesn’t seem like the bad sort. Then again, sometimes the bad sort has the nasty habit of looking like the good sort, so it does get hard to tell. My guess is a communication error between father and daughter, but it could be any number of things.

Strangely, too, Ryuuji is the one who is actively seeking out his father’s identity, whereas Taiga is rejecting her father. Ryuuji has no father figure, and his mother’s effectively useless for all intents and purposes; hence, then, his propensity for household chores. Yet the same lack of a father figure prompts him to berate Taiga violently–this is the first time in the entire series that Ryuuji has actually acted like anything resembling a “dragon”–until he realizes he’s doing it for him and not for her. Even after he apologizes, Taiga goes to actually talk to her father, leaving us with everything but the subtlety of a “TO BE CONTINUED…” placard.

Contrasts seem to be the name of the Toradora! game: Taiga projects strength externally but is weak internally, whereas Ryuuji is weak externally (in the sense that he doesn’t live up to his fearsome appearance–and is it just me, or does no one else really care about how he looks anymore?–and his lovably non-masculine habits) but strong internally. Minori acts like a lunatic, yet the lunacy is a cover for her own insecurity (of a different nature than Taiga’s, I believe); Ami is aggressively outgoing because she’s spent her life at the whim of other people, leaving her essentially lonely; and Kitamura…well, okay, he’s as dense as a brick.

The actual series itself follows the contrast: the comic situatiuons the characters find themselves in frequently lead to not only immense mirth but a nigh-obligatory episodic Downbeat Intropsective Moment, and the Moment is made all the better by its genesis in and divergence from the silliness. The bright colors that dominate most of the episode tend to turn from bright and cheery to moody hues tinged with black during such a Moment. Even the name of the show is a contrast: とらドラ, “tora” written in hiragana and “dora” written in katakana.

Contrast is, more or less, the blood upon which a romantic comedy (or even just a romance) thrives. It’s the law of magnetism: opposites attract. It’s kind of hard to say why, exactly, there’s an emphasis on contrasts–not knowing the ultimate outcome, and the ultimate outcome is not likely to come with episode 25, depending–I can’t really make a definitive statement on why the deliberate focus on contrasts both inside and outside characters, if there even is one. Perhaps it serves merely to accentuate the ambiguous nature of the main relationship: they’ve great chemistry but seem completely oblivious to this fact, and pursue their own interests while at the same time supporting each other. Yin and yang: one cannot exist independent of the other. For all intents and purposes, it seems Ryuuji didn’t really “exist” as he does now (he was distinctly aloof before Taiga had her way with him) before the start of the series, and Taiga was busy being sulky in her messy apartment to actually have a life.

I’m going to start spouting silly romantic platitudes any second now. Instead, I’ll apologize for the lack of productive activity lately, as my productive activity has been turned towards trying to graduate (three days!) and also to not go insane before then. This involves copious amounts of doing things I keep forgetting to do, like “have fun” and “exist” and also “what kinds of nonsensical conclusions can I derive from the sources provided to make a paper that will enable me to not fail?”

9 Responses to “Toradora!: The First Fight”

  1. 1 Michael 17 December 2008 at 3:05 am

    Toradora is already one of the best anime of the year, and it hasn’t even ended yet. No, I’m not trolling.

    Toradora is simply awesome.

  2. 2 LBrevis 17 December 2008 at 3:43 am

    I like your idea of Ryuuji and Taiga as yin and yang very much. The way they contrast yet complement each other is definitely what makes the relationship work and I like that it’s very obvious to the viewer that they’re right for each other… obvious to everyone except the Minori and Ami supporters, that is.

    Speaking of Kitamura being dense, he’s the one character I still can’t figure out. I honestly never know what he’s going to do next except that it will just confound me even more as to his true nature.

    Oh and congrats on (soon) graduating!

  3. 3 RogerOskaner 17 December 2008 at 3:48 am

    Very much agree, the story has some nice themes and the staff is doing their damndest with it, it’s good to see that you can tell the effort going into the details and directing. Even though it should be ‘just another generic romantic comedy’, I’m finding it really well done. And your character analysis was spot on, good job.

    “and is it just me, or does no one else really care about how he looks anymore?”

    Ahaha, very true, in the novels it’s happened quite a few times, like when he woke up after drowning or during the badminton game, but time is of the essence on television I guess. He’s also gotten a little angry at Taiga before once or twice, and after the whole poolside fight in episode 8, he was surprised that he had actually gotten that angry at someone else at all, because he’s not used to it. They also realize that the beach trip is also the first time either of them were able to do something like that, a vacation with friends, as they were always preoccupied with either cleaning or sulking in messy apartments, before they met each other. So that growth aspect is definitely there, when they’re with each other.

    But that’s all just minor novel stuff I’m mentioning just because, it doesn’t really matter, you’re already on the right track with it (which shows again that the staff is doing a good job).

    Anyways, good post (and not retarded enough to scream “omg ami end is best, fuck taiga!!!!” like too many other people), let’s hope the quality keeps up for another dozen or so episodes.

  4. 4 OGT 17 December 2008 at 12:08 pm

    @Michael: Toradora! is one of the highlights of the year for certain. My own personal “best of year” war (which will never really produce any results, since I loathe the concept) is being fought between true tears and Xam’d, but that’s just me.
    @LBrevis & @RogerOskaner: I can understand liking and having a preference for Ami based on one’s own desires in an anime character; I can’t understand the “Ami end or FAIL” mindset. Like true tears, it’s downright cheapening to the series to assert its success or failure as a series upon who winds up with whom. I wanted to hurt people who hated the true tears ending, when half the reason that I liked the ending was that the cards didn’t fall my way.
    And the longer the series runs, the less I can understand any sentiments that the series is somehow being unfaithful to the novel. I only ever read the first novel, and I have no idea how most everyone ELSE read it (since nearly everyone else seems to have read the whole 8 volumes already), unless they all know Japanese, or sekret translations. But I can’t see any cause to raise serious issues with the adapation, which is another nail in the coffin of studio-centric, “directors don’t matter” thinking, I suppose.

  5. 5 The Animanachronism 17 December 2008 at 2:42 pm

    I think you’re right on about contrasts, and right on that they’re the blood of romantic comedy – I’ve been thinking for a while now that Toradora isn’t pretending to be a Great Leap Forward in romance, it’s ‘just’ a really, really competent execution of familiar ideas. And what’s wrong with that? (Very little, I would suggest.) Don’t know what you mean about Kitamura being dense as a brick, though, as he’s obviously spinning some kind of Light Yagami-esque master plan behind all this.

    Good luck with the graduating business, too.

  6. 6 Haesslich 18 December 2008 at 1:04 am

    OGT: The third episode wasn’t faithful at all, and there is some… editing later on, but for the most part it’s actually stayed faithful to the sources even as it swaps some things around (the Taiga joining Ryuuji in doing a bunch of part-time jobs was anime-original, ditto the extra violence), or at least it’s gotten better about it since Episode 5 or so.

    And the nice thing so far is that Ryuuji hasn’t been completely passive, or even passive-aggressive, while Taiga hasn’t been a complete psychobitch the way it was feared she would turn during the first three episodes or so. Yes, she’s a handful and she can be stubborn as hell (and lashes out when she’s embarrassed), but at the same time she does show SOME sense of restraint. And, unlike Ami, she doesn’t don masks in front of others… which means she both has poor coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with people, yet at the same time means she isn’t two-faced, as Ami remains to some degree even in Episode 12.

  7. 7 OGT 18 December 2008 at 1:53 am

    @Animanachronism: Toradora! isn’t accomplishing anything new as a romantic comedy in terms of craft of romantic comedy, perhaps, but what I find far better is how the series has caught on to a vast quantity of the anime-watching populace worldwide. People I know who never watch these kinds of series and look at them with some distaste have been following and more or less pleased with the series. The success in Japan of the franchise, for instance, could be taken to mean that Japan’s otaku aren’t as dumb as some marketers think, and would rather watch a good show with cute girls rather than a bad show with cute girls.
    @Hasselich: There’s two ways to be faithful, and, while interconnected, don’t depend fully upon each other: there’s literal faithfulness, where, scene for scene and line for line the series is adapted into another medium. Monster took that approach, and did an extremely good job of it, but that essentially rendered the anime series a well-executed 74-episode version of the manga–which isn’t a bad thing at all, but it’s not something that can realistically be expected to happen at all.
    Far more common is mood faithfulness, where the mood is retained and preserved despite changes or modifications made to adapt the series to the new medium. Toradora! isn’t literally faithful and does take liberties, but its mood is retained throughout the changed bits, and J.C. Staff has done an excellent job (as far as I can tell) retaining the spirit of the novels while also not altering the content to any drastic degree.
    I can forgive literal lapses if the overall mood is retained, but too many adaptation liberties often wreck the mood. Adaptation is never an easy process, and no one ever gets it right. I still think that Peter Jackson’s version of Lord of the Rings deviated perhaps a bit too much towards the EPIC BLOCKBUSTER SPECTACLE that it was, and lost some important parts of the mood of the novels, even if he was painstakingly faithful to the Middle-earth presented in the novels. That might say a bit more about my attitude towards EPIC BLOCKBUSTER SPECTACLES than towards this specific adaptation, though.
    And I’m glad you stuck with instead of bailing out at the spectre of Louise; I still say that nitpicking on this level is dangerously unhealthy behavior–there’s being critical and finding faults, and then there’s spending too much time focusing on the negative parts. The former enables one to distinguish between “this is good” and “I like this”, but the latter only leads to despair and madness. Didn’t you watch Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei?

  8. 8 Cuchlann 23 December 2008 at 4:57 am

    Late, I know. I actually think Kitamura is pretty sharp, he’s just letting everyone go along at his or her own pace. Likely he was forced to grow up a year before the rest of them, when Taiga rejected him (accident though it may have been). The confession is often, in Japanese stories, seen as the moment when someone grows up, if they can deal with either consequence for the confession, and Kitamura seems to have handled it pretty well. Of course, maybe he’s secretly psychotic, but this doesn’t *look* like Shuffle!

  1. 1 Toradora!: Christmas on Valentine’s « Anime wa Bakuhatsu da! Trackback on 14 February 2009 at 11:30 pm

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I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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December 2008

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