If there is a man, woman, or androgynous non-gendered person amongst you who was not moved in the slightest by Toradora! episode 13, let ye be cast out of Canann and turned into a pillar of salt and plagued by frogs and all that other Biblical stuff.
It’s vaguely kind of fitting that I topped off Christmas Day by watching 12 and 13 of Toradora!, considering that I spent Christmas Eve Day and the free moments of Christmas Day that were not consumed with Christmas Business and Family Togetherness channeling Takasu Ryuuji like nobody’s business and attacking the mess of my room that looked kind of like Taiga had passed through. I was only able to channel a small fraction of the God of Cleaning, Ryuuji, as I was unable to complete cleaning before breakfast, but I did, however, bake awesome cookies. Doubly fitting that the mid-series point is one of the most satisfying Toradora! moments thus far.
The main focus of the series, or at least of its viewers, myself included, has been the relationship between Ryuuji and Taiga, in all its more-than-friends-but-less-than-lovers glory, but integral to that seems to be dragging Taiga out of her aggressive Palmtop Tiger shell and giving her a desperately-needed self-confidence boost. If nothing else, what binds Ryuuji, Minorin, and Kitamura to Taiga seems to be a shared desire to bolster her confidence and tame the Taiga. Ami, too, plays the integral role of serving as Taiga’s foil (and Taiga as hers), forcing the two of them to drag out new shades of personality and development as the series goes on.
If anything, the events of 13 in particular serve to heighten contrasts: Ryuuji makes a dress for Taiga to compete in the Miss Macross Oubashi High School competition, causing the entire student body to suddenly remark at how cute the Palmtop Tiger is–and, even after her outburst after discovering that her father has failed to show–devoted more to work than he is to his daughter–through the efforts of Ryuuji and Minorin (who have, of course, Had Words) still manages to win the contest. Meanwhile, in order to win the Mister Oubashi High School contest (apparently a free-for-all race around the city) to show his support and devotion to Taiga in lieu of her father (reasoning that since it’s his fault for trusting her father to show), Ryuuji forsakes his usual easygoing, casual self for a determination that lives up to his genetically inherited eyes and a savagery quite atypical for him. Or, at least, a savagery more generally reserved for polishing tables and sewing clothes.
And yet, even after Words with Minorin, even after all the various disasters that befell our intrepid protagonists, things work out as they find it impossible to actually care properly for the more-fragile-than-she-seems Taiga without actually working together. I noted with some poignancy that Ryuuji found Minorin outpacing him towards the finish line, figuring that the conclusion to this episode would involve a resolution to the Words via Ryuuji outpacing Minorin to the finish line, proving to Minorin that he was better able to care for Taiga–and to himself that Taiga was more important than the elusive goal of Minorin. And then he gets pulled down, and then she gets pulled down, and then she gets back up with a baseball and clobbers the leaders in the race, and then she bowls over the people trying to overtake Ryuuji.
And then Ryuuji, ever Ryuuji, acknowledges her assistance, gets up, heads back to her, takes her hand, and off they go to the finish line to crown Taiga, for a more poignant moment than the one I envisioned. It’s strange that a moment in which Taiga is most happy is when the seeming romantic point of the series–the relationship between Taiga and Ryuuji–seems to give way to the respective stated goals of both, Ryuuji with Minorin and Taiga with Kawamura. It’s perhaps a sign that the relationship between the four is much more complicated than it might seem on the outside, and made even more complicated by the presence of Ami. No matter how the relationship cards fall, it’s evident that the only way they will all truly be happy is if they stick together. Or if Minorin’s lesbian joke is actually not a joke at all. But I don’t think she’s that weird. Yet.