It seems so strangely appropriate to catch up with Toradora! on Valentine’s Day, despite the fact that the three episodes I caught up with revolve around Christmas Eve–yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is The Christmas Episode of Toradora!, but, keeping with the standard Toradora! tradition, it does The Christmas Episode correctly but backwards. In fact–although I am no expert on Christmas Episodes, this one might just be my favorite yet–that might be afterglow, though, or an utter lack of remembrance of the other excellent Christmas episodes in the heat of the moment of NOW, or, most likely of all, me making things up.
And yet I cannot help but be impressed by how perfect the sequence of episodes leading up to the Christmas Eve dance played out–if this weren’t Toradora!. The fight with the outgoing student council president practically put Taiga and Kitamura together into happy matrimony in one fell swoop–hardly a day has passed before people start talking about how perfect a couple they are, and start instinctively finding excuses for them to be together–even driving Kihara, the loveable-yet-woefully-underused Ai Nonaka character’s mad drive to set Ryuuji and Taiga up so that she can steal Kitamura for herself. (Have I said lately that I love Ai Nonaka? I love Ai Nonaka). Taiga, meanwhile, simultaneously plays the part of Santa Claus and Cupid, fulfilling her end of the long-forgotten bargain they made at the start. It takes time, and even some heartache for Taiga herself (that poor star ornament…), but she manages to pierce though Minorin’s shroud of gloom long enough to get her to meet Ryuuji at the dance.
Everything went perfectly, which meant that it went (as the patient viewer understands almost immediately) horribly wrong. Taiga only realizes Ryuuji’s sheer dedication to her after she’s sent him packing to meet Minorin–who, in turn, seems to sacrifice her own as-yet-unspoken feelings for Ryuuji after inadvertently seeing Taiga’s breakdown. It’s possibly significant in some small, minor way that we never actually seem to know whether Minorin likes Ryuuji in that way or not–after all, her entire personality is couched in studied ambiguity and a self-defeatist attitude that causes her to place others before her, not because she’s selfless, but because she feels them more worthy than she feels herself. We explicitly know so little of Minorin, and yet the fact that we know so little explicitly tells us much implicitly; she reminds me more than a little, somewhat jarringly and unexpectedly, of me, except I have much more normal-colored hair and I don’t have a voice nearly as awesome as Yui Horie’s (did I menton I love silky heart? I love silky heart, and I want to dissect the OP sequences at the end of the series if only to listen to it and pre-parade over and over again), and I suck at pitching. But then again, Taiga, and Ryuuji, and Ami, and Kitamura all also remind me of me, in large and small ways, either as I am now, as I was in the past, or as I might be in the future.
Does she have feelings for Ryuuji? Hard to tell, exactly, but it’s certain that if they Became an Item, there would be feelings involved in short notice. I leave the interpretation of “feelings” up to you, dear reader, but whether they exist or not, they’re tossed aside–casually, almost cruelly to both her and Ryuuji–simply to keep Taiga from the anguish that Minorin feels she deserves more than Taiga does. And, simply by that, the perfect Christmas Eve is ruined, dreams dashed and feelings laid bare, much like a certain Christmas tree ornament. It can be reassembled, and it really isn’t a bad thing–but it’s a team effort, and it’ll be different than before, maybe more beautiful, maybe less–but they do it, because it’s what they have to do.
Now that I have a somewhat-grip on what will possibly happen in the next seven episodes, watch Toradora! take what I think is going to happen and upend it again. It seems to be quite fond of doing that lately; this is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite.