Archive for April, 2009

Eden of the East: Theories on a Conspiracy, or: Tinfoil Pope Hats

If you’re more interested in general impressions/thoughts rather than tinfoil pope hattery, I direct you to the bottom of the post [->] where you might find a few words to that effect.

Has anyone figured out, really, whether Eden of the East is a pure political suspense/thriller with the working title The Akira Identity [->], a giant Biblical allegory cleverly disguised as a political suspense thriller [->],  or a noitaminA love-love romance series cleverly disguised as a giant Biblical allegory cleverly disguised as a political suspense thriller [->]? It’s all three, as far as I can tell; however, my schooling background of spending far more time reading the Judeo-Christian scriptures than is normally healthy somewhat leads me to get all bouncy and giddy about the onslaught of Biblical allusions that are either helpful in figuring out the deeper meaning and significance of Eden of the East or are just intellectual fanservice put in to excite people such as myself.

The central mystery in Eden of the East revolves around the Selecao System and the Twelve who were Chosen in Japan. It is, quite obviously, a very much Earthbound political conspiracy, one that enjoys wrapping itself in the ancient mythological mystique of Biblical allusions and Messianic imagery. Their purpose, so far as we can tell by episode 3, is to designate twelve Selecao in Japan–twelve, of course, being one of those ridiculously important numbers in Judaic numerology–give them ten billion yen a ridiculously obscene amount of money on a cell phone, charge them all with the task of becoming the Messiah of Japan, and set them against each other. The catch: when their balance hits zero yen, they are unceremoniously dispatched by their attendant agents of Juiz. As a thriller setup, you can’t get much more exciting than that.

Sounds like it’s time for a HISTORY LESSON!

“Messiah” means “one anointed by God”, generally to carry out a specific task (the term was most frequently applied to the priests, prophets, and kings of Israel); the Greek translation is, of course, christos (or χριστός because Greek is a cool-looking language, and because it will please at least one person I know of [->]), and from there to Christ. It is a title more than it is a name, and Jesus of Nazareth was far from the first or only one to bear the title–Cyrus the Great of Persia was even given the title after he conquered Babylon and freed the Jewish people (by “freed” I mean he said “You’re from where? That dinky place next to the Mediterranean? You gonna pay me taxes? Yeah? Okay, whatever, go there, I don’t care.”).

The everyday usage was different from the late Roman Republic days where apocalyptic/eschatologic fever caught hold and stories spread like wildfire of the Messiah, who would come to save all the children of Israel and deliver them from evil (i.e. the Romans, who really just wanted them to pay taxes and shut up). This Messiah was the agent of God in the world and would either bring about the kingdom of God, the end of history, just smite people a lot, or, more frequently, all three, in whatever order they felt like. One of these (for a pronoun preceded by “the” there were an awful lot of them) was Jesus of Nazareth, and…you know the rest.

And you thought I'd forgotten about Eden of the East.

I remain fairly convinced that there is not currently a Jesus-analogue in Eden of the East (if there is, I’m going to guess it’s Juiz, on the basis that 1) Juiz = Judge and 2) it just sounds like the word “Jesus”), but if we think of the twelve Selecao as the Twelve Disciples (never mind the fact that we have at least sixteen individual names for the Twelve Disciples) then some interesting (and probably made-up and/or superimposed by me) analogues rise. The most infamous of the disciples is Judas, of course, who betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Romans and caused him to be executed. The orthodox view on this is that Judas is the Betrayer and broke from Jesus for personal gain (and then, legend goes, committed suicide). The relatively recent discovery of the Gospel of Judas, though, tells a different story: one where Judas was Jesus’ most beloved disciple, and the one who loved Jesus the most…and the one to whom Jesus trusted to betray him in order to bring about the Passion and Resurrection. Has anyone told you recently that the Gnostics were utterly insane? Now you know!

This, then, is my tinfoil pope hat theory: Akira is not supposed to be a Jesus analogue, but a Judas analogue. Unfortunately I only have the vaguest evidence to offer and most of it is merely me hypothesizing the direction of the direction the series will take. The best (and also the most hilariously insane) evidence I have is Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper [->]. Judas is supposedly the fourth from the left in the painting, and (discounting Jesus as a disciple of himself) the ninth from the right. The Fourth Selecao (now deceased) treated himself as a failure to fulfill the requirements of the Selecao System and entrusted Akira with the task of becoming the Messiah of Japan. And what number is Akira, again?



Even assuming that the numbering (at least for the lamented detective and Akira) is drawn from The Last Supper, the only way to be sure that right-to-left is the right way to count numbers (versus left-to-right) is 1) Eden of the East, and the east is traditionally associated with right in the standard compass rose and 2) Japan and their wacky backwards reading. Whether this is intentional or one of those odd (conspiratorial?) coincidences I cannot say, but the idea of Akira as a Judas figure (or at least as a betrayer) can’t seem to leave my mind, pulled further that he wiped his memory (as if his former self wanted to betray but couldn’t, and so he mindwiped himself instead to give himself a second chance). If you watch the ED, you see Akira doing the Juiz-assisted finger-gun  at the Careless Monday missiles and destroying them–assuming, as those with abundant supplies of tinfoil are wont to do, that the missiles are also the doing of the figures behind the Selecao System, then this is a form of betrayal.

What does it all mean? Am I right or wrong, or am I just making up a lot of nonsense? Unfortunately, it’s only episode 3 of a 11 episode series + movie (which I am assuming was intentional to keep the “episodes” of the story down to 12), so there’s no way of telling what’s going to happen and how it’s all going to fit together. I still can’t figure out why Eden of the East, other than the obvious Akira and Saki being Adam and Eve, but that might take until the conclusion. The idea of Akira as a betrayer-saviour is highly tempting, though, and even if you remove all the complicated religious imagery and gross assumptions he’s still possibly being set up for that narrative purpose. But then, of course, Judas was the betrayer, not the saviour, so if all Akira ends up doing is betraying (but not saving)…who, then, will be the savior? That might be the bigger question.

A bit of a bibliography

I don’t make any claims as to the scholarly accuracy of anything mentioned above (cobbled as it is from my recollections of books read for class and class lectures a year or so ago), but books such as E.P. Sanders’s The Historical Figure of Jesus [->] and Bart Ehrman’s Lost Christianities [->]  should at least give you a starting point into the mind-melting world of historical Biblical scholarship, and Backgrounds of Early Christianity [->] is a pretty good source (read: my professor made me read it) for simplified but important background information, if you should be interested in an historical look at early Christian times. You certainly don’t hear some of this stuff in Sunday School, anyway.

And in case you’re wondering, yeah, I probably just wanted to play history professor for a bit. I do have a B.A. in it, after all. A man can dream.


The real heart of the series.

The real heart of the series.

Enough with the pseudointellectual babble,  I say!

The appeal of Eden of the East stretches much further than pseudoscholarly allusion/allegory nitpicking. Akira and Saki (their status as Romantic Partners and BAKA TAKIZAWA notwithstanding) are charming, sweet, and have chemistry. Some have said that they could watch an entire series of just Akira and Saki casually talking and they’d still like the series, and I heartily second, third, and fourth that motion. Part of the allure is the fact that they’re both so calm and accepting; indeed, there’s a definite air of calm acceptance (bordering occasionally on sheer naive innocence.) that permeates the entire series. Female police officers hardly blink at being unexpectedly flashed. Careless Monday isn’t worried about because no one’s dying and there’s nothing anyone feels they can do. Akira is pretty nonchalant about the whole “I mindwiped myself” thing. Granted, that does seem to tie in to the whole Eden theme, but the effect it has at the moment is like an odd combination of slice-of-life with a suspense thriller. I expect the mood to be upended by the end of the series, of course (especially if the calm mood is thematically significant), but I must say, I quite enjoy the Mrs. Pollifax “relaxed suspense” vibe I get from these early episodes. [->]

The short of the long is, it’s a series that works equally well on multiple levels, and many of the levels are only peripheral to the comprehension of the narrative, and simply add extra layers, either to aid understanding or to excite giddy intellectual tirades. (one certainly doesn’t need to bust out the education hardcore like I and some others have gone to enjoy the narrative and its complexities) It’s a simply-told (but not simple) story with background layers working and revealing themselves for different audiences. Perhaps that is one of the secrets of its popularity, too: something many can enjoy for different reasons.

RideBack: Giving Revolution the Right of Way

So, you say you want a revolution?

Well, you know, it’s just not that easy.

Anyone who completed RideBack will, by now, understand that Rin hasn’t exactly had the best of lives. In fact, her life throughout the series would best be described in the Dickensian way: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Cast out from the world of ballet due to an ankle injury, she once again found the freedom to dance–the freedom to live life, and not some hollow shard of it left after the ballet career she’d been training for all her life vanished from her future–through the RideBacks (or, more specifically, Fuego).

And yet that same discovery which granted her freedom also wrecked her life, as her natural skill turned her, quite unwittingly and completely against her will, into the iconic RideBack Girl of the resistance, with devastating consequences: Her brother tortured to confess to a crime he did not commit, one of her friends decapitated as though she were her. If anyone in the resistance against the splinter GGP faction to retake Japan had a reason to go on a giant, killing rampage, it’s Rin.

Yet she doesn’t. In fact, she doesn’t even consider herself a part of the resistance. She shuns the title “RideBack Girl” even as Suzuri embraces it, and I think we all remember what happened there. She emphatically denies any kind of symbolic importance attached to herself; she’s not the daring student protester who blasts past GGP military to demonstrate their weakness, but rather the girl who would do anything to save her friend. She’s the iconic figure of resistance who neither wishes to be an icon nor to resist, or, at least, resist in the way people want her to, which generally involves quite a great deal of going against her inner, artist’s nature.

Oddly, her insistence that she isn’t an icon, that she’s not resisting, is what makes her both. Despite all the cruelties pressed upon her by the GGP’s actions in Japan, she will not–can not–pick up a gun and fight against them. Perhaps she intuitively understands that fighting generally gets people nowhere, perhaps fighting is simply just not in her nature, but she refuses to join Kiefer’s resistance despite his insistence that she has been “chosen” to be part of it. She doesn’t want to fight for her freedom, she simply wants to be free, and the only way she can be free is through Fuego, a dual-edged sword of freedom and destruction.

And, in the end, she manages to wield that dual-edged sword quite effectively, as she literally leads mindless RideBack-derived combat drones in a bizarre ballet that is equal parts self-expression and destruction. Whatever thematic symbolism one wants to ascribe to the drones (I, personally, prefer seeing them as violence incarnate, or at least that occurred to me first; but ambiguity is positively delicious), it’s clear that even they cannot catch up to Rin as she and Fuego combined lead them in a ballet, not of destruction, but of simple self-expression. One by one, the drones collapse, unable to keep up with Rin’s indefatigable pace and indomitable human spirit. Amidst all the destruction and explosions and death and slayings, it’s Rin’s naturally mechanical ballet that captures the attention of (some of) the public in the end. She becomes a resistance icon through simply being Rin. She’s not a belligerent, a terrorist, a freedom-fighter, a protester, an aggressor, or any of those things; in fact, I’d hesitate to even apply the term “pacifist” to her, because pacifists sometimes seem to me to be much more aggressively peaceful than Rin is.

She’s Rin. She can’t be the savior of the world, of Japan, of Tokyo, of her school, of the RideBack club, or anything. She can only be Rin. And, in the end, isn’t that the same thing? Isn’t it the same for us all?

Perhaps the answers can only be found on the Twisted Race Track of Enlightenment, where riding RideBacks slowly (or at least in transient beauty) is preferred.

Victory Gundam: Standing Up To The Victory

I know what you're thinking, but Shakti is not Lalah. And Usso is not a Char/Amuro lovechild. Right.

What, exactly, can be said about the experience of watching Victory Gundam for the first time? Is it even possible to say something about the Gundam series that ultimately drove an ever more increasingly depressed Tomino into the hospital for severe depression after years of battling Sunrise execs for more creative control over Gundam? Is it even possible that I even might have something to say with regards to the fantastic, schizophrenic mess that is Victory Gundam? I’ve watched nearly 30 episodes at the moment, and yet I still haven’t seemed to find words to frame the experience, even if I’m quite liking what I’m seeing. For, inexplicably, despite all the insanity, the persistent invocation of Tomino ex machina, the utterly weird mechanical designs (a Mobile Suit in a tire?), the rampant deaths, and the utterly bizarre humor, Victory Gundam is fast becoming my favorite UC series, insomuch as it is a “UC” series. Well, okay, for the moment, at least, until I can revisit First Gundam, Zeta, ZZ, and Char’s Counterattack.

I’m also tempted to replace “despite” with “because of”, but I think that’s simply because I lost sanity a while ago. Or gained it. Or something.

At its core, when it’s not trying to do everything else, Victory Gundam is the tale of young children drug almost forcibly into the service of the guerrilla League Militaire. Usso, at 13, is the youngest Gundam protagonist yet, and due to being a Newtype (apparently one born on Earth, too; this is probably due to the hinted-at notion that he is Char’s grandson) is far more effective in the League Militaire’s new unit, the Victory Gundam. I find him to be, if not one of the most likable Gundam protagonists, at least one of the most sympathetic. He feels bound to protect his childhood friend (can it really be a childhood friend if they’re both still children?) Shakti, who clearly loves Usso, although Usso himself would deny both her feelings and his own. Even (and especially) as he insists on saving her from any mild discomfort through the most reckless means available to him.

This sequence from the OP both soothes me and makes me terrified for its symbolic consequences.

Usso and Shakti are probably the sweetest couple I’ve ever seen in a Tomino work; I’ll leave the “believable” for others to argue, but I do think that a large factor in how much I like Victory is the dynamics between these two. There may be better relationship portrayal in Gundam X [->] and others, and there certainly is better in a lot of other series that don’t have the word Gundam in the title, but something–perhaps the youth of the participants, perhaps their simplistic naivete–touches a button that I didn’t expect Victory to touch. Of course, this is Victory Gundam, and so I am merely waiting for when–not if, my heart laments, but whenShakti will be killed in some horribly brutal and meaningless way.

Which brings us to the staggeringly high death toll in Victory Gundam, and its quirky schizophrenic approach. The League Militaire has some of the highest death rates in Gundam history; I forget how bad the casualties were in Zeta, but hardly five episodes can pass in Victory without at least one (and usually two or more) named characters dying, usually horribly and without a real reason. Early on, the branch of the League Militaire Usso travels with gets reinforcements in the form of two more Victory units and the Shrike Team, an all-female Mobile Suit unit whose members all inexplicably have the hots for Usso (who, apparently, is the biggest playboy of the Universal Century at age 13). It’s hardly spoilers to say that they immediately start dying (I think one of them dies the very next episode) since, with the vast number of them introduced all at once a seasoned Gundam veteran will pick them out as cannon fodder right away. Mysteriously, however, the band of kids that follows Usso and the adults (mostly Marbet and Oliver) who shepherd them around have had almost no losses.

All this death, destruction, and public guillotine use (I don’t think they could have possibly picked a scarier instrument of execution than the guillotine for me) adds up for a fairly grim, depressing, tragic series. But there are frequent interludes of amusement, intentional or no. I’ve never really remembered having a problem with Tomino’s admittedly bizarre sense of humor, although at times I don’t know if I’m laughing with him or at him (presuming he laughs, of course). For instance, the whole episode will be grim and serious and yet, at some point, something like this will happen:

Suzy is a highly refined young lady. I think.

Suzy is a highly refined young lady. I think. She at least knows the proper method of displaying her dislike of someone behind their backs.

which leaves me with little recourse but to be vastly amused both at the bit of comedy itself, but even more, it seems, at the absurdity of inserting a moment of humor at an incredibly odd moment. Usso’s harem-esque antics, while being amusing in the “oh you 13-year-old playboy you” way, also tend to be the only time where he’s closest to realizing he likes Shakti in that way.

On top of that, the mechanical designs are certifiably 100% stranger than G Gundam‘s. G might have the Nether Gundam, the Tequila Gundam, the Zeus Gundam, and the Nobel Gundam, but Victory has insectoid Mobile Suits (these are the most normal-looking ones), Mobile Suits that are in giant tires, Mobile Suits that are actually motorcycles, and, my personal favorite, the Victory Gundam itself, trying to impersonate a Valkyrie as best it can [->] (My favorite is actually when the Top is gone, but the Boots are there).

The result, then, is a bizarre mish-mash of moods and concepts; certainly an acquired taste, even to the seasoned Gundam palate. I’d hardly recommend it in general to anyone, Gundam fan or no, but that’s more because it’s so bizarre. Maybe it’s because I tend to pull for the oddballs and wild-cards; maybe it’s because I’m beginning to forgive Tomino my past grievances against him, or because Victory‘s just more my style, since it was made in 1993, much closer to my favorite Tomino works (Turn-A and Overman King Gainer); maybe it’s the totally killer first opening theme [->], which immediately became one of my favorite Gundam OP sequences, both musically and visually;  maybe I’m simply deluding myself. I can’t deny, though, that, rather than the grudging, obligatory task I was half-expecting Victory to be, I instead found something oddly compelling, even gripping. I’ve gone through these episodes much faster than I thought I would, with only a slight break for vacation in the middle. It’s a flawed package and it’s not for everyone, but I quite like it, flaws and all.

The cold hard steel Gundam and the warm heart that guides it and drives it. How, er, symbolic.

Now watch me eat my words after I finish the series. It’s been fairly evenly uneven thus far, so I’ll probably be okay, but one never knows with Tomino sometimes.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Closed Circle

I dare you to find a post for the end of Gundam 00 that doesnt use this image somewhere. Its so...screencappable.

I dare you to find a post for the end of Gundam 00 that doesn't use this image somewhere. It's so...screencappable.

Gundam 00 has been, for the certain sort of Gundam fan I am a bit of a ride (that is, if I can term myself a “Gundam fan” as I still don’t know how well I fit the bill despite fitting the bill pretty well). There’s a bit of something for everyone, though, carrying both a message that is easily grasped by those unfamiliar with the franchise’s nooks and crannies and a more subtle message distributed via little specks of Minovsky GN pixie dust particle intertext aimed more at the fans in the “know” as it were; for those whose primary concerns in fiction are less lofty the fights are pretty rockin’ and Kouga Yun can design characters to please any potential gender-based demographic and, if nothing else, you can at least take amusement in the fact that half of Setsuna F. Seiei’s lines are other people’s names (the other half is “Gundam”).

Although, honestly, even if people say them too much (as some might argue [->]), names are rather important in Gundam 00. More specifically, it’s the interwoven threads of connection between the large cast that the act of repeated nomenclature drives home. Nearly all the major players are, in some way, connected to each other through Six Degrees of Setsuna F. Seiei. Considering that half of the cast works at cross purposes to the other half, conflict is inevitable. Indeed, as Setsuna’s Innovation light envelops the Veda station, Andrei explains to Mary|Soma his reasons for hating Sergei: Sergei simply never tried to understand the pain and suffering Andrei underwent following the death of his mother. Mary|Soma simply replies “It was you who didn’t try to understand him.” Indeed, as the Rubber Band of Vengeance (where Hong Long, Wang Liu Mei, and Nena Trinity die in close succession, victims of their own conceits) taught us in episode 21, when you prioritize your own desires more than others in negative ways, retribution is sure to come. Even Louise, who managed to survive 21, briefly came upon the hollow satisfaction that is vengeance fulfilled; as the hate and rage melts away, only grief, regret, and sorrow remain.

Not all negative interactions need end in tragedy, however; simply by trying to understand one another can a conflict be resolved. Granted, in the real world, such resolutions are not nearly as tidy as in Gundam 00, but then we don’t have Setsuna’s magic GN particle pixie dust to aid and abet that quest (and neither, it seems, does the world of the epilogue). The only true villains in 00 are those who refuse to even attempt understanding another person; even the Innovades, claiming to be the “superior humans” and with telepathic powers, never even attempt this, apart from Anew Returner. In a sense, this makes Setsuna the worst offender in this regard: after his indoctrination by Ali Al-Saarchez in his youth, he spends nearly the entire series refusing to understand anyone and simply blindly following the ideology laid before him by Celestial Being and worships Gundam as a god that will bring deliverance from suffering. Only after Ribbons delivers a shock to his system does he understand the duality of it all, and resolves to bring about a new era himself using Gundam, rather than Gundam using him: an active rather than a passive role.

I think the 00 is actually the Turn-A prototype.

I think the 00 is actually the Turn-A prototype.

In that sense, the final battle is quite simple: Setsuna destroys both the 0 Gundam, his idealized image of Gundam, and the warped Ribbons who upset Aeolia Schenberg’s plan, who can no longer stoop to trying to understand another. Why bother understanding someone, when you can make them do what you want with just a flick of the wrist? But that, too, is where Ribbons is as wrong as Setsuna was: despite his protestations to the contrary, it is not he who leads the path towards the future, but others acting on his behalf. By pulling puppet strings, Ribbons is the ultimate at using an external force to bring about the new age he desires. Setsuna’s true Innovation, though, is not the GN particle pixie dust, but the realization that no external impetus can bring about change: not Celestial Being, not the A-Laws. Only an internal impetus can bring the desired change, as surely as it worked on Setsuna (literally and psychologically).

Even nastier, perhaps, is the franchise-wide message encoded in that final climactic scene: the external force is Gundam itself. The destruction of 0 Gundam, which resembles the famed RX-78-2 of yore, and the death of Ribbons, who is totally not Amuro Ray at all, points straight to the realization Setsuna had: Gundam cannot change the world, but those who watch it can. Rebirth? Renewal? Perhaps–with the recent announcement of a Gundam Unicorn movie, Gundam as a franchise clearly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but Gundam–all of Gundam–alone cannot bring about change: not to the world, not to Japan, not to any community, virtual or real, and not even to any one individual without their active participation in it. It is not magic. But it can spur on those who do have the ability to change, even in a minor, infinitesimal way. After all, is not reading a book (or listening to music, or watching a television program about robots beating the snot out of other robots), on a fundamental, basic level, an act of  making an attempt at understanding another human being (be it a deeply intricate philosophical concept or simply “robots beating the snot out of each other is really cool” [->])? Even if you disagree with the other person in the end, you understand, or made a legitimate attempt to, and understanding often salves our more negative emotions.

In the end, even in the epilogue, the world is still not united, nor does it seem as though war is about to die. It’d be quite easy for the world to fall into chaos once more (just in time for the movie, no doubt). The important thing is that people are striving to construct that peace and that future themselves, rather than rely upon another to fix it.

We’re all in this together, with global consequences for mishandling things. Might as well make the best of it.

Our future is glowy and green and in space and also has that eyecatch watermark in the lower right corner. Keep that in mind.

Toradora!: United They Stand, Divided They Fall

I think this, and the seconds immediately following it, pretty much sum up nearly everyone's final impression of Toradora!, regardless of what that impression might be.

So. Toradora!‘s over, and by this point in time nearly everyone will have settled down into some kind of vague camp regarding the ending (which pulled no punches, as per the norm for Toradora!), which means I can perfectly well ignore the “is the ending good or not?” debate and simply say that the ending is, and then explain exactly what “is” entails.

As I’ve no doubt mentioned at some point before in previous posts [->] and simply forgot in the long intervals between then and now, perhaps the strongest aspect of Toradora! is that no single character can possibly stand up alone. At the beginning of the series, Taiga was the feared demoness, the Palmtop Tiger of the school, whose only friend seemed to be Minori, and Ryuuji was, well, Ryuuji, a mild-mannered guy who just happens to look as if he’s about to run out of bubble gum at the drop of a hat and going all action movie on everyone. Which he would, if you were, say, a dust bunny.

Not even halfway through the series, both of these outsiders have a much wider circle of friends and acquantainces than they had before. Simply by being together and understanding each other, Ryuuji and Taiga mellow and soften each other. By the end of the series, a class that was, by and large, mostly apathetic towards both Ryuuji and Taiga, now cares about their well-being, for selfish reasons at first, perhaps, but by the end they all seem to genuinely care in their own ineffable ways. Their togetherness, however, quickly upsets delicate balances elsewhere in the classroom. Indeed, over the course of the entire series, many of the main characters are shown to have some kind of problem–a dependency, an unhealthy mode of thinking, etc.–and that they are trying to work through that problem themselves, without any reliance upon others to sort their problems out.

What happens, though, is that as the series progresses, the tide of character development [->] tends to ebb and flow like a tide.  Entropy sets in as every character seems to selflessly give their own desires up to fulfill the desires of another (the Christmas episode being perhaps the biggest example of this), and in so doing the situation spirals further out of control. Just when one of them seems to have the ability to stand on their own, something or someone else comes along and topples them. While, strictly speaking, none of the characters are negatively selfish, they are being excessively private about their worries, and when they aren’t, they’re cryptic about it.

Throughout the whole series, even while working at cross purposes without even intending or realizing it, they still manage to pull themselves together, with the convinently timed help of others. Yes, it’s not always perfect; yes, often the teamwork follows a rather nasty period of them trying to do it on their own; but in the end they get themselves together. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to accomplish anything without some sort of discord–I know far too many people to believe otherwise–but the fundamental concept Toradora! presents, from the moment that Ryuuji and Taiga pledge to support each other in their respective quests for love, is that no one can stand without the support of others. Even when they slap each other in the snow, it’s an outburst that might lead to the betterment of both.

A true class act.

A true class act.

The final episode puts this best and ties it up: Ryuuji and Taiga’s sudden elopement prompt Yasuko to reconcile herself with her parents (along with harsh facts about Ryuuji’s father and her pregnancy), and the long-awaited consummation (not that consummation, the one that they can show on TV) of TaigaRyuuji leads Taiga to reconcile herself, at least a little, with her own parents. And, of course, none of that would have really worked had Minori, Kitamura, and Ami not intervened, and had they not intervened then none of them would have been able to overcome their own problems, or at least take a first step towards it. The stability of a single person is not a solo task but a team effort of those around them.

Hence, perhaps, why the ending is so deliciously open-ended even as it is conclusive. Even as Taiga and Ryuuji enter into an adulthood that will no doubt be Fraught With Peril, even as every character, major or no,  has an intentionally ambigious conclusion, the sense is left that no matter what peril might happen in the future, they have each other. And that makes all the difference.


As far as final non-final words go re: Toradora! as a series, I can safely say that it is the purest recent example of a series that is mostly about the journey and not the destination. You know, from the first minute of the first episode, that Taiga and Ryuuji would eventually be a unit, but the fun is in getting there. And the getting there was delightful–Toradora! tended to take the twisty, winding scenic route rather than the straight causeway that passed by all the flashing lights and glitz. It arrived at its conclusion via the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference.*

* yes I know it’s the same road both ways I am quite aware of this and took account of it when I made the reference thank you Zombie Robert Frost go back to being dead now and take your infinite layers of irony with you


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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April 2009