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.
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