Fake-drunk blogging Exercise #1: Why I dropped Toradora

Because you all care so much… (I’m not really drunk, my typing would be much worse, although this is proofreading free so forgive any grammatical/spelling errors 🙂 )

toradora

I’ll be honest, I stopped watching Toradora after episode 13. When I got the scent that this show was moving towards a Taiga x Ryujii ending, I stopped watching. I held on, hoping that the show would surprise me with what I felt was some common sense, and continued to follow the show, reading up on summaries and whatnot. But based on what I read about episode 24, I realized it reached a point where I couldn’t bother to go back, catch up on the show, and most importantly, enjoy it. This isn’t a minor decision for me, as I like to stick things through until the very end. The only exceptions so far being Nabari no Ou which was godawfully boring (I like Rie Kugimya, but what is it with some of her shows), and Clannad ~After Story, which I dropped after the first story, when I realized I couldn’t put myself through another season of Kanon (and having also followed the Clannad summaries, I’m so glad I decided what I did.)

Initially I knocked Taiga as a mere Louise Valliere knock-off, and I’ve since read that there’s been significant character development, and it would be wrong to consider her a Louise clone. Duly noted. But here’s why I still couldn’t bring myself to continue following Toradora.

Toradora is a comedy. First and foremost. That’s what it established it’s identity as, and that’s how I accepted the reality of the story. I mean, it was a “smarter” comedy, not like some throwaway fanservice harem comedy with an abusive female lead, like Zero no Tsukaima, Love Hina or Asu no Yoichi, for example, but it was still a show that didn’t take itself terribly seriously. Because of this, I could accept the reality of otherwise unrealistic scenarios. Like Ryuuji taking the time to cook a social failure like Taiga, breakfast every morning. I mean, it’s a comedy. I don’t have to agree with why. Things just happen, you know? And then… the show moved to a more dramatic, character-driven route. And not in the same way like typical comedies like Kannagi, where it’s lulz for the first 11 eps, and random melodrama for the last 2, but it actually became a really central part of the show’s DNA.

Ok, fair enough. But this requires a shift in understanding. And this is where the show lost me.

The foundational premise of the show is that we’re expected to believe that a normal guy, Ryuuji, is not only going to befriend a social failure like Taiga, who in the beginning of the season had only displayed her complete inability to empathize or connect with anyone that wasn’t Minorin, but also that he’d invite her over every morning and night and cook every meal for her. Including making bentos! Ok, this requires us to take a look at who Taiga was when the show began.

She was:

  • A social malcontent, with a terrible personality. Unable to connect with anyone and everyone not named Minorin. Only capable of displaying fits of anger. And generally striking fear, if not disgust, through her overall unlikeability.
  • Verbally and physically abusive. Admittedly, she never reaches Louise or Naru levels of physical abuse, but there was very little of the initial Ryuuji x Taiga interactions that didn’t end up with her berating or complaining to Ryuuji about one thing or another.
  • A general leech. Not only a social malcontent, she had no personal skills whatsoever. God knows, how she survived in that apartment room all alone, but she couldn’t cook, she couldn’t clean – and I’m really trying not to sound sexist – but she offered no utility at all.

Ok, so that makes her extremely similar to Louise Valliere, and somewhat similar to Love Hina’s Naru or Asu no Yoichi’s Ibuki. I loved Louise. And although I don’t really like Naru or Ibuki, you’re probably thinking what’s the big deal right? The difference is Zero no Tsukaima, Love Hina and Asu no Yoichi are clearly fanservice-filled harem comedies and requires a certain level of accepting suspended reality versus a show that decides it wants to be taken seriously like Toradora. I can accept that Saito might fall for Louise, despite the abuse, because she’s the only person he can truly confide in. in a completely foreign world of magic. I can accept that Keitaro might go for Naru, despite the abuse,m because of some random childhood memory, and because he’s an otherwise failure at life. I can accept that Yoichi might go for Ibuki, despite the abuse, because he’s been a sheltered samurai, and because otherwise, she’s a pretty damn good samurai herself.

Notice that the keyword there is “despite the abuse.”

I’m not a fan of abusive female harem leads. In the same way that I’m not a fan of useless male harem leads. Because, let’s be real here. What self-respecting girl’s gonna fall for a completely useless dude like Keitaro. Similarly, what self-respecting guy, is gonna put up with either verbal or physical abuse just to be with a girl? Answer. None. But that’s the type of reality I’m willing to suspend disbelief for, because I’ve accepted that a show like Love Hina or Zero no Tsukaima, isn’t supposed to be taken seriously.

So that brings us back to Toradora. What self-respecting guy is going to put up with a girl like Taiga, and end up serving her by hand and foot? Again. Answer: none. The only benefits that Taiga offers Ryuuji, initially (and remember, I’m focusing on the beginning of the show), is that she has a close friendship with Minorin, who Ryuuji has a crush on. So I’m supposed to believe that a normal guy like Ryuuji’s going to do all that for Taiga, without even knowing whether it’ll get him the ins with Minorin? Uh uh. No. You’ve just suspended my disbelief. I’m not even getting to whether Ryuuji could possibly fall for Taiga. But I am rejecting the very foundation of that relationship outright, up front. In a self-respecting drama, that relationship never even begins, because Taiga is such a complete useless human being at the start of the show (again, before objecting, remember I’m referring to the Taiga that she was vs. the Taiga that she became, which I get the impression is considerably more mature and personable than the Taiga at the start of the show).

This is compounded by the fact that for Ryuuji, Minorin and Ami are much more realistic targets. Whether it’s because she’s a longtime crush (in Minorin’s case), or because she has an uncanny similarity in thought process to Ryuuji (in Ami’s case), there are two other major characters that are more realistic end games, in the case of a drama. But to then ignore that and divert the relationship to a Ryuuji x Taiga ending (I’m assuming this will happen in the last two episodes), is then pandering to a fanbase and shifting the show to a forced and unnatural resolution.

So in Toradora’s case, what is a more realistic foundation for a Ryuuji x Taiga relationship? For me, it’s brother/sisterhood. I may fight with my sister all the time. I may think she’s a complete spoiled brat. But if my dad was dead and my mother wasn’t much of a mother, I’d support my sister in any way possible. Whether it’s cooking meals, whether it’s giving her encouragement, or helping her out in whatever way possible. I would feel that would be my familial responsibility. And this is what Ryuuji initially provides: a feeling of family for a girl who doesn’t have one, and encouragement to pursue the things and people she wants. And I know that there’s this imouto-con thing that exists in Japan (I’m sure, a small fetish thing), but as someone who’s more familiar with US (and Korean) culture, I shudder viciously at the thought of a sister figure turning into a love interest.

And this is where the show loses me. If it’s to be considered primarily a drama, the premise of a Ryuuji x Taiga relationship is galling to me. If it’s to be considered primarily a comedy, the show does too good a job at developing Minorin and Ami, especially, as realistic alternatives for me to consider Ryuuji x Taiga a satisfying ending (For example, can you imagine Saito not being with Louise, Keitaro not being with Naru or Yoichi not ending up with Ibuki? The only alternative possibility I can fathom is Yoichi, but the other shows clearly go out of their way in establish the contender, and the pretenders).

Which isn’t to say that Toradora’s not a good show. It is. I really enjoyed it while I watched it. It’s just that I feel a show has got to set realistic expectations from the beginning. To switch it dramatically part way through is an open invitation for criticism. And I feel like the show is copping out (and I’m ignoring the manga) and is delivering an ending that gives the large contingent of Kugumiya and Taiga fans what they want, at the cost of a more realistic resolution that I feel the show deserves.

7 Replies to “Fake-drunk blogging Exercise #1: Why I dropped Toradora”

  1. Can’t say I disagree with you. Ep 24 of Toradora! has severely tested my faith in the series, particularly as to the _honesty_ of the narrative up to this point. BUT, there is one ep to go. Let’s see where things go from here. I still hold on to the tiniest shred of hope. If it ends better than it looks like it might, you should consider finishing up the series. There are plenty of good moments along the way.

  2. I can see where you’re coming from but I don’t agree. As you said, the reason that Ryuuji’s putting up with all of Taiga’s crap is because he has a crush on Minori. Depending on the depths of his feelings, he’ll probably do whatever it takes to get Taiga, he’s only link to Minorin, to help him in his endeavour to become her boyrfriend. This includes making sure that Taiga isn’t a complete mess in the first place, because what use is a mess in getting them to help you with a task? Then you’ve got to add in the fact that Ryuuji’s a cleaning devil by nautre and also a naturally maternal figure; he has to take care of his mother by cooking her meals everyday, so he’d probably be inclined to take care of Taiga in the same way as well. Again, theis is going on the basis that he needs Taiga in a mutually beneficial relationship to get to Minori.

    However, as they help each other more and more, they spend more time together, get to know each other. Ryuuji learns about Taiga’s insecurites and those maternal feelings kick in and Taiga likes Ryuuji because, well, he’s a good guy. There’ always a way for their relationship to develp further, through wacky scenarios, excuses etc etc. And then you get to the point where we’re at now: the two have confessed their love and are planning to do something completely retarded. Ah, young love 🙄

    So, it’s no thtat illogical that Taiga would fall in love with Ryuuji and vice vers with the foundation of their relationship being what it is.

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  3. haha, we may have to agree to disagree then.

    I’m willing to accept a friends to couples route (because usually one of the friends wants more to begin with, e.g., Ryuuji x Minorin, Ami x Ryuuji, etc.), but like you mentioned, Ryuuji x Taiga’s relationship was built around a maternal instinct (or brotherly instinct, as I like to think). Whatever it is, it’s familial.

    And I don’t know about you, but I have a much harder time swallowing the likelihood of someone developing romantic feelings for a sister or daughter figure. I know anything could happen – especially in anime – but this is just too much, and betrays the reality I thought the show established.

    Yeah there’s a couple instances where Taiga flashes some jealousy for Ryuuji, but I never once got the impression that there was any romantic chemistry between the two. They could’ve shown their relationship grow without ending all lovey-dovey. But now by taking the Taiga x Ryuuji route, I think it’s taking everything it built up throughout the season and throwing it out the window, to pursue a fan-friendly generic romantic resolution. That’s what bothers me the most. Not that it couldn’t happen, but that it shouldn’t happen. You mentioned the maternal instinct a few times and I’ve mentioned the brother/sister relationship… heck, I think it’d make a lot more sense if Ryuuji decided to legally adopt Taiga than to elope with her. Does that make sense?

  4. Still fun to talk about this so much later, hehe.

    The friend that recommended the series to me and I both thought Minori or Ami would have been more realistic, for the reasons you mentioned. Minori was a lot deeper than your average childhood friend character, and Ami was done so well and so alike Ryuuji.

    A Taiga end was set up though, and I kind of liked the gradual build to it. Granted, it did require a spark to get the reaction going, so to speak, but by making Ryuuji and Taiga friends it set it up. While I can’t remember which episode it was in, there was a scene/shot where Taiga and Ryuuji were working together to help the other get with Yusaku and Minori respectively, almost a ‘fighting back to back’ shot like in a martial arts or gun-fu film complete with the satisfied/knowing smile of appreciation to each other. That to me solidified in one shot the comrades kind of relationship the two had, which was the relationship that brought them to trust each other and get to know each other more deeply than how Minori or Ami got to know them. It could be seen as familial, but I likened it more to the bond one shares with another by working together and going through a similar experience. Not on the same dramatic level, but almost a sort of battlefield brotherhood thing. The spark that started Ryuuji X Taiga occurred later when Taiga first, then Ryuuji realized their feelings had started to change, compounded by Minori’s unwillingness to go after the guy her friend liked and Yusaku falling for the Student Council president. Minori would have had Ryuuji if she hadn’t been so accommodating to Taiga and just gone for her own happiness, easily would have had him. This was a massive missed opportunity that changed the course of the whole show; it’s like the anime relationship equivalent of the Germans calling off Sea Lion and conducting the Blitz instead in WWII!

    As to why Ryuuji helped Taiga in the first place, I think it was just him being a generally nice guy who identified with another student who was misunderstood by their classmates, considered scary (though with reason for Taiga), and who had something of a similar parental situation. I didn’t interpret it as a familial thing, though I can see the merit in your reading of it. Only the author really knows.

    I believe as much as the next Realist that actions are dictated by the incentives/disincentives and the prospect of gain, but I think Ryuuji had something to gain. All gain need not produce ‘selfish’ outcomes, and if he is such a nice guy then he would ‘gain’ psychological satisfaction for helping out another misfit. And since he already had a big crush on Minori he probably wasn’t initially looking at his relationship with Taiga as one with romantic possibility, though he did stand to gain by using her friendship with his crush.

    1. It’s a little hard for me to comment on how plausible the “spark” that occurs is, since I stopped watching it before then. But I suppose it’s not out of the realm of possibilities for Taiga to have realized some sort of feelings for Ryuuji, since she did depend on him hand and foot. I still find it very difficult to accept that Ryuuji would have pursued a friendship with Taiga, regardless of how nice he was, just because of Taiga’s total unpleasantness and surliness. And don’t even get me started on the likelihood of someone putting up with Taiga’s attitude and not only befriending her, but going as far as cleaning up after her and feeding her every meal. Even beyond the realm of incentives/disincentives, Ryuuji may be a responsible guy, but I don’t recall ever seeing anything that suggested that he was interested in saving lost causes or running an orphanage.

      To me, the final Taiga x Ryuuji pairing felt more like a case where the writer switched the likely ending path (probably Minorin) to accomodate Taiga’s humongous popularity. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s what it felt like.

      1. Ryuuji did have an obsessive-compulsive thing for cleaning though. When they first met they did connect as friends in a way. Taiga was the one that laughed at Ryuuji’s un-given love letter to Minori, which spurred him on to act and try to get with her.

        I’m pretty sure Taiga was meant to win out in the end regardless. She and Ryuuji are the titular Tora (tiger) and Dora (dragon) in the title after all. Don’t you just hate official couples, you Mihoshi shipper 😛

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