Tigers, Dragons, and Love at First Fight

I’m on a Toradora! analysis kick, and I wrote this for my DeviantArt account but can’t figure out how the heck to submit it so, here it shall be.

I know it’s a series with a lot of…melodrama…but I feel that it uses cliches in a good way, and kind of subverts some tropes and cliches. Like the whole Type A tsundere thing: the story seems to me to emphasize that part of Taiga’s tsundere defensiveness comes from her fears and insecurities regarding her height and her family. Throughout the series, as she lets people get closer to her, she softens up. She keeps her natural belligerence and penchant for melodrama, but she’s not nearly so prone to violence and learns to face her problems. 

TORADORA TAIGA

But what this show is best at is illustrating how really loving someone isn’t all about the feelings. In Taiga and Ryuuji’s case, the feelings start to come after they start loving each other. They choose to spend time with each other, and each has real concern for the other (sometimes expressed in more or less violent ways). Taiga realizes her feelings before Ryuuji, but that’s just because he’s too much of a dunderhead (an extremely lovable one, don’t get me wrong–he’s probably my favorite character) to notice that Taiga’s gotten over Kitamura and likes him instead. And the crazy thing is that Ryuuji almost always acts as if he and Taiga are an item because she’s the first one he ever thinks about. He’s one of the first people to actively show they care about her and mean it. It’s funny, ’cause I think on some level Taiga is attracted to Ryuuji in the first place because he’s everything her father is not: Ryuuji doesn’t just pretend to care. However, she’s not looking for a father substitute; she has a father whom she loves no matter how horribly he treats her. And Taiga and Ryuuji treat each other far too much as equals for that to be the case.

And Taiga and Ryuuji learn about the other relationships in their lives as well! They both learn that they’re teenagers who don’t understand everything. Taiga learns that her mother loves her, and that she’s not currently capable of taking care of herself; further, she sees she needs to accept herself for who she is, and not automatically assume that others, especially her family, will reject her. She has to learn to love herself before she can completely and wholly love another person. It’s good that she realizes this, but I think she ran off in too dramatic of a fashion–I mean c’mon, you can at least say goodbye in person! But that’s Taiga for you. Melodramatic ’til the end. 

Ryuuji, on the other hand, comes to understand that he’s not responsible for his mother’s mistakes (and comes to terms with his anger at her for them), that he’s not responsible for his mother, that she’s an adult who makes her own choices and that she chooses to work her butt off so he can study because she loves him. That’s what a mother, what a family, does, and he needs to accept this. Moreover, he needs to not only accept his mother but look at himself, and learn what he wants for himself, without reference to anybody else. Let your adult mom make her own choices and stop treating her like a child, dangit! If even after accepting this he decides not to go to college, then so be it.

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It’s not like they don’t have things to teach their parents, though: Taiga’s mother has lots of ‘splaining to do, or at least apologizing. Divorce ain’t no picnic, and combined with Taiga’s Napoleon complex and manipulative father, it serves to compound her issues, may even be what started them in the first place. I’ve never had to experience the pain of my parents getting divorced, but I can guess that the kids in that situation might feel rejected by either one of or both parents. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how Taiga feels. Her mother needs to make a better effort to explain things, instead of just yelling at her to come home like she does in Episode 24.

Similarly, Yasuko’s immaturities don’t help Ryuuji understand her feelings. She still treats him like a little kid, always saying, “It’ll be ok, it’ll be ok.” He’s almost eighteen and sick and tired of that crap. He knows that it’s not just going to magically be ok. He takes too much responsibility on himself, but he’s right in insisting that she treat him as more of an adult, that she acknowledges (and recognizes that he acknowledges) the gravity of any given situation, and that Ryuuji can handle it. That’s how it was with my parents when they said they’d help me get through undergrad so I wouldn’t come out with mounds of debt. I was like, “Are you sure?” ’cause I knew it was a big thing. And they knew it was too: you don’t move into a two-bedroom, one bath apartment with a tiny kitchen if paying tuition is easy. 

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But they were willing to do that for me, and since going to college is what I wanted–at least, what I discerned was best at the time, I mean I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and still don’t exactly (turned out pretty well so far, thankfully)–I accepted that from them. Because it’s their…augh, I hate the word job…it’s part of their duty as parents to help their kids to get a handle on life and adult responsibility. What that means for each parent and child is different, but there are going to be times when you just have to accept that way of loving from your parents–that free, gratuitous gift of time, energy, effort, money, whatever, that sets them back in some way, but they’re perfectly willing to do it because they love you. It’s a great gift, and you should treasure it. 

However, if you don’t know that’s what it is, and all they do is treat you like a little kid and act like a little kid themselves, which is what Yasuko does, then it’s harder to understand and accept. Instead of always saying, “It’s ok,” she should acknowledge, “Yeah, working two jobs is tough, but it’s worth it because I love you and want you to do what you want to do.” She also needs to accept that Ryuuji might not want what she never had: a college education, etc.

See? Everybody learns something. Everyone sort of grows up! I could’ve talked about Minorin and Ami, too, but I don’t care about them as much. Sorry.

A lot of the conflict that occurs between these kids and their parents, then, occurs because these people love each other and want what’s best for each other, but can’t communicate it or pound it in to each other’s thick skulls. Basically, Toradora! is a screwball romantic dramedy about learning how to communicate, but most importantly, learning what it really means to love and be loved. Kinda awesome, in my book.

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