Thank goodness it’s Anime Sunday!
A week after creating this blog I am finding myself tempted to create posts outside the confines of a Sunday schedule! But alas, I’ve managed to stay my hand and really double down on a Sunday, and ONLY Sunday, schedule.
This week went pretty well though. I’ve been escorting one FINE gentleman in particular out of our store over and over after I apprehended him recently for stuffing merchandise. Every time he gets a bit more aggressive so I respond in kind and proceed to the next level in the use of force continuum. The guy is as persistent as a new born pup suckling at it’s mother’s teat.
All the while, after escorting him out day after day, I found my thoughts drifting once more to ToraDora! This young gentleman’s stubborn inclinations were so reminiscent of a certain palm top tiger.
And I knew then, I had to know why. Why did this guy keep coming back over and over when I had made it clear that he was not welcome and trespassing every time he entered?
Similarly, why couldn’t Taiga just admit her feelings? Why all the beating around the bush and the theatrics?!
But, as with most things in life, it’s never quite that simple.
I’ve taken the opportunity to peek into the minds of the characters of ToraDora! To know WHY they did what they did.
To begin with, we have our main cast of characters, Ryuji, Taiga, Minorin, Ami, and Kitamura around which the story and drama revolve.
At the beginning of our story, just from a glance and at the surface level, we have a bunch of…. well, a bunch of misfits.
Ryuji is viewed by most of his peers as a delinquent coupled with the fact that he views himself as a burden to his mother. This unique circumstance, Ryuji being raised by a single mother after Ryuji’s father skipped town when she got pregnant, has molded Ryuji’s personality in an interesting way. He is utterly reliable. Ryuji is mature, kind, hard working, and selfless, as earnest as they come. At any cost he wants to avoid being a “parasite” to his hard working mother and friends.
Taiga was born to an affluent family and was never for materialistic want. However, she yearns for affection, to have someone care about her well being and her happiness, to have her back through thick and thin. This yearning originated from her parent’s divorce. Taiga got caught in the middle and did not receive the support she needed from either parent. That neglect resulted in Taiga becoming anti-social, developing a low self esteem, and coping with abandonment issues. But, this situation also teaches Taiga to be ferociously loyal. She truly appreciates and protects those that earn her trust and respect. Trust, above all else, is precious to Taiga.
Minorin is a hyper eccentric. Her personality borders on mania. The excessive joy and silliness she exudes through out the day would over whelm just about anyone. This behavior serves as a kind of facade for Minorin. She never stops running around, whether it be soft ball, part time jobs, caring for her brother, as though she were running from something and that if she were to stop and be mindful of her thoughts and emotions, even for a moment, something terrible might catch up to her. She is uncertain about the world and her place in it but she perseveres anyway. She has an unyielding optimism that the world is a beautiful place, full of mystery and that if she works hard enough she can find what it is that she’s looking for and fill the hole in heart.
Ami is a renown model but she is also a two faced, master manipulator, and is even cruel at times. Her teasing often exploits people’s most guarded insecurities. This skill of seeing through people and seeing what drives them comes from her unrivaled intuition. After befriending Ryujj and Taiga, this gift of reading people is used not so much to benefit herself, so much as it is to progress the dynamic of everyone else’s relationship. She becomes a catalyst which compels the characters to relinquish their facade and be real with both themselves and everyone else. By the end of the show, the most selfish person has become the most selfless, sacrificing her own feelings for Taiga’s and Ryuji’s. Ami even encouraged Minorin, trying to let Minorin know that it was okay to act on her feelings for Ryuji and that she should not feel guilty about it. Ami’s transformation was only possible because of how Ryuji and Taiga and Kitamura and Minorin loved her for who she was, these friends that could look past Ami’s short comings and bring out the best in her.
Kitamura is a misfit not so much for how others perceive him but because he himself finds so few people he can relate with and see as a true friend. He can be counted on to see the best in everyone and he has a real knack for bringing it out as well. He is our rock. He is the constant that guarantees the earth will keep turning and that the Sun will rise tomorrow. Which is why it’s so scary when he is feeling unstable. If even he can fall apart what hope is there for us the mere mortals? But that’s when all the people, whose lives he has touched and made better, they all lift him up by the arms and put him over their collective shoulder. Because Kitamura had faith and invested in them, he gets this selfless investment returned with interest. All of his friends rally around him when he is in trouble. Very much a corner stone.
Then we have one of the show’s definitive turning points for Taiga and Minorin. Episode 10 “Fire Works”.
Taiga realizes that her feelings are changing and that a passionate crush isn’t necessarily what’s most important in a relationship. Love is NOT adoration. There can be elements of it but it’s not a healthy foundation.
Ami even comments on this, that relationships based on adoration alone are never healthy.
Taiga’s realization comes as she enjoys a casual conversation with Ryuji, playfully rubbing his back with her feet, after sharing a meal together. She realizes then and there , THAT is what she wants. She doesn’t even mind her “nightmare” of being married to Ryuji. Rather, it seems preferable to Taiga in that moment.
Minorin later talks with Ryuji about love using the search for ghosts as a metaphor. The metaphor let’s her and Ryuji have a safe, comfortable dialogue over love. Which just goes to show how young and oblivious the two of them are, which is endearing. We are, all of us, clueless at one point and like Ryuji and Minorin and Taiga and Kitamura and Ami we have to figure out these abstract concepts for ourself. And like those five, we are going to trip up and get a nose bleed, and when we do, we’re gonna cry. Because all of that growing up and discovery in adolescence can be confusing and down right traumatic. But that’s where we grow the most, in that turmoil and adversity, much like the characters in the show. We realize who we are and what we want, especially out of relationships.
Minorin has never seen love but wants to believe that it exists for her. Ryuji is optimistic as well, assuring her that she should NEVER give up on the search.
This shift in perspective is elegantly represented as everyone lights sparklers on the beach at night. Taiga, alone with Kitamura, watches as her sparkler dies and the last ember falls away, extinguished in the sand. Meanwhile Minorin’s heart is exploding like the fireworks on the horizon, with her own realization that she loves Ryuji… Minorin finally saw a ghost.
Admittedly, a lot of show goes on after this scene and Taiga is still smitten with Kitamura, but that’s pretty well done too. Even so, “Fireworks” is a turning point because it is the first time the minds of Minorin and Taiga align with their heart’s raw emotions. It’s brief and it doesn’t last too long, and the two of them dismiss these feelings pretty quick after the episode, but for a second they actually consider their true feelings, that they both love Ryuji. They also love each other. A conundrum if ever there was one. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
I’d even wager that in some way, since Taiga knows that Minorin and Ryuji share mutual romantic feelings, that pursuing Kitamura becomes a kind of security blanket for Taiga, it’s safer and will cause less heart ache for everyone than loving Ryuji will.
In fact, Kitamura’s love of student council president Sumire acts as a catalyst for Taiga’s true feelings to bubble up to the surface. Once she has no security blanket to run back to, the train of her emotions becomes unstoppable as it barges ahead at full speed towards Ryuji and from then on nothing else matters. You’ll even notice that from then on Taiga isn’t particularly nervous around Kitamura. And all it took was her to be honest with herself and to admit that through the strife of potentially hurting her best friend Minorin, she loves Ryuji.
Similarly, Ryuji never felt that he had a chance to be with Taiga because he assumes that Kitamura is all that Taiga thinks about.
And Taiga assumes that Minorin is all that Ryuji thinks about.
But in reality? All that Ryuji and Taiga do for the most part is spend time together and think about each other.
Both of them use their crushes as safety blankets so they don’t have to worry about hurting either of their best friends or each other. Neither of them want to admit that as the show goes on, they’re changing, and that their relationship with each other is changing. It’s safer to just go on smiling as friends. Because no one wants anyone to get hurt.
But in the game of love, where there is only room for two…(minus the proponents of polygamy lol) often times, someone is going to be left with a broken heart. Heart break is part of life and growing up, just as picking yourself up off the ground and persevering through hard ship is. And NOT giving up on the pursuit of happiness.
Thinking back, it’s kind of a premonition, that conversation Ryuji and Minorin have at Ami’s beach house. Because Ryuji did show her a UFO. Minorin found herself falling in love. But in the end it couldn’t be Ryuji by Minorin’s side. Even so, Ryuji told her even back then, don’t give up looking… and he hopes she sees a ghost someday. Even if that ghost can’t be Ryuji. It’s pretty damn sweet. It’s also pretty damn bitter.
Almost like everyone knew deep down how everything was gonna end up. So while Ryuji can’t be by Minorin’s side, he still wants Minorin to find happiness, to find her happy ever after. And given her optimism and belief that she will, I think we can all be confident in this outcome.
By the end, we see that the tiger and dragon EARNED each other as they built their relationship in a healthy, gradual way, as opposed to a burning crush of adoration, which Ami was correct in saying doesn’t make for a stable and healthy relationship. Over time, Taiga and Ryuji got to know each other, became genuine friends, and subsequently, a mature, genuine love developed. It happened without them even noticing.
The rest of the show has great moments but I was most intrigued with when exactly Taiga comes to love Ryuji. Just so happens it’s when Minorin realizes she does too.
As for Ryuji? He needed only the smallest of nudges to be utterly dedicated to Taiga. The moment the thought crosses his mind, of being with Taiga, he never looks back. The moment he considers it he realizes nothing else could have fit more perfect.
And it was so obvious!
And then as the drama comes to an end, so too does their days as high school students.
The entire show is a but brief glimpse into the brilliant chaos of our adolescence, at the precipice of adult hood. That awkward transition where we find out who we all are and what we all want and we grow and we part ways.
We leave behind that special time where we wish nothing around us would change. Or rather, we leave behind that time where we wish WE wouldn’t change. Where no one around us would change. Because change is scary. We leave behind our older selves. We leave behind the people that surrounded us. We take a trembling step into the unknown.
And as bitter-sweet as it is, we learn the most important part of growing up.
We learn how to say good-bye.
I had a lot of fun building this post. It was honestly a kind of catharsis for me since I was feeling super nostalgic. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, bitter sweet as it was!
I look forward to writing something up for next Sunday! So, until we meet again.