This post is a sequel to The Shields of Toradora.
Wow! Yesterday’s post on Toradora requires an addendum! First off, I was half-asleep when I wrote it, so I made a handful of ridiculous errors: I was only about one-third of the way through the series, not two-thirds; and I didn’t yet know what was revealed a bit further on, that Minori’s alleged fear of spooky things was an act.
The point about Minori trying to drown out her fear still stands, though. She was truly frightened when locked in the room. And I wonder about one other thing. While chatting with Ryuji, Minori casually slips that maybe she’s interested in girls rather than guys—presumably meaning she might be lesbian. Ryuji’s deadpan “I hope not” is good for a laugh, but I genuinely hope that Minori’s line was not simply a setup for a flash-in-the-pan joke. If she’s really questioning her sexual orientation, that opens up some fascinating room for character development; and more to the point here, it raises an even greater source of possible anxiety for her. I’m as straight as they come, so I don’t know what it’s like to be anything else and I don’t presume to speak for those who are; but I imagine that it could be extremely frightening for someone who is unsure of their orientation and of how they will be received once word of it gets out. I guess I’ll have to watch the rest of the series to find out who the true Minori is!
And Taiga! I was spot on about her having a troubled family background. Her dad! What a jerk! (Read this last line in the voice of Mai from Asagao Academy.) How could he break his daughter’s heart, not once, but repeatedly?! No wonder she doesn’t want anyone to get close to her!
In the episodes I’ve watched since last night (did I ever mention I watch a lot of anime?), two of the secondary characters have also encountered their own façades, or had their false personas damaged.
- Kitamura, Ryuji’s best friend, has something resembling a nervous breakdown. Having been a model class VP all along, he suddenly dies his hair yellow (against the school rules, apparently), quits the student council, and runs away from home. Turns out the only reason he was such a great VP was because he was trying to impress the class Prez—and now that she’s leaving for America, he’s having an identity crisis. He doesn’t know who he really us or what he really wants without her around.
- The Prez herself puts up a different sort of façade. Like Ami, she’s conscious that she’s not presenting her true self; but unlike Ami, she’s not trying to protect herself. She’s trying to protect Kitamura. She knows that he cares for her so much that he’s at risk of forgoing his own dreams for her—in short, of losing his own identity—if she encourages him. (As noted above, she’s right.) So she acts like she has no feelings for him, when in fact she loves him deeply, precisely because she wants what is best for him. (Her cover is blown when Taiga challenges her to a wooden sword duel in what remains one of the most surrealistic classroom scenes I have ever watched. At that point she breaks down and confesses the truth.)
Oddly enough, the one somewhat consistent character who doesn’t have a breakdown like this is Ryuji’s perpetually-sotted mother. Sure, she’s got her problems, most obviously drinking way too much alcohol, likely to get away from the pain of being abandoned by the man (Ryuji’s father) whom she still adores. (Wow, the dads don’t come across very well in this series.) But all it takes for her to be happy, as she tells Ryuji and Taiga over dinner, is her family—and she generously includes Taiga in that “family” as well. (This was not, as I expected it to be, played up for laughs by, say, implying that Taiga was going to be her daughter-in-law. The whole scene was handled very sweetly and simply.) Among the main characters, she’s arguable the most true to herself; and so in turn she is able to love others’ selves, whether it be her good-for-nothing absentee husband or the rough-around-the-edges Taiga.
Ryuji’s mother reminds me of a story Augustine tells in his autobiographical Confessions. Augustine and some friends take a walk through town while discussing how to be happy (this sort of thing being apparently what pagan Romans did in the 4th century.) They have studied the greatest minds available at that time, and yet feel dissatisfied with their lives. Out of the blue a drunk man stumbles past their party, singing cheerfully. Augustine points out to his friends, “Here we are with all of our knowledge, and yet this simple, uneducated drunk is happier than we are. How can that be?!”
The point is, she’s accepted who she is, in all her brokenness. That allows her to accept others, too.