Diary of an Anime Lived – Toradora in the Mirror

NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY POST. This is a post by reader UltraEternalBlackout. UEB is planning to start a blog in the future, but for now is trying to watch a lot of anime and read more blogs in preparation. Please give him a warm welcome for his very personal introduction~! Contains Toradora spoilers, so be warned!

The requirement for writing one of these posts is to be completely and utterly honest, isn’t it? In that case, I suppose I’d better tell the truth right from the very beginning: I’m really not sure what this post is going to be about.

The only way I can explain just how many ways Toradora struck home with me is with a simple question: how many ways does life as a teenager affect anyone? Because as amazing as the relationship between Taiga and Ryuuji is–and believe me, I’ll be ranting about that soon enough–the beautiful thing about Toradora is, the deeper you dig, the more a high school student like myself can find to relate to. Which is why I just can’t explain exactly what I want this post to be about; it’s impossible to understand just how much those years affect us, and shape the person we become. Toradora is the story of how two selfish teenagers with a lot to learn about life eventually come to the conclusion that they love each other. But in order to tell that story, Toradora takes its characters through all the sorts of challenges most any naive high school kid has to face at some time or another.

Before I was even halfway through the series, I could easily pinpoint something I had in common with many of the characters: I don’t feel that my parents deserve any say in who I want to be. When my parents divorced, I was in only in sixth grade; and as if that wasn’t bad enough, I discovered that my mom was a seriously hardcore alcoholic. And that was all it took to turn my life inside out. I moved in with my dad, along with my two younger brothers. I spent the next year hardly bothering to live my life; no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t wrap my head around…anything. Luckily, it wasn’t long after that when I visited the anime club at the nearby library. And it was there that I met the group of friends I still count on to this day. Even though we’ve since moved further away from that library, I still make the effort to be there every week.

It’s not just my mother who I can compare to Yasuko, though. As a kid, my dad was some miserable loser who barely had any friends until he made it into college; and for some reason, he just can’t grasp the concept that not being popular doesn’t mean I’m walking in his footsteps, and making the same mistakes he’s made. All my life, I’ve been pushed to be athletic, or to be a grade-A student; my father thinks I’m the same exact person he was when he was my age. I’m still waiting for him to understand that I don’t want to be the sort of person he wanted to be. Thankfully, he’s more or less given up on me, and moved on to my younger siblings, shaping them into what he’d always hoped I would be.

I know they look down on me, because they believe I’m just weird; I know I’m nothing less than an outcast in my family. And when I think about it, I just can’t help but laugh. I’m glad that they realize I’m not ‘one of them’; even though they consider me to be a lesser person for it, I enjoy rubbing it in their faces. That’s why I had a knowing smile on my face the entire time Ryuuji struggled to be the person he wanted to be, and not to allow himself to become a way for his mother to atone for her mistakes. Toradora is just proof that the parents who say teenagers are too immature to run their own lives, too emotional to shape themselves, aren’t completely right. Every one of the characters in that anime has a lot of growing up to do, especially Ryuuji and Taiga; but they struggle through their problems on their own, and even teach the adults a lesson or two in the process.

I was absurdly proud of myself when I felt I could relate to Ryuuji’s family issues so early on, but it wasn’t until the last few episodes that it began to hit me just how many ways I felt tied to this anime. Just like Ryuuji and his classmates, my friends and I would be at a complete loss in life, were it not for one another. There’s a limit to just how much we can understand one another, but that doesn’t mean we’re ever not there for one another. Being there for my friends has taken me to some pretty crazy places in my short time here on earth; from the roof of a hotel on a cold October night, to the post-curfew streets of a dark city in the middle of summer.

So when I watched Minori, Ami and Kitamura finally take Ryuuji and Taiga’s fate into their own hands, I cried out in joy–completely forgetting the fact that it was two in the morning. It almost made me cry, watching that scene. I couldn’t stop thinking about what great friends they must be, to have the courage to do what had to be done. Even now, just thinking about it, I can’t help but smile. I’d somewhat lost my faith in the pathetic little ‘family’ my friends and I have made together; Toradora reminded me just how far your friends can carry you in this world. It doesn’t matter how fragile our little world seems from the outside, because being on the inside allows me to see just how strong our friendship is.

It’s a lot like the star that Minori and Ryuuji pieced back together, the one he’s holding when they take a class picture in the last episode. It doesn’t matter how stupid or crazy any of the students in class 2-C were–they fit together, somehow, and even though they can’t form a perfect star, they love each other anyway. I cherish my friends more than anything in the world–they mean everything to me, really. Watching Toradora reminded me that their faults are just part of the reason I love them, that all I have to do is pick them up when they fall, and we’ll make it wherever we’re going, together.

“There’s something in this world that no one has seen before. It is gentle and sweet. Maybe if it could be seen, everyone would fight over it. That’s why no one has ever seen it. The world hid it so that no one could get their hands on it easily. However, someday, someone will find it.”

I’ve watched this scene over, and over, and over again. It’s the most perfect ending to an anime I’ve EVER seen. I cry when I watch it–serious man tears. I BAAAWW like a little girl. And I’m not just crying because of the happy ending. The reason this line, those fifty-six words, affect me so strongly, is because of the overwhelming desire I have in life to find ‘it’, to see ‘it.’ It’s obvious that Taiga and Ryuuji are talking about love. And even though that’s not always what I think of when I think about finding ‘it’, there’s no denying the truth behind everything they’re saying. This anime depicts love better than any other anime–no, better than anyone or anything I’ve ever seen.

As I watched Ryuuji race towards the classroom, in those last few moments of this anime, it felt like I was watching it in slow motion. I remembered every moment the two of them ever shared together–from Taiga claiming him as her own, refusing to let anyone touch him, to Ryuuji becoming Santa Claus in the hopes of showing her that she wasn’t alone. When he opened the door to the classroom, and she wasn’t in plain sight, I about had a heart attack. But Toradora is too beautiful an anime to allow it to end that way.

“The person who deserves it the most will definitely find it.”

I couldn’t stop laughing with joy when he opened the cabinet door. Watching these two, from the beginning of their story to the ‘happily ever after’, gave me hope that maybe my vision of the way love should be isn’t completely crazy. Maybe it isn’t too farfetched to think that almost all the love stories today, both real and fictional, don’t allow people to reach far enough down into their soul to tap into that beautiful emotion. Because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that Ryuuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka are more in love than any other pair I’ve ever seen in my entire sixteen and a half years of being alive.

“This is how it’s created.”

That’s what this story has really been about, from beginning to end. That sly, conniving son of a bitch spirit that we call ‘love’ was determined to have its way with Taiga and Ryuuji, and Toradora was an anime about how the most realistic characters I’ve ever seen struggled to bring that love to fruition, to give tangible form to that which can’t be seen. Throughout the course of the series, they did exactly what Ryuuji predicted–they fought over it. Even if it wasn’t their own love they were fighting for, each of the characters in this anime put their whole being into bringing the Tiger and the Dragon together.

And I was given the honor of being allowed to watch it happen. I was able to relate to each and every character in this god damn anime. It made me weep tears of joy, sadness, frustration and excitement, sometimes all at once. This anime reminded me why I am the person I am–why I cherish those blundering idiots I call my friends, why I’m so determined to break free of my parent’s grasp, and why love fascinates me so very, very much. I felt like this anime was made just for me, and it’s been a touching, inspiring experience from beginning to end.

Every second of the way, all I could think was: FUCK YES. THIS IS PERFECT. And it was. On so very many levels, Toradora was a perfect anime, if not for anyone else, then just for me.

13 thoughts on “Diary of an Anime Lived – Toradora in the Mirror

  1. Thank you for this article, UEB, and to you DigitalBoy for publishing it. I don’t think I can relate quite as closely to Ryuji’s situation as much as you can, nor do I think Toradora! is perfect, but it is a great show for all the reasons you mention: it takes teenage life and emotions seriously and it really showed the power of friendship in a genuine and moving way. It’s definitely a top 10 show of the decade for me.

    I would suggest Honey and Clover as a next show to get into. It’s done by much of the same staff and has lots of both heart and intelligence about human relationships too.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve actually seen the first episode of Honey And Clover, and it’s definitely on my list of anime to watch.

  2. Hey UEB, I will have a much larger comment for you later since I’m a tad busy now, but I’ve got to say, this post is fucking amazing. Toradora is my second favorite anime ever and I have a hard time finding people who appreciate it like I do – and you are certainly one of them. This is one of the most powerful Toradora posts I’ve read to date, and I love it entirely, which is why I was desperate to post it up. I can’t wait for you to start blogging – I think you will be one of my new favorites.

  3. Personally, I wasn’t struck so hard, but I’m glad UEB could connect on such a level.

    As for the families, I feel Taiga’s situation (and likely the others’) with her family was more rocky than Ryuuji’s. Ryuuji and Yacchan made such a great family, whereas Taiga’s family was quite disconnected, and essentially she became part of Ryuuji’s knit.

  4. Dude. Bravo to you, UEB. Not only for writing such a well-considered and profoundly meaningful reflection, but for actually seeing past the surface and into the “heart” of a story and actually applying it to your life. You found *meaning* and, in so many ways, that is the thing the world has hid from the eyes of far too many.

    Back when Toradora! ended, I posted a challenge on a certain well-known anime forum revolving around those fifty-six words that so perfectly sum up that show. But I have to say, I was rather disheartened by the response. Not only had most people not caught on to begin with (after the first two episodes) how important that little poem was, even when all was said and done most still didn’t seem to care at all about what it meant or how it applies to the show or to them. A few attempted a reply, but much of what I got was either overly-simple or flippant. But I was encouraged by your post here, even though it has nothing to do with that challenge from so long ago.

    I guess the only other thing I want to say is this: although it’s often well-hidden, all stories have at their heart a similar gem of a message to discover — even, and especially, those shows that people often dismiss as overly-simple or flippant. But I guess those who look — those who deserve it the most — will definitely find it. So I encourage you to not buy into the lie that what you see is what you get and that’s all there is. Continue to search for meaning in everything and reflect on the way it applies to your life. Through that, you can gain a better appreciation of life itself, and I think that’s something always worth seeking.

    Whether it’s pages of a book or moving images on a screen, to connect and resonate with audiences the world over is the dream of most authors and creators. And I think the authors and creators of Toradora! would be mighty humbled by — and grateful for — what you wrote here today.

    • It makes me so glad that you can understand everything I wanted to convey through this post, especially because I can understand exactly where you’re coming from as well. I’m often too spacey to notice the meaning in a lot of things that I watch, but I can always feel it on some sort of subconscious level, and that’s probably why more or less every anime I watch affects me so much.

      Thanks for the reminding me just how important it is to look for meaning in everything you do; I’ll be sure not to let you down.

      And more than anything else, thank you for the final compliment about what the creators would think about my post. I’m truly honored that you think so, and I suppose it’s just one more funny coincidence that one of my biggest goals in life is to connect with an audience in that very same way.

      • I don’t think it’s a “funny coincidence” at all; in fact, I think it’s perfectly natural. The more deeply these influences and messages resonate with you, the more you recognize and appreciate the need and value in being able to share and resonate with others. I think all creators can probably look back in their past and point to certain people, events, and stories that had a profound impact on them, and thus influenced the course of their future. In fact, if you look at a deeply personal and “human” story like Toradora!, I fully expect that the personal experiences and influences of the authors and creators had a profound impact on the story, its message, and the way they presented the work. And now, by conveying their story, they’re passing it along to you so that you can in turn share with others. That’s why your saying that you want to do the same — and in fact doing so through this very post — would probably make them happiest of all. (Now, how’s that for sappy!)

        And also, don’t worry too much about letting others down; I have a feeling that the person hardest to please will be yourself. The challenge is in keeping on anyway. :p Hang in there!

        • All very profound. It’s always entertaining to think about the possibilities.

          But yes! Hahah, I’m more than determined to stick with it. Just gotta figure out where to go from here, forward into the future.

  5. Great post. You did a fantastic job showing how much you can relate to Toradora!. Your feelings definitely touched me. Even though my teenage years were not like the typical ones fraught with relationship issues between family and friends as we see in Toradora!, I could still relate to all the characters and emotions in the series, particularly the relationship between Ryuuji and Yasuko, since I’ve also been raised in a difficult single mother household (though my mom is quite different from Yasuko). It sounds like you know the true meaning of friendship and have great friends in return. I’m glad that you have confidence in yourself despite the opposition you’ve faced. It’s also great finding others who have been touched by an anime.

    Again, thanks for an excellent post. And it was really nice of DigitalBoy to post it on his blog. Looking forward to when you create your own blog =)

  6. I know that this was written a while ago, but I just felt like I had to say something. This post was the perfect way to describe my feeling towards this anime. I agree with everything said, and even cried a bit at some parts. Thank you so much for posting this- it’s very beautiful. This is one of, if not the, greatest things I’ve ever read. Thank you so much.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! I also almost cried when UltraEternalBlackout first sent it to me. Sadly, I haven’t heard from him since January, but this was certainly a mark he left.

  7. *Keyboard spasm*

    I really should not have gone back and re-read this. Cause then I looked at the comments. And now I wanna start up again.

    Ah, well. It’s something to put some serious thought into again. I’ve always had trouble sticking to one thing for a very long time, but…hm.

    Like I said though, it’s something to think about. A lot.

    You might, at least, be glad to hear that I’ve not slacked on my anime. I’ve watched near every series that you told me to–though it’s taken me longer than expected, and it’s slow going at the moment because of school–and even though I’m only keeping up with Ookami-san at the moment, I’m extremely religious about it.

    Lastly, two things:

    One, I would still be talking to you, but for some reason I /can not/ get my Messengers to work anymore. It’s really really annoying.

    And two, just to make sure you realize, I /have/ been keeping up with what’s going on here at Fuzakenna.

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