My wife and I are always on the lookout for series that we can watch together. Our tastes are so divergent, though, that we rarely find that magical combination (I say SHIROBAKO, she says New Game. I say Durarara, she says Fairy Tail.). So recently, I went back to Toradora, one of my favorites, and one that she liked, too, but couldn’t remember real well, and suggested we watch it again. Two episodes in (I forget how fast this series moves), confessions are already made and relationships are all over the place.
In the midst of the tangled webs already woven by that point, my wife turned to me and asked, “Are we supposed to know already that [Ryuuji and Taiga] like each other?”
Toradora thrives on the messiness of relationships, the entanglements that happens when our communication styles become barriers and when people like other people who don’t like them back, or don’t really know who they like, or like people they don’t know they like. It’s great for entertainment, but a headache should it occur in real life.
Even in friendships, I don’t like my relationships messy. I like them tidy. When someone is having a hard time, I encourage them in a sterile way: chat, pray, say “hi” on Sundays, and let them know “I’m here” if they want to talk. I plan to follow up, but I don’t always.
I was reminded of my squeaky-clean approach to people on Tumblr a couple of nights back when I received a notification that a mutual followed me. Wait…how can a mutual follow me? That could only happen if that mutual wasn’t a mutual at all. At some point, she must have unfollowed me, and then changed her mind. This specific individual was someone I spent a lot of time investing in, and for someone who is pretty busy (I know, eye rolls, but srs I am), that’s meaningful. Just not apparently meaningful for the person in question.
This isn’t the first time this is happened to me – I can think of about a dozen instances where people I cared about unfollowed me on various platforms. I’m guessing you can as well. It hurts me. And then it angers me. Instead of ignoring the situation, I become bitter. I consider unfollowing the person with a digital brand of vengeance. Aha! Thanks for following me again! But…wait for it…UNFOLLOW. Mwahahahaha!
As such a big proponent of grace, I’m ashamed to admit this is what I’m thinking, and even worse, that I’m considering vengeance and willing to settle on ignore. But Ryuuji, that gangster-eyed clean freak, demonstrates a better way.
At the end of episode two, with Taiga having been rejected by Kitamura, Ryuuji is free to go on his way and forget this strange relationship in his life ever existed. In fact, he already had a way out, as he was unfollowed by Taiga, who had earlier declared that they would now be “classmates who happen to be neighbors,” not intimate friends as they had become. But Ryuuji cares about Taiga; he won’t ignore her, or poke fun at her about what happened. Instead, he encourages her, skips class with her, cooks for her, and continues to let Taiga insult him. He continues to sacrifice for a girl who has thus far done nothing for him.
And when I see that relationship, something flips. I know that I want to be like Ryuuji, and I’m encouraged to love those who hurt me, but I also realize this: I’m not only unlike Ryuuji in this moment, I’m very much like Taiga. Like her, I’m a challenge to love. I’m difficult. I’m stubborn. And I say and do things that hurt people all the time. And yet, I have a wife who loves me – who’ll even watch my favorite series with me – and even further, a God who knows even worse things that I can barely admit to myself, much less anyone else…and who still remains by my side.
Stream Toradora legally on Crunchyroll.