The opening scenes both of the Toradora anime and light novel start with Ryuuji trying to rid himself of his most hated quality: the sharp eyes he inherited from his yakuza father. Because he looks so sinister, Ryuuji has long had trouble establishing friendships. But his other characteristics also bother him:
It wasn’t just his eyes, though. Thanks to his curt personality, his way of speaking probably also came off a little rough. Sometimes he got high-strung, too. More than that, though, was the fact that he was the type of person who struggled with the fine line between jokes and sarcasm…
Ryuuji, in fact, is totally lacking in self-confidence. He is fixated on his eyes and a million other things. A similar comparison could be made with the other characters in Toradora, though: Taiga and her inability to express herself; Minori and her lack of authenticity; Kitamura and his desire to be someone else; and Ami and her overthinking.
Toradora is special in part because of this brilliant cast of imperfect characters. They’re complicated and incredibly real. The series often gets zany, but its heart is grounded emotionally in real life. The kids feel like kids. They feel like me, in fact, when I was a year or two away from graduating high school. If I’m even more honest, they feel like me when I was even in my mid-twenties.
Confidence comes at different times for different people. Some are maybe made confident from inside the womb; others are made that way through parenting. But we all are affected by our choices, and for me, like with Ryuuji and the rest, I felt lacking in so many ways as an adolescent. Confidence came, but much later in life.
The same, no doubt, will happen to Ryuuji, Taiga, Minori, Kitamura, and Ami. But for now, and especially in volume one of the light novel, which we’re reading in preparation for our club discussion, insecurities remain. And I’m glad, because they help me understand that when I’m reading Toradora, I’m investing in something real.
Read volume one of the Toradora light novel and join us for our discussion on November 9th!
Featured illustration by Paja (reprinted w/permission)