Our Development Director, Ceci, has been pulling double duty lately by also hosting Toradora watch parties for us. We’re through the first four episodes and it’s been a great fun! We watch the episodes together and chat away, getting each other’s points of view about particular scenes and positing various theories and opinions. We’re moving on to episodes five and six tonight (come join us!), but before we get there, I wanted to dig a little deeper into a question I asked during our first watch party: Did Yusaku misunderstand Taiga’s confession in episode two?
Yusaku’s reply is a little strange, so I’ve always wondered if there was a misunderstanding there. Or was he simply letting Taiga down gently in his weird, Yusaku way?
Though perhaps there’s room for some debate, the answer seems to bend toward the latter. In the year between his confession to Taiga and her confession to him, Yusaku has moved forward. He no longer harbors romantic feelings toward her.
As the series progresses, spoilers ahead, we discover that Yusaku is now in love with the student council president, Sumire. The latter is loud and commanding, but has a softness inside and cares very much for Yusaku especially. In these ways, she actually seems a lot like Taiga (and they’re both tsunderes after all). So why does Yusaku transfer his feelings from one tsundere to another?
Though I’m not sure with what depth Yusaku harbored a crush on Taiga, It’s easy to see that his love for Sumire is definitely authentic. His feelings forward her push Yusaku in all sorts of directions—some negative (that weird rebellious phase he goes through) and others positive. Ultimately, he makes a decision to chase after her, even though Sumire is moving across the world to pursue her own dream. Whatever Yusaku sees in Sumire is more than skin deep; he sees who she is, and desires with all his heart to intimately be a part of that.
So the reasoning has nothing to do with Sumire being better than Taiga. What Yusaku is drawn to, instead, is the deeper connection he has with Sumire. Taiga was his type, but his was only an infatuation; deep down, Sumire has his heart.
Friendships can work this way, too. If you’re like me, you changed “friend groups” more than once during adolescence and into college. Looking back, I don’t think one group was more mature than the other, but I do know that with each change, I found a deeper connection. I didn’t want to leave old friends, but I was compelled to because the new relationships offered something powerful that the previous ones did not.
And faith, too, can be the same, although unfortunately we often spend years—even a lifetime—centered on infatuation, stuck with a crush on Taiga instead of pursuing a relationship with Sumire. I went through something like that during college and into adulthood. As a third year, I encountered God on a much deeper level than I had previously, and made a decision to follow him based on a developing relationship rather than being force fed church worship and Sunday school lessons. I was smitten, spending a great deal of time every day studying the Bible, praying, and praising. But eventually, as it always does in relationships, the initial high wore off. And then for a number of years, I went through the motions with my faith. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was a lukewarm Christian, stuck in a habit and not growing any further in my knowledge of God. My relationship with him was like Yusaku’s with Taiga at the start of the series, right at the point where she confesses to him—I appreciated God, I liked him, and I did love him, but I was no longer attracted to him.
Later, though, my relationship with God did deepen. Through discipline, but more so hardship, I came to know him intimately, and while the “spark” hasn’t returned with quite the same force as it did initially, my knowledge of his ways and amazement at who he is keeps burrowing deeper and deeper. My relationship is no longer skin deep. My surface level love for God has been replaced by a more complex and valuable one.
I’ve traded Taiga for Sumire.
Not every day is great, not even every season. But the relationship grows deeper and more meaningful as the months and years go by, built by his grace and as I pursue him through worship (even if imperfect, even if at times difficult). And I’ve realized that though I miss the passion of youth, I wouldn’t trade the Sumire I know for the Taiga I once liked. Life is fuller with Sumire. More meaningful. Worth making a fool over, and worth chasing across an ocean.
And that shouldn’t be a surprise after all, as I’ve realized that it’s the same with God as it is in romance and Toradora: A crush isn’t love, and in spite of how good it might feel, there’s something better in store when the emotional high lessens and you pursue an infinitely more complex, meaningful, and significant relationship. Saying goodbye to Taiga means saying hello to Sumire—and that’s a trade that’s worth making.
Join us for watch party tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. ET! You can follow our event on Facebook to be reminded when it time to watch!