Why has Toradora retained its popularity all these years while other anime romcoms, so beloved in their time, have gone by the wayside? I would say that a substantial reason for its enduring admiration is because of the development of the central relationship between Ryuuji and Taiga: It’s messy and authentic, and actually leads somewhere. The two aren’t put front and center just for show, to titillate viewers into thinking “Oh, they could get together!” They steadily move along a course toward a romantic relationship. And even though kissy kissy stuff comes along toward the end of the series, major developments occur early on as well, including the first real confession in the show, one that happens in a most unusual place—at a high school pool.
A few weeks ago, we streamed episodes 7 and 8 together during our biweekly Amazon watch party (we’ll be watching episodes 11-13 this Wednesday—come join us!); the latter focused on a swim competition between Taiga and Ami that takes a dramatic turn in the final of minutes when a couple of boys are tossed into the pool right on top of Ryuuji’s head. Dazed and drowning, the first person to come to his rescue is Taiga, who can’t even properly swim.
The confession part happens afterwards. The students’ P.E. coach insists on taking Ryuuji to the nurse, but Taiga will have none of it—in fact, she’s basically done with everyone, raging that no one else helped because, as she sees it, they were obsessed with Ami in her swimsuit. Taiga chastises the crowd: How could they let Ryuuji almost drown for such a trivial matter?
And then, at the peak of her rant, she screams it aloud: “Ryuuji is mine!”
Not, not your usual love confession, and in fact, Taiga herself later walks it back some, once again retreating to her master / dog analogy, but viewers realize how meaningful her declaration is, to yell something so personal and embarrassing in front of her entire class, though it does seem like an odd choice of words. You would think an “I love him!” or “He means everything to me!” would pour from her lips, but “Ryuuji is mine”? I wouldn’t have guessed that anyone would make such an exclamation of love.
And yet, there’s so much depth in those three words—perhaps more than in the other three little words that mark love confessions (at least in how a teenage, would-be couple understands them). Taiga doesn’t just infer love with the declaration; she strongly defines Ryuuji as her possession. He is hers.
There’s a defiance exhibited in how she chooses to confess. Since it follows up her berating of others (The teacher? The students? Her own friends and crush?) for not paying attention to Ryuuji, Taiga is demonstrating this fiery indignation: How dare you? This is MY possession? How dare you almost let it be destroyed?
The idea of possession when it comes to people is often clouded by the darkness of that evil institution, slavery. Man possessed man; their slaves were possessions—quasi-human. The cruelty of such actions was the absolute height of hatred. When Christ explained that our hateful words are the same as murder, he equated a vision of people as less than God’s craftsmanship as a defiling of them; by removing their human dignity, we kill that person in our hearts and souls. Slavery does just exactly that.
But another institution—marriage—also conveys the idea of possession. In the Bible, it’s explained as the bringing together of two as one. Each person in this covenant agrees to love the other as if that person were their very selves. As one possesses faculties and body parts, so, too, do they possess their partner. That’s the kind of depth which Taiga expresses in her outburst. This is no mere friend—Ryuuji belongs to her as if he was part of her very self. And so with jealousy, she guards him. Taiga refers to Ryuuji as her dog, but she’s on the prowl here, not letting anyone near, not even the teacher.
Again, jealousy is one of those words with a negative connotation, but it doesn’t have to be that way. One can be jealous for the object of that jealousy’s good. Taiga, for instance, isn’t jealous in the sense that she doesn’t want Ryuuji to pursue Minorin or even Ami; she is worried about his very life being taken away. She is jealous for him because she values Ryuuji so much—by this point, probably more than anyone in the world outside of Yasuko.
Returning to the Bible, jealousy is often mentioned there as a very attribute of God, and thus, is not meant to be seen in a poor light in those verses. God doesn’t become jealous in some childish fit; he is jealous. He refuses for his people to worship anyone but him because, unlike a friend-zoned dude who sees himself as some heroic knight and his crush’s boyfriend as an evil baron, God isn’t a foolish human—he is truly is worthy of all our affections. When we turn toward the things of this world, to anything else other than him, we turn toward destruction. We veer from the path of righteousness and life. So like Taiga, God’s jealousy is for our good, for our protection, for our lives.
With such passion and love, maybe I shouldn’t have been astonished to hear the words that Taiga used in her confession, nor should I be surprised of the picture of God as one who would likewise hold onto us, rescuing us from certain death, and shouting: “(your name) is mine!” What an outlandish, loud, and embarrassing kind of love! How possessive. How jealous. How beautiful.