Twelve Moments in Anime No. 3: Ryuuji and Minorin Race to the Finish
Whew, good to be caught up on these anime moments posts! Of course I still have others to write eventually such as that Monster post I missed last week for various reasons, and the “I’m going to catch up with Cross Game!” pledge that hasn’t quite caught on yet. :p I’m getting there, though. I’m getting there.
Technically the next moment I’m highlighting is not from an episode that aired in 2009; however, it did air on Christmas day of 2008, which technically places it within the time frame of “the past year”, so therefore I conclude that I can include it within this project. Plus, it’s fucking Toradora — who will complain about that?
Toradora deals with young love, family and lasting friendships in a great way and has a fantastic cast of characters, but another big part of what makes Toradora enjoyable for me is that it always nails the big moments without fail, and with a truly great sense of energy and style. You can really feel the passion flowing through each scene, particularly in the above scene from the series’ wonderful thirteenth episode where Ryuuji runs like a madman (and beats fools down in the process) so that he can make amends with Taiga, and, really, so that some random knucklehead won’t swoop in and steal that dance with Taiga. Then when Ryuuji is about to win after literally running over a horde of guys, Minorin joins in for her chance to also make amends with Taiga . . . until the assholes from the track team try to ruin that. (One detail I love is all the students booing the track athletes like they’re pro wrestling heels, which goes great with the show Ryuuji and Taiga’s class puts on.)
We all know what happens after that: Minorin runs roughshod on the track assholes and sacrifices herself so that Ryuuji can cross the finish line unfettered — except he won’t stand for that and goes back for Minorin, because, damn it, she deserves that victory too. I’ll be honest here: I haven’t watched a second of Toradora since finishing the finale nearly nine months ago, and yet watching this scene put a lump in my throat almost immediately. That’s the power it has over me. A great scene and a great moment from a great series.
One last comment on why it works so well: From a strictly practical standpoint, this shouldn’t be a “big” dramatic moment, because in the grand scheme of things, it’s just Ryuuji and Minorin winning a silly race in high school that probably means something only to them. But Toradora perfectly transmits at all times just what these moments mean to these people as individuals, as friends, as family and as people in love. We get it because it’s truly honest to the perception of each character. In a way, it reminds me of what I consider to be the greatest kids show of all time, The Adventures of Pete and Pete. The genius of that show is that it truly captures what it is like to be a kid — the world is this big, surreal mess to them, and everything kids cannot explain becomes larger than life instead of the boring reality it probably is.
The characters of Pete and Pete live in a constant state of wonder (well, Big Pete lives in a constant state of horniness, but I digress); the characters in Toradora are at the points in their lives where they’re approaching the bridge between exiting that world of wonder (the towns we grow up in are basically the entire universe to us until we leave) and the Adult World. That trepidation is reflected near the end, but for the most part, Ryuuji, Taiga, Minorin, Kitamura and Ami pack in all the wonder they can before they enter Adulthood: Trial Version (i.e. college) and then the Adult World itself. And this race is packed to the fuckin’ gills with wonder — it reminds me perfectly of all the ultimately small moments I had in high school that remain huge in my heart, because they’re mine, damn it!