When most people hear the word “romance”, it often brings to mind several classic settings. A man and a woman holding hands. Walking down a moonlit path. Perhaps eating dinner together. It all comes to a head with a long hug, perhaps a passionate kiss, and the promise of commitment as they prepare to spend their lives together. For most people, that’s the ideal of how romance should work.
Anime fans know better, however.
Romcoms have long been a staple of anime: comedy stems from tragedy, and there are few things more tragic than the journey into love. From My Little Monster to Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun, anime is rife with examples of well-done romances sprinkled with comedy, and a prime example comes from the classic tale of Toradora!!
Out of the many classic character archetypes that we’ve come to know and love over the years, the tsundere is a good contender for the most well-known. Well, next to the yandere, but that’s another story. Known for loving the stuffing out of their love interest, the tsundere tends to mask their feelings behind either embarrassment or anger, usually both. Their pursuit is often hindered by their own insecurities, and they often depend on a cast of side character to help finally make their feelings known. Such is the tale of Taiga, the resident tsundere of Toradora!.
She’s not known as the ‘Palmtop Tiger’ for nothing.
Toradora! Is one of the few anime I enjoy watching both dubbed and subbed, simply because I feel that the actors convey the emotions of the characters in both the English and Japanese versions. The emotional highs and lows of high school seem to be familiar enough to most professional voice actors for them to really tap into the frantic excitement of the time, which lends a really nostalgic and fun vibe to the entire series. From the misadventures of Ryuji as he tries to please the ever-annoyed Taiga to the charming, scholarly vibe of Kitamura and the dizty joy of Minorin, Toradora! manages to condense the best and worst of high school relationships, as well as bringing out some interesting plots and problems to the table.
The core of the show revolves around the relationship between Ryuji and Taiga. Or, to be more specific, the lack of a relationship between Ryuji and Taiga. Ryuji is a loner, something of a mild-mannered drifter through high school in contrast to Taiga: a feisty, hot-tempered tsundere powerhouse tucked into a tiny body. Where Taiga lives in a posh apartment suite that her rich parents gifted to her, Ryuji lives in a small apartment with his single mother, doing his best to make ends meet. Their lives couldn’t be any more dissimilar, but love finds a way to transcend all boundaries. At least, their love for one another’s respective best friends. In order to grow closer to the people they idolize, Ryuji and Taiga team up to help achieve their goals. A purely business relationship. Or is it?
An unlikely alliance forms…
Over the course of the series, as Taiga and Ryuji go about their misadventures in love, we see their relationship slowly change from one of casual acquaintance to something more. It starts off from a basis of mutual dependence, but as they grow to know one another the shift begins to happen, albeit slowly. From spending mornings together walking to school to making cookies and venting their emotions, Ryuji and Taiga begin to genuinely care for one another. Rather than each seeing the other as a necessary obstacle in their journey, they see each other as beloved friends, and as they wrestle with their feelings they realize the true worth that they find in the other person.
As I watched the series and followed the relationship of Taiga and Ryuji, I noticed that their end realization mirrored my own life and my own relationship to Christ, in a sense. How often do I just see Christ as a stepping stone into something better? How often do I treat God like a sort of heavenly genie, only there to make my life better when I’m feeling needy or down? It’s unfair to Him for me to see Him only as a means to my own self-betterment, but all too often I find myself doing just that.
This is where His grace comes in. My struggles, my trials, my plans and schemes, He works through all of these to show me His love. The further I run from Him, the more I find solace in Him when I inevitably fall. Through it all, He is constant. He is there for me when I’m happy, and comforts me when I’m sad. He truly is my “hiding place” (Psalm 32:7) when my life seems unstable and full of turmoil. As trite and “Christian” as it is to say, God’s love never ceases to amaze me. I can’t understand how He can truly, deeply, unconditionally love someone as messed-up and stubborn as me. Yet He does. And like a true tsundere, I’m often confused by His kindness and my own feelings, so I still find myself running. But no matter what, He’s always there to pick me up when I fall, wrap His arms around me, and tell me that I’m loved.