How Toradora Shows That Loving Others Isn’t Worth It

And for all the trust in the world you have in your friend, that can't be enough on lonely nights when you wonder what might have been and, again, was it worth it?
angry sad minori kushieda

Romcom anime is usually pretty simple. You’re introduced to a couple, then to conflict in the form of live triangles, misunderstandings, personal problems that each has to work through, etc., until an eventual resolution is found and the two come together. The supporting characters exist to help the leads grow closer together, so though they’re often hurt in the process of the the protagonists finding true love, we only feel maybe a second or two of pity toward them; they usually move on, anyway, and so do we. It’s easy to forget about the losers in competition for love because generally, these character are archetypes; they have no real personality.

The supporting characters in Toradora are archetypes, too, especially at first…but then they’re more. Kitamura is the high-achieving best friend who later rebels against his parents, gets into a physical altercation with them, and has to learn what it means to grow up. Ami is the stuck-up model who gains the courage to be herself, but has deep-seated fears that come along with her notoriety and proves to be far kinder and more mature than any other character in the show. Minori is the genki girl and best friend, but reveals herself to be complicated as she’s torn in two between wanting to support her best friend and wanting to just have her own desires fulfilled.

minori confesses love to ryuuji

While Kitamura get some resolution to his story, Minori and Ami do not. They both love Ryuuji, but lose out to Taiga. Ami never seriously pursues Ryuuji because she’s gracious enough to step aside. Minori, well, kind of steps aside, but also kind of loses out. One of the great scenes in the series shows the two bonding, with Ami keeping Minori with her in her house to cry and complain, even though the two dislike each other to the point of having come to actual blows just weeks before that scene.

minorin and ami

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Toradora struck me as something unique when I first watched it as it originally aired, and it still does. Even though Ryuuji x Taiga is expected from the very opening scene, when each narrates how there’s someone out there meant for each of them (and by the title of the series itself), as in real life, nothing is tied up with a tidy bow. The anime ending, much like the complex supporting characters, is messy: Taiga goes away for a long time, and so everybody loses.

Taiga and Minori depressed

Minori’s friendship > Taiga’s friendship

So was it worth it? Was it worth it for Ami, who has never been pursued by guys who genuinely knew her and her faults, to put herself second to Taiga? Was it worth it for Minori, who so desperately needs an anchor in her life to help her deal with her tendency to burn out and the complicated feelings she’s dealing with inside, to put again put her best friend first, a best friend who really forsook her as well as Ryuuji when she leaves? Ami and Minori must feel absolutely broken, because not only did they have to deal with the heartbreak of losing Ryuuji, they also had to deal with the betrayal of the one they suffered for leaving them all. And for all the trust in the world you have in your friend, that can’t be enough on lonely nights when you wonder what might have been.

ami and minori

I sometimes wonder the same in my life. I’ve invested in a lot of people who didn’t invest in me when given the chance. It’s sometimes left me bitter. Right now, I’m dealing with someone who I tried desperately hard to help, but who now passively-aggressively christens me a liar and a sinner, and won’t let it go. And although my head knows that grace is the answer, and though I comprehend how how I’m a hypocrite who has done the same and has been rescued in my own right, my heart loudly proclaims, “No, in all those instances, it was not worth it to love.”

But you know what? I think sometimes it’s okay to feel that way. It’s genuine, it’s harsh, it’s real. And as Minori and Ami were able to grow what I imagine was a deep, meaningful relationship through the pain, I will grow, too, in ways I can’t understand right now. And sometimes, a lamp onto my feet, just enough to keep going, has to be enough, to step forward a foot at a time when the darkness is all around, and walking ahead as if love is always worth it, even if right now, I don’t feel that way at all.

10 Comments on this post.

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  • sillybones
    16 May 2017 at 9:07 am

    >Ami and Minori must feel absolutely broken, because not only did they have to deal with the heartbreak of losing Ryuuji

    Yet Ami never had him to begin with, and chose to never truly put her heart into pursuing him… so how could she “lose” him? And Minorin had him from the start, knew it, yet gave him up instead of pursuing him. They both learned that love *is* worth it, and you’ve only yourself to blame if you flee from it.

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    • TWWK
      16 May 2017 at 10:55 am

      Thanks for the comments!

      You’re right in that Ami never “had” Ryuuji, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t lose him. She lost the opportunity to be with someone she really liked. My experience is that even if she didn’t pursue Ryuuji, it doesn’t mean that her heart wasn’t given in some extent to him. Ultimately, I want to make the point that we can give all this wise, lovely advice about love being worth the heartache, but reality says that maybe it’s not. It’s great to say that we have only to blame ourselves if we run for it, but that’s not easy to swallow in the moment when you’re in pain, or if you’re too shy to pursue someone, or if you’re like Minorin and considering others’ feelings right besides your own, or if you’re Ami and trying to help other people mature while sacrificing your own desires. Love may be worth it – I definitely believe it is – but it’s something worth questions, worth considering, and worth following the breadcrumbs for as we piece together WHY it’s worth it and what love really means.

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      • sillybones
        16 May 2017 at 1:59 pm

        Sure, and I do appreciate that angle. I think I just interpret things slightly differently. Toradora explores different types of love and how important they are to people. Ami had finally found genuine friendship and wasn’t yet ready to risk that on something more. Minori could not choose between her love for Taiga or Ryuuji. In that light the heartbreak they felt wasn’t so much in “losing” Ryuuji as it was in having to make a choice. As in, sometimes the love you could have isn’t worth risking the love you already have.

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        • TWWK
          16 May 2017 at 2:14 pm

          Those are excellent points. Thank you for sharing!

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  • Gaheret
    16 May 2017 at 6:01 pm

    What an honest, difficult and sincere post. Thank you.

    I never thought that way about Toradora. I simply stood by Minori Kushieda from the beginning to the end: I saw her wishing to fall in love and falling in love. I saw her fighting to the point of overburn, trying to be herself, to be helpful, to be sincere, struggling with guilt and finally deciding to sacrifice her very good chance for a dear, unhappy and shy friend. Seeing the type of relationship Ryuuji and Taiga had versus the type of relationship she and Ryuuji had, I believe it was a wise decision. It was by no means an easy one. But Kushieda stuck to it to the end.

    And there she was while doubting, suffering and stumbling, maintaining her friendship in these difficult circumstances, fiercelly preventing Ryuuji and Taiga from hiding behind a comfortable lie in her unique and corageous way. She shouted her confession in the corridors to console Taiga, and smiled to Ryuuji to the very end. She gave them their savings for the future, earned slowly with her best efforts. And then allowed herself to cry near Ami. And they were together. Taiga betrayed them? Well… I would say she was broken since she was a child, and that she had the strenght to return to her mother: anyway, Kushieda was the one who understood her friend´s lone star… But letting that aside, if Taiga is healing and Ryuuji is not alone, it is because of the slow, painful sacrifice of Midori Kushieda, because she gave all without expecting a reward. And in the process, she grew, she became stronger, she opened up, she helped others, she knew love.

    So I agree she may feel pain and darkness, after the story ended, as you say, and doubt herself, and feel betrayed and alone, and wish things were different, and that it´s OK, and it´s hard, and only God knows how hard. But somewhat, I doubt she would change her decision if she could. Secondary character and all, she was the one who truly enlighted Toradora, she was the one who loved when it was harder. That can´t be lost, not forever. Every great heart is destined to be full someday, and all true love is a sign and a stream of hope. So blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted…

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    • TWWK
      16 May 2017 at 7:56 pm

      Thanks for the great insight, and thank you for the kind words. What I want to develop here is community, and that starts with vulnerability, with stripping off the facade that hallelujah, everything is alright. In fact, while God is good and joy is found in him, struggles are real, sin is real. Paul provides a model when he admits his struggles with sin, and I want our readers to know that life is hard, that you’ll fail, and that you may not get up quickly or at all, but God is still good.

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      • Gaheret
        17 May 2017 at 4:55 am

        Indeed. I had seen that line of thinking in your previous posts -but I usually don´t comment about series I haven´t watched-. It reminds me of how Flannery O´Connor once said that the good in this world is always grotesque in a way, under construction, built upon misery, falls and wounds, not a cliché or a smoothing-down that will only soften its real look. Unlike evil or hipocrisy, it won´t disguise, so those aspects will be more and more visible… Vulnerability is the way to hope. Being poor, needed, open… I understand that everyone who tooks the “smiley” approach when confronting the misteries of the life in the Spirit is at risk of becoming like Job´s friends, either that or overburn. For hope to be hope, it has to come from the Cross, to confront mistery, to be purified even in its good deeds… but even when it´s so complex, I feel it has also a childlike, simple quality to it.

        I would say that Kushieda isn´t exactly wearing a facade like Ami was. They´re similar -in love, hiding, sacrificing- yet opposite. Minori is surely a bit hallelujah, but when she opens up she isn´t very different, and she can be openly angry or serious when necessary. So I think that ther attitude is genuine, but she went too far with it. She made big errors under all that pressure, putting all the weight on herself, resting in no one: I think her sacrifice was wise, but like she said, she wasn´t respecting Taiga (and Ryuuji) enough, and like you said, she really needed an anchor.

        I have a peculiar personality and role myself, so I often try to find that balance. It´s OK to rest in someone now, or my mission requires me to endure it and rest later? It hasn´t been always “you should rest”… What I´m really looking for here, what can that or that other person offer, what can I do for them, why did him or her show up in my life? Will saying this or that, doing this or that be a good thing in the long term? I´m abandoning my mission towards someone? I´m pushing too hard, I´m being proud, hard, or impatient? I´m being genuine, I´m trying to be liked? Where do I go from here? What if I suddenly feel alone? It´s just or unjust to be angry in this or that situation? What if I´m becoming proud and enclosing myself in some -perhaps- good deed? What about this or that sin? Loving like this, it´s pure? It´s right? Am I selfish? Will it help the girl? What if another girl likes me? Can I be a friend? Will it hurt her more afterwards? It´s my guilt obscuring my sight? I´m isolating? I´m becoming cold or lukewarm towards God as the days pass? Should I go back to work now and stop commenting here in Beneath the Tangles? It´s never easy, there are no clear-cut answers and in the end, I only know that all our hope should be in God whatever we do, whatever happens, and that we should always try again to walk His path… Again, thank you.

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        • TWWK
          17 May 2017 at 8:02 am

          Yeah, I agree with you about Minori – she’s complex, and although we all put on a facade, her’s is less so and less intentional, for sure, than Ami’s And thank you for your sharing so much! Although the questions are rhetorical (or for God), I do have an answer for one: yes, you should stop commenting here and get back to work! Haha.

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  • Gaheret
    16 May 2017 at 6:06 pm

    And I would say something similar about how Ami Kawashima became a true friend who could be helpful and wise and be who she was without fear, free from the bounds of her previous egotism and facade… that must have felt refreshing!

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    • TWWK
      16 May 2017 at 7:58 pm

      I think she did few refreshed when she could become that kind of friend, that genuine person who is both more outwardly sinful than those around her and far kinder – perhaps which is why Minori, who begins to show her real self, is both a kindred spirit with Ami and, at least for a good chunk of the narrative, an enemy.

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