Toradora!, Vol. 3

By Yuyuko Takemiya and Yasu. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jan Cash & Vincent Castaneda. Adapted by Lora Gray.

In many ways this feels like a filler volume in the series, but I think it’s actually focusing more on the main cast and how Ryuuji is able to understand them – or not, as the case may be. Ryuuji is a nice, kind person but he’s not all that good at getting “what women want”, so to speak. That applies to Taiga, who spends much of this book intensely frustrated and upset – even for her. It also applies to Ami, who has been given her depth in the last book and so is free to backslide and be the ‘evil transfer student’ everyone was fearing – or is she merely trying to aggressively flirt? And then there’s Minori, who is theoretically Ryuuji’s crush, but who he seems to try to understand the least, letting her walk through the novel being Taiga’s goofy best friend without pondering why she acts the way she does. It’s not just “I am weird”, Ryuuji. By the end of the book he hasn’t figured much out either, but the stage is at least set for the next part of the series.

The book takes place immediately after the previous one, where Ami put Ryuuji in a compromising position and is now gleefully watching the fireworks. Taiga, of course, insists she is not angry, and we know what that means. Worse, swimming classes are up next, and Taiga has to wear a swimsuit (thus showing off her childlike figure) and also swim (which she can’t). Things come to a head when Ami invites Ryuuji to her summer home over the break, so they could get to know each other better. Taiga snaps, and we’re set up for a swimming challenge – the winner essentially gets Ryuuji. You could argue Ryuuji’s biggest mistake in this book is not shutting this down before it starts, but instead, he does his best to teach Taiga to swim and try to figure out why she’s so upset – which isn’t quite the reason he thinks.

This book came out about twelve years ago in Japan, and so a lot of the things that might feel obvious to the reader were a lot fresher then. If the big drawback in this volume is that there’s very little forward movement, the plus is this allows us to see a lot of silly and/or heartwarming scenes that we might not otherwise have gotten. The cold opening at the hospital, where we worry that Ryuuji’s mother may have died but then realize the far more amusing truth, is an absolutely perfect scene. Ami too is a horrible delight, and the humiliation she goes through near the end once again feels especially deserved. But as always the main reason to love this is Taiga, who is a bundle of issues and all the more readable because of them. Her “solution” to the challenge was fantastic, if also appalling.

If I recall correctly from the manga, the next volume should be especially strong. This one isn’t a world beater, but it’s fun, especially if you like seeing Taiga blow up.

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