Toradora!, Vol. 9

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 Will Holcomb.

The character arc of Toradora! as a whole has generally been each of the characters trying to save each other from jumping off a cliff by jumping off the same cliff first, and that reaches a crescendo here, in a volume that might as well be called “Toradora!: Everyone Hates Themselves SO MUCH”. Ryuuji is the poster child here, of course, shouting into the void that no one will let him sacrifice his life and future. To be fair, he has very real concerns. His family are indeed poor, and his mother, despite being a comedy character for almost the entire series to date, is working herself sick so that he can have a better life. But his solution in the course of “realistic ideas” is stubborn, petulant and bad, and you want to strangle him. Things are not helped by Taiga being absent from the first part of the book, dealing with her own drama, which doesn’t become apparent till the climax. Hell, even Ami is super angsty here. Everyone wants to run away.

We’re back at school after the events of the last volume, but everything is not back to normal, no matter how much Ryuuji tries to make it happen. He’s having nightmares about Taiga dying at the ski slopes… while in class. The class is sympathetic, but this is a far cry from the Ryuuji of the start of the series. His main concern is the career survey he hasn’t turned in, though: he’s determined to get a job so that his mother can take it easy, and he might do college later. His mother is adamant that no, he will be doing college, even if she has to work a second job to earn more money. Taiga does eventually show up, having recovered from a head wound she got from her fall, but she too is reluctant to complete the career survey, and, when it’s eventually revealed that it was Ryuuji who saved her and heard her confession, shows she’s just as unable to deal with the fallout. The book ends with the two, confronted by their mothers, literally running away from everything.

As for the supporting cast, aside from one of Those Two Guys showing off he’s had a girlfriend all this time (which reads as somewhat out of nowhere), it’s all about Ami and Minori. Ami is almost as bad as our two leads in the “why am I so terrible?” sweepstakes, bemoaning that she let things like friendship stop her from transferring out like she planned to earlier in the year… and is now planning to do again, without confessing to Ryuuji or patching things up with Minori. As for Minori, she admits (in an extended rant while chasing Taiga) that she’s loved Ryuuji all this time, but that’s no excuse for Taiga to sacrifice everything for her. In fact, that’s the theme of the whole book: Self-sacrifice for the sake of others is painful and dumb.

The next book is the last in the main series (there are three side-story novels as well, but I wouldn’t hold my breath), and I’ve no doubt things will eventually work out. For now, though, enjoy everyone being very, very sad and flagellating themselves.

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