By Yuyuko Takemiya and Zekkyo. Released in Japan by ASCII Media Works, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
Given how impossible it is for most mass media to avoid cliches and tropes, the question often becomes “how well does this work manage the cliche”? This volume of Toradora! handles this in both a comedic and serious fashion. The Culture Festival rears its ugly head, and though thoughts of a maid cafe drift through our male classmates’ heads, what we end up with is far sillier, particularly after it’s subverted midway through. It’s the more serious plotline that folks will take with them, however – Taiga’s father is back in her life again, and wants her to come live with him. Something which a projecting Ryuuji can’t help but assist with.
Ryuuji is not helped by the cover art for the volume, showing a tear-filled Taiga and Ryuuji looking askance. This clues the reader in that we are meant to be in her side in the matter. Things are not helped by the appearance of her father himself, who seems far too contrite and meek to be true. Of course he’s playing right into Ryuuji’s hands, though I don’t think that it’s deliberate on his part – her father isn’t genuinely evil, he’s just monumentally selfish. What he doesn’t know, but we do, is that Ryuuji’s lack of a father figure looms incredibly large in his life. And so naturally Ryuuji is going to move heaven and earth to see Taiga and her father reunite, just as he can never do.
On the other side we have Taiga and Minori, who have experience with her father doing all this before and know the truth. Crucially, however, neither of them tell Ryuuji that full truth. In meta terms, this is because the plot has to happen. In the story itself, though, Taiga is more understandable. She gets the reasons why Ryuuji wants this to happen, she’s in love with Ryuuji and doesn’t want to disappoint him, and she really does love her father despite everything, so she opens herself up to him one more time. Minori, though, I’m rather disappointed in, as you’d think she’d be the one to sit Ryuuji down and say ‘Hey, let me give you a timeline of the times this guy has tried this with Taiga before.’ Instead, she just gets angry, saying it’s obvious he’s being a selfish ass. And so they fight, which, Ryuuji still having lingering feelings for Minori, devastates him.
Luckily, Ami is there to be the voice of reason and get Ryuuji out of his funk. Unluckily, Taiga’s dad *is* everything they say he is, and therefore things come to a head at the culture festival with a devastating text sent to Ryuuji. And, once Ryuuji sees for himself what’s going on, he gets it all IMMEDIATELY – a sign of his maturity, even as he backslides here. Sadly, resolution will have to wait – this is the end of the volume, and so we get the horrible cliffhanger with Taiga’s appearance on stage waiting for parental acknowledgement that will never come. How is this going to be resolved? Well, Toradora! comes out about every year and a half in Japan, so we’ll likely have to wait till summer 2015 to find out. See, and folks wonder why publishers don’t want to catch up to Japan…