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.
This is a light novel series that is coming out in America well after both the manga and the anime (though the manga remains unfinished as it crawls along in Japan), so to a certain degree there’s very little “surprise” involved in the contents. I knew that we would eventually be dealing with the volume with Taiga’s father, and here it is. As such, a good deal of the book consists of the reader yelling at Ryuuji “NOOOOO, DON’T TRUST HIIIIIM, YOU IIIIIDDDIOOOOOTTT!”, which to be fair Minori does as well. It’s actually rather refreshing, as usually Ryuuji is the sensible, down-to-earth core of these books, so it’s somewhat startling to see him so taken in by Taiga’s dad. Of course, it’s spelled out why he is; he longs for a relationship with his father he can never have, and now he can sort of get it via Taiga. Of course, this means it’s not about what Taiga wants at all, something that he realizes in a horrified sort of way when everything goes wrong.
Before we move on, I want to note that, while Toradora! is quite funny and has some excellent gags, it does lean on one running gag through this book that I wasn’t very fond of. Yuri, the class teacher, turns thirty in this book, something that she and the author make you very aware of. There is a bit of sympathy for her near the end (bless you, Ami), but for the most part the joke is that she’s 30 and unmarried, and the constant (30 years old) tags after her name grow annoying. Of course, without that we would not have had the class wrestling play, which has to be read to be believed, although I admit I think it worked better in more visual mediums. Taiga and Ryuuji really do make an excellent evil duo. And then there’s the race at the end, where Ryuuji and Minori, both incredibly furious with themselves, get involved in a nasty little race to see who can crown Miss Taiga with a tiara of “I’m most important to you!”. The race is fantastic, though I do wonder, given the apparent injuries that occurred during it, why no one got in trouble.
Ryuuji and Minori have a huge fight here, of course, Ryuuji coming from a position of ignorance and Minori from one of having been here before. She withholds that from him, though, deliberately. Minori is upset that Taiga is not only closer to Ryuuji these days, but seems to be getting herself hurt again by making up with her father purely for Ryuuji’s sake. The series to date has been about Taiga and Ryuuji having one-sided crushes, and in the last book we wondered if Ryuuji’s was really one-sided after all. Now we see Minori wondering, out loud, after her struggle to be the one most dear to Taiga, if she’s a lesbian. Leaving aside Ryuuji’s response, which is understandable but won him zero points in the fandom, it’s an interesting question, and I wonder if the author will develop it later on or if it merely serves as an odd coda to this excellent volume.