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 fourth volume of Toradora! does a very good job of playing to the series’ strengths. The core of it is getting the five main characters to become closer and bond as friends, and it achieves that. That said, there is also the romantic comedy/drama part of it, and that’s even better. It was always going to be hard for a series where the winning pairing is literally in the name to try to have “who will they end up with?”, but this volume comes closer than any so far. Ryuuji is still crippled by his awkwardness around Minori, but when he tries to can actually have a really meaningful conversation with her where she opens up (obliquely) about her own insecurities. As for Ami, not only does Ryuuji force her to open up a bit more (a very little bit more) about her own insecurities, but she also flat out states she thinks Minori and him would be a bad match, and that he should hook up with her. As for Taiga? Well, there’s the puppy dream.
The puppy dream is great. Starting off as ridiculous, with both Taiga and Ryuuji completely disgusted by it, the reader is immediately thinking “they’re sharing dreams now!”. By the end of the book, Ryuuji is seeing how the dream could also be taken as really sweet and familial. That said, for the most part the Taiga/Ryuuji antics take a backseat here… or at least the boil settles down to a mild simmer, as there are no shortage of scenes showing them being each other’s perfect halves. Taiga fares far less well in the romance department here, partly as she’s still cripplingly shy and partly as Kitamura is even more Kitamura than usual, complete with accidental flashing. I do sort of wonder how clued in he is to everything going on around him – like Minori, he thinks that Ryuugi and Taiga are meant to be a couple, if not already, but it’s not clear that he’s realized Taiga’s feelings.
That said, this is Minori’s book in the end, as she shows off a fragile vulnerability here, and there’s the first signs that she may feel something for Ryuuji as well. Unfortunately, both are the sort to back off at the last minute – as Ami bluntly points out, they can’t get close to each other. But we also have lots of Minori acting goofy, and of course the giant “let’s try to scare Minori” horror movie plotline, which gives us the opportunity for some great laughs. Toradora! holds up over a lot of other comedy romances in that the comedy does not feel forced or cliched, a la “whoops I just fell into your boobs”. The humor is natural, realistic, and both situational and character-driven. But it’s the drama that readers may take away from this volume. Will things change when they go back to school? Will Ami press her suit/ Will Minori do anything? Will Taiga yell at Ryuuji? At least one of those things is guaranteed to happen!