Toradora! 17: “Mercury Retrogrades at Christmas”

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Inexplicable title aside, the watershed seventeeth episode of Toradora! marks a turning point in the show’s plot development. First and foremost, we are treated to a new OP — silky heart, as sung by Yui Horie (Minorin). Mustically, it’s merely the typical infectious J-pop song you’d expect. What’s even more interesting is the montage of images that accompanies it.

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From what I see, it seems like J.C. Staff is trying to “phase out” Kitamura as a main character  — it’s an unsurprising development (DON’T EVEN DENY IT — I KNOW YOU CHEATED, WENT AHEAD AND READ THE LIGHT NOVELS) but I was surprised that this shift was presented (1) so early and (2) so bluntly. I smell a love quadrangle on the horizon…!

Plot-wise, it’s a pretty slow episode whose sole purpose seems to be setting the stage for events to come. With Christmas on the horizon, newly-christened Student Council President and “God of Broken Hearts” Kitamura announces that a school dance will be held on Christmas Eve; naturally, students must attend as couples. Taiga assumes the role of matchmaker (“angel/saint of love”), planning to get Ryuuji and Minorin together at that time.

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Minorin, however, is not her usual self. At the beginning of the episode we see her fumble in softball and lose her team the match. After that, she is seen in various states of emotional disturbance and breakdown but the other characters only realize its magnitude when she flat-out rejects an invitation to plan or even attend the Christmas dance. The tension is blatantly lampshaded when Taiga theorizes that Minorin is trying to avoid Ryuuji.

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She skips out on that night’s study session, during which Haruta and Noto “subtly” try to pair Taiga and Kitamura together. They try and enlist Ryuuji’s assistance, but “for some reason” he’s feeling conflicted. Later, Kihara (who, up until now, I only knew as “the orange-haired girl”) approaches Ryuuji with an alternate proposal — she is convinced that he is in love with Taiga, and, wanting to take Kitamura for herself, she tells Ryuuji, “don’t give up!”

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Well, things are getting increasingly complicated — the web of relationships is now inextricably tangled up and is sure to end messily. I’m interested to know how Ami will be dragged into all of this. As much of a bitch as she may be, J.C. needs to show her some love and develop her character. Then we can finally cut to the chase and witness Ryuuji CARVE OUT HIS HAREM LEGEND. If the new ED (Orange as sung by the three main female seiyu) is any indicator, the top spot is completely up for grabs.

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