…Well jeez, okay, I ended my last recap saying that the cliffhanger at the end of the episode probably wasn’t going to be addressed, but episode 7 flings us right back into the scene with a startled Ryuji caught between Ami’s doe eyes and Taiga’s cranky stare. Ami all but wiggles her butt and sweetly asks if this looks bad, as if anyone on earth could conceive that it didn’t, and smiles to herself when Taiga ignores Ryuji’s attempts to explain and storms off. Ami you dickhead.
Ami may have promised to embrace her darker side, but she still seems intent on putting on a cutesy show for her classmates. As if to balance this it seems she’s resolved to be twice as much of an asshole to Taiga, on just about every front she can—and the upcoming class pool day is only fuel to her fire. The issues of body image pop up again, and again I can’t be sure if they’re being taken seriously or not. We get, as a new surprise, some of their homeroom teacher’s inner monologue as she listens to all the girls in her class complain that being in a swimsuit is going to show off their fat thighs or their weird forearms, even Ami the literal model.
The teacher is livid that all these young, sprightly things have so much doubt in themselves—if they have no confidence in their bodies when they’re in their prime, how can a woman approaching middle age be expected to? This question is poignant, but I legitimately can’t tell if it’s framed as social commentary or just part of the joke that the teacher is an ageing, increasingly desperate Christmas Cake who’s sick of her students’ crap.
Taiga is moody and reluctant about the entire idea of the pool, and going swimsuit shopping doesn’t help. Ami is having the time of her life admiring her model’s bod and suggesting teasingly that Taiga buy a frilly children’s swimsuit, and though Ryuji (and Minorin??) is clearly in awe of her curves and loveliness it’s entirely satisfying to see him just… wander off in the middle of her indulgent parade, leaving her very surprised to be gushing to an empty shop. I’m not going to stop bringing up the weirdness of the show making a stalker oogling Ami the villain of the previous episode, yet inviting the audience to oogle her as much as they possibly can, with loving pans over her swimsuit-clad breasts, thighs and stomach. You could argue that Ami wants to be oogled if she’s showing herself confidently off like this, as opposed to the non-consensual oogling of the stalker, but as is always the case she only wants it because a writer decreed that she does.
Taiga has no such confidence. Ryuji has already seen how much the “does this look bad?~” run-in with Ami upset her (Taiga insists she’s upset on Minorin’s behalf) and has apologised sincerely, and is treading carefully around this currently moody-broody Palmtop Tiger. When he asks why she’s so down about the pool opening, she says that she can’t swim. Ryuji doesn’t believe her, because there’s no way she’d give up a bit of deeply personal and embarrassing information like that without a fight or at least some grumbling and “baka”-ing. And indeed, it turns out what she’s really depressed about is her flat chest. The previous year a photo of her in a swimsuit, labelled “pathetic boobs”, circulated the school, and though her initial reaction was her trademark rage (“so that’s why the photography club suddenly shut down,” muses Ryuji) it has her unusually and genuinely teary and downtrodden even just thinking about it.
Which again, could be tackling the big issue of body image and its effects on the self-esteem of teenagers, or could be because boobs are hilarious to think and talk about. They certainly get a nice shot of Taiga curiously prodding Ya-chan’s voluptuous bosom in there, “boing” SFX and everything. Anime was a mistake.
Ryuji, being a good soul, endeavours to sew her some implants for her swimsuit that will make it look like she has more in the bazooma department. Which stems from a ridiculous plotline, yes, but it’s also important to take a step back and just appreciate that Ryuji is not only a boy that can cook and sew–skills dubbed traditionally feminine–but a boy who is unrelentingly kind, gentle, empathetic and considerate. Which might not seem like a big deal, but it’s weirdly rare to have this set of traits so present in a male hero even if the genre isn’t action-adventure, and I think it’s important to show. Ryuji is a sweetheart, who takes care of people, and it’s a fundamental part of who he is that the story has made no attempt to light as a bad thing.
Also importantly, Taiga being surprisingly also good-souled, stays up with him while he works and, now, wait for it… apologises for being weird and stubborn lately.
Nobody move. The tsundere heroine was not only reprimanded for her attitude and consoled through the emotional problems that caused it, but apologised for her unruly and unfair behaviour. It’s not a miracle deconstruction of the trope that saves the genre forever, but it’s a damn sight more than a lot of series, and it all adds up into what was a truly sweet and quiet moment between Taiga and Ryuji.
And so, chest-pads buoying both her breasts and her confidence, Taiga heads to the pool for the class event. There’s much cooing over boys and girls in swimsuits, showing off from Ami, dramatic dives from Minorin, and everyone agreeing that Kitamura looks totally handsome without his glasses. It would be a perfect nerd-to-hunk transformation, except that he can’t see a goddamn thing, which was unconditionally hilarious given how often this is not addressed in anything that employs this cliché. Everyone’s having a good time, even Taiga, who is ecstatic that the half-blind Kitamura told her her hair was cute.
At least, until the good old fun of teenagers tossing each other into the water begins. It’s bound to happen, but honestly I just started cringing because I still live in fear of being friends with anyone who thinks dunking me unceremoniously into cold water without my permission is a fun thing to do. And it turns out that cringe reaction was warranted, because when Ami lobs Taiga into the pool (literally just shot-puts her about twenty metres into the water) the world and the laughter stops. Remember how Taiga said she couldn’t swim, and Ryuji was like “there’s no way that could be true”?
Ever the hero, Ryuji dives in to help the spluttering, semi-drowning Taiga, only to have her screech in his face that she can’t be rescued yet because one of her boob pads fell out. Ami, to her credit, has grasped the seriousness of her mess-up and has run to get a teacher to help, and several other people are panicking—all the while drama gets muddled in with comedy and Ryuji grabs the free-floating faux-boob, drags Taiga under the water so nobody sees, and, gritting his teeth, fumbles it back inside her swimsuit.
Hours later, both of them are still recovering from the stress that comes from nearly drowning and a sudden platonic boob-cupping. Ami loftily apologises, then skips straight into teasing Taiga about how she won’t be able to hang out at her beach house with Kitamura if she can’t swim. Taiga is about to tear her a new one when Minorin, who I might add has done nothing except be hilarious and stupidly dramatic since Ami arrived and started dominating the story, shows up in a ray of sunshine and declares that Ami and Taiga need to settle things with sport instead of bickering. Both Taiga, Ami, and me end the episode being like “sports? The hell?” But who are we mere mortals to question Minorin Logic?
So, in the end the obligatory focus on Anime Titties™ was both a quick peek into the self-esteem issues that can be caused by not having what’s deemed the perfect figure (and the overabundance of self-esteem, in Ami’s case, that can come from actually having it) that wove into a genuinely sweet and quiet episode for Ryuji and Taiga’s relationship. There was opening up emotionally, there was acknowledgment of each other’s feelings, there was gentle calling-out of bullshit and attempts to grow from it on both parts. And there were “boing” sound effects from Ryuji’s mother and a secondhand-embarrassment-riddled visual gag about having to choose between sinking dead to the bottom of a pool or emerging safe with only one boob. Life and this show is a varied platter.