This is a weird episode to review because not much… happens. There’s a lot of day-to-day activity padding interwoven with subtle hints at deeper emotional subplots, and it feels rather like a breather episode (can you have those non-action genre series?) where they felt so much happened in the previous arc we need some downtime, lowkey filled with intrigue. So here’s what you missed on not-Glee:
Taiga’s class managed to win the beauty pageant, talent act, and race to crown the queen of the school all pretty much thanks to her, so the girl who was once terror of the corridors is now held in high regard. That, and a rumour started during the wrestling match’s performance run that if Taiga touches you your dreams will come true, earning her the title “Palmtop Tiger of Happiness” and a whole lot of personal confusion. Ryuji wonders if there’s any truth to this new weird tidbit of schoolyard superstition—after all, Taiga’s touching him all the time, be it slapstick violence or otherwise, so shouldn’t he be the happiest person on earth? It’s not like he’s unhappy, he just isn’t feeling any of the ‘love of your life confesses’ or ‘a rich estranged uncle you never knew drops dead and leaves you a fortune’ side effects that are promised.
The other question it brings up for him, of course is “if Taiga can grant other people happiness, how does she become happy?” Ryuji can’t look past the irony that Taiga was miserable for a good portion of the cultural festival, what with her estranged father being an emotional yo-yo and breaking her dependent little heart by text message. Maybe all of Taiga’s happiness got sucked out of her and beamed into the student body? It doesn’t sound particularly fair.
More than one rumour about her is circulating, though, and this one Taiga is more okay with: she and Kitamura danced at the festival, of course, so people are greedily whispering that she’s dumped Ryuji and is Kitamura’s girlfriend now. Taiga’s like “hell YES” for about five seconds, until Kitamura talks to her and she remembers that she’s painfully embarrassed to even be in his line of sight. Ryuji, meanwhile, is making a teeny weeny bit more progress repairing and building up his relationship with Minorin, and gladly buys a photo of the two of them winning the race at the festival.
Minorin gets one of the photo too, as a keepsake, but is oddly out-of-sorts about the image. Does concrete proof of the two of them holding hands—and the fact that Ryuji wanted to own it forever—put her ill at ease, the same way his fumbled attempts to ask if she was single at the beach house did? Is she actually uber gay and is uncomfortable with the idea that a boy might like her? I feel like I’d remember if a plotline that inclusive and exploratory snuck into something like this.
Ami saunters over and comments that it’s just a photo, and everyone getting into a flap about buying or not buying pictures of their crushes is immature. And maturity is the name of the game for Ami this episode: as well as Minorin, her friends comment on how mature and beautiful she is and how everything must thus be so easy for her, and the teacher says how kind and grown-up she is when Ami compliments her cardigan and gives the poor woman the first bit of good news she’s had in weeks (she spent the entire festival arc moping about being thirty and single).
Ami reacts with quiet, slightly uncomfortable contemplation to all these comments, and only perks up when Ryuji tells her she’s “such a kid”, accusing her of living on snacks and giving her some proper food to cook. Though he also noticed she was looking pale and a bit upset, so perhaps that was what struck her—that someone saw through her polished veneer of the flawless mature model and straight-up told her to get her act together. There’s some truth to what Ami said to him in the cave, it seems, and they are on the same level. In this case this understanding means Ryuji can offer her help she might not even have known she needed, rather than meaning they should date, but Ami appreciates it a hell of a lot.
We catch her talking to her mother on the phone, saying, with more genuine glow than she’s had all episode, that she’s going to stay here for a while more because she’s made some good friends. This is presumably what’s been worrying her, which solves one mini emotional mystery. We’re still not entirely sure what’s bugging Minorin, and the last shot we see of her is her practicing softball somewhat frantically in the gathering dark. And after the student president ominously says “We need to talk” to Kitamura, Taiga finds him drooped over a staircase. So what’s that all about?
He doesn’t say, but he does gingerly reach out to touch Taiga’s hair, wondering aloud if the jinx really is true and touching her will make him happy. Taiga blushes the colour and temperature of the sun and says he’s allowed to touch her all he wants, but Kitamura just smiles and waves her off. He’s not even sure what he’d wish for if the magic was true…
The episode closes on this melancholy dialogue, contrasted neatly with dinner at Ryuji’s house. Ya-chan pets Taiga on the head and says the rumour must be true, because now that Taiga’s back and she’s having dinner with her whole family, Ya-chan’s never been happier. Taiga balks at hearing Ya-chan refer to her as family, and I quietly went “ye-e-e-e-e-e-e-ess!!” because the subtext I was sobbing about all through the last arc has finally been said out loud. Ryuji just smiles, though he’s still worried about Taiga. Jinx or not, her happiness is still his concern. And despite my predictions last time, she’s almost aggressively gone back to her old self… though perhaps that’s what comes most naturally to her, and she knows it will put the friends who love her so much at ease. At least Ryuji’s inner narration pointed out the lack of change, so I can rest assured it’s at least a little deliberate and not a lazy “everything was fine!” retcon.
She claims she really doesn’t care about what happened with her dad, and maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not—time will tell. Vicious, pink-faced Taiga is a little comforting to see after we saw her get so emotionally steamrolled in the previous episode, and I feel like Ryuji feels exactly the same way. But is her default state happy? Is anyone truly happy? Ami seems to have gained a bit of peace of mind, but as I said, we leave both Minorin and Kitamura in limbo states that have me a little worried…
Maybe the solution here is a hug from Ya-chan. Everyone come and hug the mum!