ToraDora! #15: Illegally Blonde

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Despite beginning with a parade of double entendre and Kitamura having a breakdown in class, yelling for all to hear that he’s not going to run for student president… this isn’t a particularly exciting episode. Like the one before it it’s a collection of quiet and thoughtful scenes strung together a tad clunkily that spends most of its time hinting at deeper goings-on and doesn’t actually get to any sort of plot action until the very end. Which is entirely frustrating because the show is dangling the promise of actually understanding Kitamura in front of me, but is dragging out the mystery of his inner self for as long as it possibly can. Come on, guys, my crops are dying.

In any case, Ryuji and Taiga walk to school wondering aloud of Kitamura is okay after his outburst about quitting the student council, and… arrive on campus to find him picking a fight with a dude, with his hair bleached blonde. The surreally yellow-headed Kitamura is drag-and-dropped into the principal’s office and the homeroom teacher, miraculously, gets something to do other than weep about being thirty and single, and asks Ami and Ryuji if they have any idea what happened. She also asks the student president, whose name I know now is Kano, and who is pretty much like “If he’s quit as my vice-president he’s not my problem, is he? Peace out” and strides off to inflict fear into the hearts of children or whatever it is she spends her days doing.

Ami follows her and says “Hey, that’s a little cold don’t you think?” and when Kano brushes her off Ami practically glares at her. Ami, we must remember even if we have no idea what their friendship is like, is Kitamura’s oldest friend and supposedly knows him the most, and may have the best idea what’s going on. It could well hark back to that cryptic mention of the student president at the beach house (hooray for law of conservation of detail!), but for now Ami sheds no light on the situation and just shrugs everyone’s worry off. She says Kitamura’s just acting out for attention by going all punk rock, and leaves it, in true callous Ami fashion, at that.

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Minorin is the most vocally worried, and goes with Ryuji to Kitamura’s house after school. He’s not actually there, but on the way we do get an intriguing conversation where Minorin proclaims that Ami must know what’s really going on because she’s so mature, she knows Kitamura best, she knows far more about the world than silly kids like Minorin. She has to, because someone has to, otherwise Minorin feels utterly lost. In true dizzy Minorin fashion, she laughs off the end of this heartfelt admission and makes to march to Kitamura’s and Do Good… and when Ryuji tells her she’s kind for doing this, she looks legitimately shocked and immediately denies it. She says she’s not kind at all, and she’s actually arrogant and foolish… and then shrugs it off again and keeps walking.

So that happened, and when Ryuji gets back he finds both Taiga and Kitamura (who is still disconcertingly blonde) in his house, claiming that he’s run away from home. The running theme today seems to be “hint that the love interests are genuinely distressed in their lives behind their happy façades, but only a bit more than usual without answering any questions”. Kitamura reveals (after dutifully eating the burnt meal Taiga cooked to make him feel better) that he bleached his hair because no one could expect him to run for student president with such a delinquent look. He announces this as casually and optimistically as he’s announced everything else all series, including the Plot Bomb that Taiga broke his heart a year before. The implication is that at least some of this happy-go-lucky radiance is a front, when Taiga gets up later in the night and sees that he’s secretly cried himself to sleep.

Taiga gives an emotional soliloquy about how she’s been selfish, glad to have Kitamura around for her own gain when she clearly can’t actually cheer him up or even understand what’s upsetting him. Looking at the stars, she dips into astronomical metaphors and says that while they look like they’re close together, the stars are actually impossibly far apart, which is how she feels about Kitamura. So, Minorin is the sun to Ryuji, Kitamura is the stars to Taiga. I like this cosmic symbolism, and I like that this episode built up a coherent theme in both Minorin and Taiga of wanting to believe that people—Ami in Minorin’s case, Kitamura in Taiga’s—know what they’re doing, of putting people on pedestals because you feel hopeless otherwise. Ryuji observes all this strange sadness with his usual quiet grace.

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The next morning Ya-chan stars in her best scene so far when she bursts from her room, exhausted from working all night, and kicks the kids out of the house with a fistful of money and a single murderous look. Kitamura takes everyone to play mechanical baseball, and Ryuji and Taiga note, again, that his form is way off and he’s clearly stressed out. Taiga, though, is weirdly good at it, and they all start having a genuine good time until they get home and find out that Ya-chan (who presumably got some sleep) called Kitamura’s dad and has bought some black hair dye to fix up his look before Kitamura goes home. Kitamura apparently has no intention of going home, feels incredibly betrayed, and bolts from the house declaring again that he’s never going to be president.

Taiga recalls Minorin’s reverse psychology about scary things and concludes that it might be the same case for Kitamura, and he really does want to be president… they just have to coax him into it. And so the episode ends with Taiga announcing her candidacy and screaming that she’s going to destroy everyone’s high school dreams and memories, presumably to kick Kitamura’s moral compass into gear by making him realise he’s way, way better for the job and can’t possibly let her do it. Zany Schemes return!

Kitamura and Minorin are, in fact, having their layers peeled back to have their deeper characterisation developed, but it’s happening at a very slow-burn pace. And I don’t have a problem with slow-burn, it’s just that the slowness is much more noticeable and much more agonising given that this arc doesn’t really have a beta action plot to go along with it—i.e. the development of Taiga’s backstory and relationship with her father was the emotional focus of the previous arc, but we also had the action of the festival plotline as a backdrop to support and complement it. This arc so far has all been characters moving from scene to scene feeling feels that aren’t entirely expressed, which is great for emotional foreshadowing, but not so much for viewer engagement, even if Kitamura getting his finger stuck in the parrot’s mouth was amusing. Anyway, we’re heading into what seems to be a student council election storyline now, and the next episode will be third in what I assume is a linked set, so we can only hope things will come to a head…

God and Jesus, it is strange and disconcerting to see Kitamura with yellow hair. Like I’ve entered a mirror universe where everything’s the same but moved slightly to the left.

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6 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

6 responses to “ToraDora! #15: Illegally Blonde

  1. This was always my least favourite story arc of the series. I like Kitamura well enough – or at least, he’s bat-crazy enough that I can’t really dislike him – but compared to the previous and following story arcs especially, this one comes across as pretty weak.

    • Exactly! It’s sandwiched between the festival arc and the CHRISTMAS arc, which are so emotionally fulfilling and engaging by comparison. It’s pretty impressive how much things can lag when they don’t have that balance of character drama and actual plot

      • Yeah, now I’m wondering if the problem isn’t so much with the content of this story arc itself as it is with the timing. Perhaps if it had been placed somewhere earlier on in the series, it would’ve been a little less frustrating to watch.

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