It’s happening, people. It’s happening.
After so many months of slow-burn build-up and relationship development that has been turn by turn both beautiful and excruciating, the seal has broken and everyone’s true feelings are spilling over. We pick up where we left off last time, with Minorin vowing to chase after Taiga. Ryuji powers up and shouts that he’s going to chase after her too, so the ever-diplomatic Minorin says they should search the school for her together, and takes off down the hall. And as she runs, she yells for Taiga and whoever else to hear: the long-buried truth that she’s in love with Ryuji. She has been since the start, but she saw how much he and Taiga needed each other and so resolved not to get between them.
It’s a breath of relief to finally have this said after so much speculation and apparent heartbreak on Minorin’s part, and also deliciously ironic considering now both Ryuji and Taiga’s supposedly unobtainable crushes have been revealed to have actually liked them first. It’s a terrible tangle, what with Taiga suppressing her feelings so Minorin could be happy and Minorin simultaneously suppressing her feelings so Taiga could be happy. Minorin acknowledges this, and the hypocrisy of the whole silliness, and shouts for Taiga to show her how she wants to do things. She also trips and falls flat on her face, leading a nosebleed that Ryuji has to nurse when they give up the chase, accepting that Taiga has fled into the night for now.
Surprisingly… the atmosphere as they sit together in the nurse’s office isn’t overtly awkward. Maybe because they sort of knew for so long it’s simply a relief to have the confession of love out in the open. Minorin apologises sincerely but brightly for breaking his heart, and reverts back to her ghost metaphor, adding that even if she can’t “see ghosts”, what she can see is that Ryuji and Taiga love each other. And Minorin is going to take control over her own happiness and chase after what she can see, which are her natural determination and sporting goals, so Ryuji should chase after what he sees in Taiga. She sends him off with a wave, and, of course, once he’s gone, tears spring into her vibrant happy eyes.
Ryuji finds Taiga at their bakery job and there’s much foot-shuffling and blushing, with Taiga eventually promising that she has something she wants to tell him but only after their shift is done. However the moment is axed when it appears because out of goddamn nowhere comes both Ya-chan, berating Ryuji for working when he said he would leave it up to her, and Taiga’s as-yet-unintroduced mother. Why are they together? How did they find them? How is it possible that so much family drama has suddenly collided in one street, and how has it not torn the fabric of the local universe asunder?
Ryuji expresses his anger; Ya-chan says that he’s not allowed to work, he has to go to a good college and sort his life out, and he snaps back that she’s just projecting her own missed opportunities onto him and never even asked if he wanted to do that. We’re not actually sure (and it seems neither is Ryuji) is he legitimately doesn’t want to go to university, or is just uncertain, or is just using it as a vessel for his anguish. Ya-chan starts to cry, and before Ryuji can fully comprehend what he’s done Taiga grabs him and they run off, this time together. Both mothers call after them but our heroes seem to make it away safely, and end up on a bridge discussing the cluster-mess that their lives seem to have become.
Or, as Taiga points out, the mess they’ve always been. Her mother’s insistence that she come live with her is just the latest development—Taiga’s charming dad lost a lot of money in his business, apparently, and skipped town, so he’s no longer able to pay for Taiga’s apartment. Her mother wants her to come live with her instead, but Taiga feels she won’t fit in with her mother’s new husband and the baby they’re going to have. She’s started afresh, and Taiga would just be an uncomfortable hanger-on reminding her of her old life and failed marriage/family. Taiga’s used to it happening, though. She’s used to not really belonging anywhere, which explains why she was so baffled and happy that she managed to fit into Ryuji’s family.
She says all this when Ryuji starts waxing melancholy about his own situation—his anger turns to grief and he laments that if he hadn’t been born, Ya-chan would have been able to live a proper life. Taiga all but throttles him, but somehow sincerely, shouting that he should never say things like that. It’s because Ryuji is alive that Taiga managed to stay alive, and find life worth living. It’s a wonderfully heart-rending and poignant little moment kind of spoiled (but true to the show’s tone) when her rocking him back and forth leads to her accidentally pushing him off the bridge. So now Ryuji’s sitting in freezing cold river water and they’re bickering and yelling at each other, but somehow in an endeared and comfortable way, and he chooses that moment to say “screw it! Let’s get married!”
Taiga leaps down from the bridge and joins him in the hypothermia pool, complaining that she wanted to confess to him first and he’s stolen her mojo. So they resolve, through that familiar and now comfortable bickering dynamic, to confess it together. And, naturally, Ryuji’s phone rings halfway through before they can get to the L word. It’s Kitamura asking where the hell they are, so they head over to Ami’s house to avoid the searching eyes of their respective mothers and sort out what to do.
Taiga and Ryuji explain that their immediate logical conclusion to their situation is to elope. Thankfully, all three of their friends respond with confusion. In the end, though, Ami gives them the key to her beach house, Minorin gives them a big chunk of her hard-earned savings, and Kitamura gives them his blessing. Taiga and Ryuji leave to pack, and Minorin, again, bursts into tears, leaving none other than her arch-nemesis Ami to comfort her. They sit together looking into the strange and sorry heart of this turn of events, and Minorin grumbles that she promised she wouldn’t cry. Ami sighs and, in true wise old Ami fashion, says she’s too young to wax poetical on life and loss—she has the rest of her life ahead of her, and things might be crap now, for both their broken hearts, but things will get better. Which kind of sounds like waxing poetical on love and loss, but nobody tell Ami that.
Ryuji sneaks home to discover that in her own anguish, Ya-chan seems to have beaten him to the punch by running away from home herself. She leaves him the watch he wore to the Christmas party, though, and a note with the address of its owner. Ryuji tuts that his mother is still a big kid, but acknowledges that of course so is he. The episode ends with he and Taiga arriving on the doorstep of an elderly couple, introducing himself as the grandson they’ve never met. And introducing Taiga as his bride.
So. Wow. That’s certainly a wild and satisfying bubble-pop of the tension that’s been building all series. It would have to be something as dramatic as this, honestly, or it just wouldn’t be ToraDora! And weirdly enough, despite the rashness of the heat of the moment decision to literally elope, the resolution is believable because you can believe that Taiga and Ryuji do care about each other. Even as they’re blushing and tripping through their confessions of love, or the build-up to said confessions, their natural fun dynamic peeks through and overtakes the tension to leave them as a relaxed and dare I say it healthy pair.
They can actually talk to each other about things that matter. They can feel and ease each other’ pain. They can laugh and joke about the food you’re supposed to bring when you elope. I kind of love them, and I love how their dynamic now they’re “officially” in love is really no different from what it was before—the romance is simply an added bonus to the easy relationship they’ve developed with satisfying pace over the series.
But what in the world is going to happen now? It will be hard to come back from a game change like this, so what lies in the future for the couple who are now officially a couple? And what about Minorin? And Ami and Kitamura? Only one episode to go!!