Toradora and depression

I was poking around CrunchyRoll the other day, looking for a new show, when I saw Toradora! I had heard of it through social osmosis, but had absolutely zero idea what it was about.  Half a week later, I’m throwing all my cherished projects to the wind to write an analysis post that doesn’t even involve philosophy!

Lain Araragi?

First off, let’s get this out of the way.  I really liked Toradora.  Probably not top 30, but it’s very good.  Sure, it’s a romance show, but it stands out quite a bit.  The five main characters are each robust and unique as characters.  Their interactions with the world and each other are a joy to watch, and always very interesting.  Even the side characters are great!  Regrettably, you know how the story will turn out within the first few episodes, but that is really not the point of the show.  With all that said and done, it is time for some SPOILERS!

To me, the most interesting thing about Toradora is that it includes a character who is doomed immediately upon her introduction.  Many romance shows would give her the illusion of chance, or have a relatively equal ending, giving her a fair chance.  However, Toradora is not a normal romance show, and it treats Kawashima Ami very differently.  Let’s step back and take a look at the situation.

Ami

Ami comes to town a beautiful, rich model.  She’s successful and has a seemingly bright future.  That said, she has some obviously glaring social issues, namely her multiple displayed personalities.  She is a flirt with men, and she is snobby and harsh with women.  This leads Taiga, as well as many viewers, to view her as a monstrous twisted individual.  Yusaku wants to free her from her glittery persona so that she can be honest with her friends and find acceptance.  And it works! Or… Does it?

truth

While some viewers (and even the writer of the Wikipedia article on the series!) instantly peg Ami as a spoiled princess, I would assert that it is better to view her as under the effects of major depressive disorder. Many depressives do not reveal their true nature to the public, instead assuming alternate personalities and personas.  These do not disclose their true self, and are often greatly entertaining to outsiders.  Many writers, musicians, actors, and artists of various sorts are depressives. (See this list for some reference)  Creating personalities for public view is an essential survival mechanism for depressives to be accepted by others and society at large.  I believe that depression accounts for Ami’s actions and positions much better than the claim that she is a spoiled brat.

So did Yusaku succeed in revealing Ami’s true self? Sure, Ami accepts Yusaku’s group as friends, albeit somewhat distantly.  But she is definitely not honest with them.  See, what Kitsuragi doesn’t understand is that her spoiled princess personality is also just a manufactured personality.  As a depressive, Ami does not reveal her true self easily.  She eases back on the princess personality and modifies it to a personality tailored to their expectations and wishes.  She is relatively friendly and popular, yet often selfish and vain.  She gives basic cues as to her likes and dislikes, and tries to be what her companions expect from a friend who happens to be a model.

However, it is obvious that this is also just a disguise, a manufactured personality.  Her true personality shows through from her monologues and some of her actions.  She falls for Ryuji because he sees through her personalities for a split instant and notes that she is an immature child.  (As a depressive, this is how she actually views herself)  Her personalities that successfully fool the world at large were fully disregarded.  She is pierced to the core, and becomes suddenly interested in this man who has seen her true nature.  As someone who has seen her as she truly is,  she regards him as a true equal.  In direct contrast, her childhood friend is fully fooled by her personalities, and the other women of the show pay little regard to her as a person, rather regarding her as an idol or a rival.

The Real Ami

Next, Ami tries to manufacture situations and personalities which she thinks Ryuji will find interesting.  Her true self is actually excited about this person, something that obviously rarely happens.  She tries to use her feminine wiles, tries to make awkward yet tantalizing situations, and she even attempts to use her body.  At every move, Ryuji shoots her down with apathy or even disdain. After winning the contest against Taiga to bring him to her beach house for summer vacation, she gets to spend almost no time alone with him.  He even attempts to get her to assist him in his plots to win Minori’s love!  However, he refuses to be honest with her about these plots, and thus she refuses to associate with the execution of the plot.  She even spells out the whole situation for him, showing that equality could be a foundation for a very strong friendship or love.  Ryuji fully disregards her arguments, almost instantly.   In her eyes, he has glimpsed her true nature, yet has had no empathy, no interest.  He will not even treat her as a true equal!  She desperately tries to bring acknowledgement, the slightest bit of interest.  All to no avail.

This all brings us to what I found to be some of the most interesting scenes in the show: Ami acknowledging despair.  Through her monologues and mannerisms, we see her become jaded.  She realizes that she was doomed from the start, and that nothing can change her path.  Her core being was in a very agitated state, searching for meaning, grasping at straws.  She found another being who understood her for an instant, and desperately attempts to hold his attention.  As all her efforts fail, we see her core self cool off, and settle down into gloomy apathy.  Her personality projections become more subdued, and she falls into a maintenance state.  She has given up on love altogether.  She lashes out a few times as she cools off, sabotaging Minori and attempting to transfer schools.  She is angry that Ryuji has not acknowledged her, and angry that the other girls do not even acknowledge themselves.  They will not come to terms with their inner selves and desires, and (to Ami’s eyes) needlessly hurt themselves when Ryuji acknowledges them.  This is infuriating and depressing to her, as she has acknowledged herself for what she is and what she wants, and yet Ryuji pays no attention.  In many ways, although Ami thinks of herself as childish and immature, she has exceptional insight into interpersonal relations that do not involve herself.  Again, this is a survival mechanism for depressives.  Being able to read the people around you is key to maintaining your personas.  Ami is not yet fully aware of her skills, and is frustrated that nobody else sees the obvious.

Towards the end of the show, Ami has calmed down. She has obviously given up on love, and is attempting to find contentment in just having been noticed. She thanks Ryuji for this, and basically admits everything to him. The show ends on a high note, but Ami has fallen to the wayside.
Ami finds hope

Toradora is a show about love.  But where Elfenlied is a manga about the beauty, purity, and tragedy of love, Toradora is a show about the pain, guilt, and absurdity of love.  I applaud its creators for encapsulating that so well, and especially for the writing of Ami’s character. While not even my favorite character of the show, her portrayal was especially poignant to me as a depressive. Feel free to leave comments, let me know what you think of this interpretation!

Beverage consumed while writing this post:
Sencha Yabukita Organic #2

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Some comics I’ve been following

I love comics.  However, I am not a fan of your typical superhero nonsense.  In general, I demand excellence in art (something I find rather lacking in most standard fare) as well as interesting characters.  In fact, wonderful art alone is normally enough to get me following a series.  Without further ado, here are just a *few* of the series I’ve been liking lately.

Fatale

tentacles OP

Sexy noir lovecraftian horror.  Need I say more?  Seriously though, this series was awesome.  Beautiful art, creepy atmosphere, sexy femme fatale.  I found the characters and story to be intriguing, and I loved the journeys through time.  Most of all, this series is a masterwork in MOOD.  I didn’t know that Lovecraftian Noir was a thing, but they nailed it!  The series wrapped up last year, but I haven’t gotten around to writing about it until now.

East of West

mmm landscapes

Apocalyptic alternate history SF mystical western.  Come for the art, stay for the apocalypse!  During the civil war, a large meteorite hit somewhere in the modern plains, completely changing the face of North America and North American history.  As the armistice between the various nations of North America was signed, there were 3 simultaneous prophecies of the apocalypse.  Fast forward a few hundred years, and a secret group of powerful individuals seeks to assist the horsemen of the apocalypse.  However, Death has some bones to pick.  The world is intensely interesting, the art is great, the characters are literally crazy.  I’m not sure everything will be fully clarified by the end of this series, but it has been one hell of a ride so far!

Umbral

surprise!

Do you like color?  How about high fantasy horror?  If so, this series is just up your alley.  Great characters, story, and art, and absolutely stupendous coloring.  The world is intriguing, and the series features a strong female lead attempting to escape mysterious nasties and cruel schemes.  Pretty great all around, I’m always looking forward to the next issue.

Rumble

Waddup

Some immortal monsters slighted a deity that looks a little like a scarecrow.  He’s back, and he is PISSED.  The monsters are cushily embedded in the modern world, but we’ll see how long that will last.  A massive rumble is about to go down!  This series is great.  I’m loving the quirky art, and the colors are excellent.  Crazy story, and did I mention there’s going to be some serious brawling?  Seriously, don’t mess with this dude!

Anyhow, there’s some other GREAT series that I’m following right now, but they’ll need some more extensive posts.  Check these series out, lemme know what you think!

Beverage consumed while writing this post:

Thurbo Estate Second Flush Darjeeling FTGFOP CL Tippy

Worldbuilding

Few things are as appealing to me as a well wrought world within a work of literature, be that in books, anime, or comics. A rich, storied world is wonderfully enticing to the reader, not only causing interest in what is actually documented in the work, but also providing a playground for the imagination.  Stories with great worldbuilding often see large quantities of fan fiction and spinoffs.  An accessible yet intriguing world can leave a reader imagining the possibilities of that universe for weeks, months, or even years!

So what *is* it?  Worldbuilding is where the author goes the extra mile to describe and enrich the universe their story takes place in.  It can be as simple as a map, or as complex as creating a new language!  Worldbuilding engages readers, and gives characters a real world to live in.  Many of society’s most beloved works are in such a position because their worlds are so well built, such as Tolkien’s Middle Earth or the universe of Frank Herbert’s Dune.  The entire genre of fantasy is based on fantastical worlds and the people that inhabit them, so just about any good fantasy will have great worldbuilding.

Without further ado, let me point out a few works with wonderful worldbuilding:

Anime  –

Ghost in the Shell
Tachikoma!
This series is best known as a heavily philosophical/psychological crime thriller set in the not-too-distant future. That future happens to be an example of *excellent* worldbuilding. It is a world where most people have cybernetic implants, and some have fully converted to cyborg bodies. The internet has evolved as well, seeing as most people’s minds are fully connected all the time. That pervasive technology totally changes everything about the world, and makes it extremely interesting. It is very well fleshed out, with new kinds of dissidents and criminals, new industries, and new futures. All in all, I find it to be one of the most interesting worlds in Anime, especially seeing how close yet distant it is to our own.

Manga/Manhwa –

Tower of God
The Twentieth Floor!
This fantasy series follows a somewhat common theme, that one must climb a tower to possibly receive awards at the top. What is not common about this series is the excellent, intricate worldbuilding. You see, each floor of the tower is about the size of America, and there are billions of inhabitants. There are very diverse cultures and species, the floors are fairly unique, and the societal networks are just as intricate as in A Song of Ice and Fire. There are different powerful groups working toward different causes, there are seedy criminal organizations, there are even creation stories. The plot and characters in this manhwa are excellent, but the worldbuilding is phenomenal. Since the official English releases started coming out, it is harder to find, but the author even goes so far as to write detailed biographies of historical figures in the tower.
http://www.webtoons.com/episodeList?titleNo=95

Western Comics –

Fables
great cover art
This is one of the more accessible western series that I read which focuses on worldbuilding. The basic premise is that a large group of fantasy characters escaped a cataclysm in the “Old World” and founded a colony in what is now New York City. The humanoid fables live in New York City, and the animal fables live in upstate New York at “The Farm.” While the initial worldbuilding is great, it really shines after the first few arcs, when the series delves into the past and visits worlds other than the world of the “mundies” (mundane humans). The world building is excellent, and builds a great meta-world as well. With beautiful, fully colored art, and interesting characters and plots, this is a great series.

Books –

There are incredible amounts of books with great worldbuilding. The entire genre of fantasy focuses on it, and many works in science fiction delve into it as well. The Wheel of Time series, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the Foundation series are among a multitude of standouts. All this said, books can go into a different world than visual medias. In comics and animation, one is restricted to what is visible. Books can go into the minds of characters! You can see the thoughts and feelings of characters from the inside, which can lead to building worlds of thought and mood. Philip K Dick is exceptional at this. Almost all of his works have great worldbuilding, but also focus rather heavily on building the world of a character’s mind. Taken as a collective, Phillip K Dick’s works paint an intriguing picture of his entire worldview.

Dr Bloodmoney

I realize this post was rather long, and I thank you for slaving through it. If you have thoughts on worldbuilding or the works I talked about, please post a comment!

Beverage consumed while writing this post:
Harmutty Estate Assam TGFOP

I CAN TELL YOU THE FUTURE!

Of my posts!  In the near future (near is extremely relative!), I plan to write posts on:

1) Monogatari, Serial Experiments Lain, Continental Philosophy, Expressionism

2) Monogatari’s conversational brilliance

3) THE TOOTHBRUSH INCIDENT (or: Why I learned to stop hating and love dental hygiene) [This probably won’t actually happen]

4) The horrors of plebeian shows such as Chaika

5) Ghost in the Shell?

6) A series on mindfuck shows?!?!?

7) Articles on some amazing comics!