I just finished the last Light Novel. As I was reading, I started feeling the creep of the post-finale depression that the anime plagued me with. Because this was it. The last one. My soul began to feel as if it should be breaking into a million pieces from the end of this journey.
BUT IT REFUSED.
Somehow... the novel was different. This time, just as the tears in my heart began to form, they were filled with love. It’s the exact same plot devices, but it was delivered differently. I feel like I should be sad for the end, but instead I’m happy with the conclusion. The anime had a good ending, but somehow this was better. None of the other novels hit me in the heart quite like this one did. I... honestly have to recommend that any Toradora! fans saddened by the conclusion of the series read this last volume.
In any case, here’s a synopsis of the events in Volume 10. I really had to do this or risk my heart actually exploding. I’ll try and leave out anything mundane, but at this point it seems like I’m about to rewrite the whole book in shorthand.
Hold onto your butts, this is gonna be a long one...
Also, SPOILER ALERT! This is your final chance to stop reading if you haven’t finished the series or are planning to pick up the novel.
(quick recap) Volume 9 ending
After being confronted by each other’s parents, Taiga and Ryuuji grab each other’s hands and make a run for it together. In this version, Ryuuji makes his comments about regretting his own existence to Yasuko’s face instead of later with Taiga on the bridge.
After running some time, Taiga and Ryuuji stop on the bridge to take stock of themselves. Everything’s turned into a big mess, but at this point they’re pretty set on running. Taiga pulls out what little money she has and conveniently loses it to the wind like the klutz god she is. So... no money. Taiga begins to talk about how her dad’s gone under. Taiga’s account is empty, the condo isn’t technically even hers anymore, and Rikurou Aisaka straight up disappeared with Yuu. Turns out her situation with her mom’s side isn’t as great as she made it out to be, either.
Hearing it all makes Ryuuji reflect on Taiga’s emotional journey over the last few days, how she had to deal with her family, her feelings for Ryuuji, everything, and couldn’t tell anyone. The amount of sadness Taiga’s been through just breaks Ryuuji’s heart. He crouches down and bites back a sob. “I’m weird, aren’t I?” Taiga says as she returns the scarf she always borrows to Ryuuji’s neck and wraps her arms around Ryuuji. If you’re weird I’m weird too his heart screams back. Ryuuji stands up and returns the hug. “Why are you... still staying by my side?” she asks. “You don’t know?” Ryuuji steps out from the hug, “Where else am I supposed to be except here?” “Here?” she replies. Ryuuji bends over and kisses Taiga. The kiss surprises Taiga, but she doesn’t shy away from it.
After breaking away, Ryuuji suddenly becomes embarrassed and scared of the amount of burning passion in his heart. He tries to distance himself from Taiga. When she continues to approach him Ryuuji pretends like he’s going to jump off the bridge. This infuriates Taiga, prompting her to attack Ryuuji physically as she berates him for his previous comments to Yasuko on regretting his existence. “I’ve thought it would be better if I never existed! I have... more than once! But I’m alive... and that’s... that’s because you’re here! … Because I care about you!” This line strikes Ryuuji right in the gut. As Taiga attempts to strangle Ryuuji, Ryuuji trips and Taiga accidentally pushes him off the bridge. After arguing with Taiga over her violent tendencies while in the river, Ryuuji pauses. He comments on his age and asks Taiga to marry him when he turns 18. Ryuuji then confesses his love for Taiga and everything he wants to do with her by his side. Taiga, in disbelief, gets Ryuuji to repeat his confession. Upon hearing it again, she also jumps off the bridge onto Ryuuji. “Well, now I’ve come to you. No take backs. I can’t be returned. I won’t let you go.” After recovering from being body-slammed by the Palmtop Tiger, Ryuuji replies, “Who would give you up?”
Ami Kawashima had been watching them both flail about for some time now. Despite not wanting to do anything about the idiot lovebirds who dunked themselves in the river in the middle of winter, she phones Kitamura and Minori and finally presents herself to Taiga and Ryuuji to help pull them out of the river. After their friends arrive they make their way towards Ami’s house to dry off and warm up.
Ryuuji takes a shower while Kitamura attempts to dry off his clothes with a hair dryer. They chat. Blah blah blah. “I don’t want to leave Taiga’s side... because I love her.” “Then don’t let her go.” That’s the gist.
The boys enter Ami’s room where Minori and Ami are chatting about Taiga’s inedible Valentine’s chocolates, which are apparently hard as rocks, while Taiga is apparently asleep. They compare notes on the situation with Taiga’s parents. Ryuuji realizes how Taiga still cares for her dad in spite of everything, but never once asked her mom for help. Confirming the couple’s plan to run away so Tagia’s mom can’t drag her away from Ryuuji, Ami begins openly criticizing it. As Minori begins to make a comment regarding her disapproval of Taiga’s family, Taiga arises and cuts her off. Taiga had actually been listening the entire time.
Taiga contributes her feelings on her family. The unfortunate scenario of being caught between a toxic family relationship and being ultimately ignored. How it made her believe that she could never have the things she wants. Taiga continues to make a speech about how she fell in love with Ryuuji, how confusing it was at first, and how she didn’t want to act on it. Not just because she knew Ryuuji liked Minori and Minori liked Ryuuji, but “because I thought I wasn’t allowed to want things. If I wanted something, it would break.” She doubted Ryuuji reciprocated her feelings. She was afraid that if she acted on her emotions, it would all turn to ruin. Everyone reprimands her for her self-deprecating thought process.
“I’m going to fight, too. I want to be with Ryuuji, so if my world self-destructs because of that, no matter where I am, I’ll survive. I absolutely won’t lose. I won’t give up on Ryuuji. And I won’t give up on Minorin or Kitamura-kun... or Kawashima, either. Because I love you. No matter what mass destruction comes, no matter where I am, I won’t stop loving anyone.” Deliberating his choice of words a moment, Ryuuji replies, “Then you’re... declaring your love at the epicenter of the world...” For some reason this strikes a chord with Ami. She starts bawling and gives Ryuuji the keys to the beach villa.
They decide on their next course of action. Ryuuji and Taiga will both go home to their parents just for this night. Ryuuji will try to make amends with Yasuko for all the horrible things he vented at her earlier that day. He and Taiga will then show up for Taiga’s “last day” at school and run away together before Taiga’s mom can reclaim her again. As they leave, Taiga’s mom unexpectedly appears outside Ami’s house and takes Taiga home in her car. The turn of events shakes Ryuuji, but he holds onto the plan they created.
Ryuuji returns home to an empty house. He discovers a note left by Yasuko along with the wristwatch from her parents she had kept. Yasuko had run away. In frustration, he chucks the watch. Ryuuji calls out Taiga’s name, wondering if this is the “mass destruction” she had spoken of. Without realizing it, he had broken the same sliding door Taiga stabbed so long ago in April. The panel he repaired with the love letter was now caved in. Coming to his senses, Ryuuji realizes the abandonment and betrayal running away causes. Not just between Yasuko and Ryuuji but with Yasuko’s parents, too, 18 years ago.
As Ryuuji goes around the house cleaning to calm himself, he envisions an evening where he cooks a grand dinner and serves it to everyone Taiga, Minori, Ami and Kitamura are there. As are Haruta, Noto, Kihara, Kashii, Kanou, Yuri, Yasuko. Everyone. Even Taiga’s parents and their respective new partners. Even Ryuuji’s own father as he appears in his photo. And everyone is happy and smiling. Especially Taiga.
Ryuuji vows to do whatever it takes to bring everyone together so they can be happy. He isn’t running away anymore.
Ryuuji heads to school like normal as they had planned. He meets Minori along the way where she and Taiga would usually meet up. They walk to school together. Minori voices her concerns over them running away, afraid she might never see them again. Ryuuji reassures her that they will come back. Along the way, Minori and Ryuuji run into Noto. Noto secretly asks Ryuuji to find out if Kihara gave any Valentine’s chocolates to Kitamura. They then cross paths with Haruta, who Noto immediately labels a traitor for finding a girlfriend, much to Minori’s surprise. Following the mood, Ryuuji almost tells Noto about him and Taiga, but Noto (likely sensing his intention) cuts him off and runs off in a fluster... and bumps into Kihara. “You’re a nuisance!” she says. Completely off his rocker, Noto insults Kihara’s scarf before hightailing it out of there. Ryuuji then stops to ask Kihara about chocolates for Noto. When asked about his reasoning, Ryuuji replies, “You’re the one who said we’re fellows in arms, Kihara. Well, I’ve got something to report to you: I confessed.” “Even though I said that I... hm?” she began, “What? What?! Well, I didn’t give him any but... actually, what?!” Ryuuji makes a beeline for the classroom to keep Kihara from prying for details. Meanwhile, Ami and Minori are gossiping about Haruta’s new girlfriend. Ryuuji meets Kitamura at the door. He has some bad news: Taiga hasn’t shown up yet.
Taiga appears later that day alongside a tearful Yuri. Yuri announces that Taiga is leaving the school. Taiga perks up from her crestfallen act and begins to inch towards the door. Just as Ryuuji is about to get up and also make a break for it, Haruta causes a distraction by pretending to faint. Half of the class then starts an impromptu revolution by exiting the classroom and scattering to cover Taiga and Ryuuji’s escape. Ryuuji left a note for Yuri on his desk.
After a student hands Yuri the note, Yuri storms back to the staff room to inform Taiga’s mom of the incident. She also relays the contents of the note: “Ms. Koigakubo, I’m sorry. Taiga isn’t the type to just let herself be taken away. Please believe in us. I’ll make sure her mother hears from her by tomorrow.” Surprisingly, Yuri vouches for the two runaways. “Takasu-kun isn’t the type of person who breaks a promise I’m sure they have a plan.” “They ran away from you right in front of your eyes. They just betrayed you, too. You still believe in them, despite that?” “Yes. Because I know that they believe that I believe in them.” She even stakes her career on Taiga returning by tomorrow.
Still running, Ryuuji tells Taiga how Yasuko also ran off. Taiga stops running. If Yasuko is gone, running away could mean they’ll never see Yasuko again. But Ryuuji has a plan. He confers to her that there’s been a change in destination.
[Not much here has changed from the anime. Glazing over the unchanged plot details.]
Ryuuji and Taiga arrive outside of Yasuko’s parents’ house with the stolen wristwatch as proof. After presenting themselves to Ryuuji’s grandparents, they form the next step of their plan to bait Yasuko back home with a fake distress call from Taiga, saying Ryuuji’s been in an accident. Yasuko falls for it hook line and sinker. Yasuko tearfully hugs Ryuuji and the apologies fly. Yasuko doesn’t even notice her parents there for a couple minutes as she sobs.
While Yasuko and her parents are busy catching up, Ryuuji and Taiga are hanging out in the guest room they were provided. Ryuuji reflects on the number of scars in his heart he’s acquired throughout his entire journey, and tells Taiga how thankful he is that she’s now there with him. As Taiga sits by the room heater, she voices her discomfort in how obvious her lack of a chest is in her borrowed pajamas. Ryuuji, over at the bed, plays it off with a quick subject change. Internally though, Ryuuji is grappling against his own maddening desire to get closer to Taiga. Taiga has other plans, and beckons Ryuuji over to adjust the heater temperature. As Taiga tries to scooch in closer, Ryuuji’s brain short circuits. He frantically tries to maintain some distance between himself and her. An annoyed Taiga begins to tease Ryuuji, prompting him to retreat back to the bed and hide under the covers as if he was going to sleep. Taiga makes like she’s going to leave, before angerly jumping on Ryuuji, pinning him beneath the bedsheets with her body weight. As Ryuuji struggles and complains, Taiga marauds him with “Nuh uh! You’re supposed to be sleeping!” and related queries. After he finally stops struggling, Taiga softly tells him, “When it comes to you, Ryuuji... I really, really, reallyreallyreally, really... love you.” She pulls down the sheets covering his face and kisses him.
The next morning, a half-asleep Ryuuji hears Taiga’s footsteps and the clink of a luggage bag. She calls out his name in a small voice. When he doesn’t move, she says, “Well, I’m headed out for a bit.” and quietly leaves the house. As she clears the front gate, she sets out running. Yasuko, who’d apparently also been awake enough to hear everything, suddenly springs onto him. “Ryuu-chan! Are you actually, really fine with this...?” This is fine he thought. Because Taiga had to go back to her parents. She loved them. She didn’t need to run away anymore. But... Then he realized. He was alone. Taiga wasn’t there. No. Without a word, he kicked off the covers and started running. He ran outside barefoot in pajamas. Of course, she wasn’t anywhere in sight. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t call out her name. He just ran.
At the train station, he meets up with Minori, Ami and Kitamura. “Taiga’s gone back to her mother” was all he could write in the message. Without being able to put into words a proper explanation, he instead leads his confused friends to the condo Taiga had once inhabited and enters with the key she had left him. “Taiga!” “Are you there?” they call out. Instead what greeted them was an empty apartment. All of the furniture was covered in cloth, and everything was gone. The only thing left was Taiga’s school uniform in the closet. “Tiger, how could you disappear like this?” Ami whispered. “Takasu-kun... are you... Are you fine with this?” Minori asked. “I am.” “But this is no good!” “It’s fine.” “But aren’t you sad?!” “I’m not!” Of course he was sad. “Don’t give me that!”
In disbelief, Minori runs from the apartment and begins calling out Taiga’s name. Ryuuji catches up and grabs her by the wrist. Though she was probably nowhere nearby, Ryuuji yelled into the sky for Taiga to get out of there. “You mean... she left us behind? Taiga left me?” Ami and Kitamura approach from behind. “No. Taiga doesn’t give up. She’s definitely coming back.” “...I’m still sad.” It’s sad, but it’s fine.” Ryuuji recalls how he met Taiga, and how everything led up to the truth of the present: that Ryuuji Takasu loves Taiga Aisaka. It didn’t matter the distance. He would continue to love her no matter what.
“I wonder if Tiger will even want to see me...” Ami muttered. Ryuuji replied firmly, “I’m sure she does. Even if it isn’t, if that’s what you want, tell her. Show her with your actions. Make it a reality!” “I-” Ami starts crying, “I want to see Tiger again! I want to be there when she comes back! I want to get to know Minori-chan better! Make up with Takasu-kun! I want to be friends forever! I-I’ve enjoyed being with all of you! I love you all!” “...And me?” “Screw you Yuusaku!” Minori steps over to the crying Ami with tears in her own eyes, “Ahmin...!” Ami desperately wraps her arms around Minori, and they cry together. Even Kitamura is teary-eyed. They all just group hug and cry it out together.
As atonement for running off, Ryuuji was sentenced to writing a ten-page reflection paper once a week in the staff room for six weeks. He also had to clean the staff bathroom every other day. Actually, his dedication to cleaning that bathroom began to scare the teachers. He should have gotten suspended, but Yuri had once again stuck her neck out for the two troublemakers. Today was his last essay. Yuri seemed rather happy with his commitment. “Oh yeah... Sensei?” “Hmm?” “I turned in a version of this earlier, but could you replace it with this?” He handed Yuri another paper. “Umm... oka- Eh? Whaaaat?!” But Ryuuji had promptly escaped while she was distracted. The paper he had handed Yuri was a future aspiration worksheet with just one phrase written on it: “For everyone to be happy!”
Ryuuji meets up with Noto and Haruta. They discuss where they want to go for lunch while the wait for Kitamura to finish his club activities. When Noto mentions karaoke, they all decide to go do that. They start to walk out of the classroom and bump into Ami, Kihara and Kashii. Probably trying to give Noto a proper nudge, Haruta compliments Kashii’s curled hair as if to lead by example. To that, Kashii attempts to pass the ball to Noto by asking him how he likes girls’ hair. “Huh?! Me?! Hair?! I-I- … wanna karaoke?!” Noto stutters back. Though rather abrupt the girls decide to join them. They head outside to wait for Kitamura. There, they see Minori heading softball practice. Ami walks up to the fence and calls out to Minori, inviting her to join them for karaoke. Minori happily accepts and promptly ends club a little early today. They finally spot Kitamura, who hurries over and apologizes for his tardiness. Together, they all head out for an evening of karaoke. Everyone’s here. Now we just need you, Taiga.
It was Ryuuji Takasu’s first day as a third year and he was running late. He races out of the house and startles the landlady as he thunders down the stairs. But then... “Guh?!” “Ow...” He felt an impact against he chest. He looked down and it was her. “Ow... ouch...” “...T-Taiga?! Since when have you been here?! How did you get back!?... Uh... are you okay?” “I feel kinda dizzy and- Wait! A! Sec!” Murder filled her eyes. “I’ve been waiting here this whoooole morning and you’re late! And then you don’t even notice me and just run me over! Why didn’t you just-” In an instant, he quelled her complaints by pulling her into a tight embrace “-hug me like this from the start?” This shamelessness, this strength, this minuteness, this weight, this energy, this sense of lovingness-this was Taiga. “I’m so... sorry,” Taiga starts. She was always so sudden. “It’s you! It’s really you, Taiga!” “Ryuuji! My favorite Ryuuji!”
I don’t feel like writing anymore because I don’t feel like I could do it any justice without copying the whole thing. Sorry. Will probably edit this in later :/