|This article contains HEAVY spoilers. Please view at your own risk.
"One Step Forward" is the 16th episode of Toradora! and was first aired on January 22, 2009. The screenwriter for the episode was Tatsuto Higuchi.
Taiga and Ryuuji try to get Yusaku to become the next student council president by telling students how Taiga will ruin everyone's high school life. Ryuuji discovers that Yusaku has feelings for Sumire, the student council president, and that she is going to be studying abroad in America soon, which explains Yusaku's odd behavior. After encouragement from Sumire, Yusaku becomes a candidate; Taiga drops out of the race, leaving Yusaku to become the student council president. He confesses his love to Sumire in front of everyone, but she does not respond to his feelings. Taiga becomes outraged at this, and fights Sumire. After Ryuuji and the council members stop the fight, Sumire confesses she did not want Yusaku to sacrifice everything for her. Yusaku overhears this and states he is glad he fell in love with her. As Minori leaves, Ami asks her if she feels guilty. Two days later Sumire leaves to study abroad and Taiga is suspended for two weeks. She is told to send a letter of apology to Sumire and instead sends a letter with only the word 'idiot', in reference to Sumire confessing that she wished she was "just another idiot" like other people.
Despite the pressure from everyone to get Yusaku to run for student council president in order to prevent the evil Taiga from winning, he doesn’t change his mind. Things look bad as the candidacy deadline draws near, but one night, Ryuuji receives a call from a guy named Murase who’s on the student council, and Murase reveals that Sumire is quitting school to go study overseas soon. With this in mind, Ryuuji heads out and tracks down his friend by the river. Yusaku admits that he likes Sumire, but she’s going to America to be an astronaut. His original plan was to get elected as student council president, earn recognition from her, and then confess to her. However, since she wouldn’t be around, there was no point in becoming student council president anymore. Yusaku knows that what Taiga has been doing is for his sake, and he decides to head home again when she comes looking for Ryuuji, but he first claims he’s okay and gives the indication that he’ll be turning things around. When Taiga finally finds Ryuuji, he doesn’t tell her about seeing Yusaku and doesn’t even reveal who the phone call was from.
The next day, Yusaku shows up at school with his hair back to normal and seems ready to be student council president again. However, Ryuuji learns later that Yusaku still hasn’t officially filed to be a candidate, and there’s not much time left. When he confronts Yusaku about it, Yusaku admits that he decided not to do it after all, and he goes on to tell Ryuuji the story of how he joined the student council. Back when he had first entered high school, he wanted to get a girlfriend and had confessed to Taiga. After Taiga rejected him, Sumire was the one who raised his spirits and gave him a fun school life on the student council, but now, Yusaku feels that he can’t take the next step forward. It is at this point in the conversation that Sumire appears and confronts him about running away. She makes him realize that he has to step forward, literally smacking him forward in the process, and as she walks away, she claims that she’ll be watching to see what kind of student council president he becomes. Knowing what he has to do, Yusaku turns in the candidacy form just in the nick of time.
On the day of speeches in front of the student body, instead of delivering a speech, Yusaku decides to confess to Sumire. This surprises everyone, and with people calling for Sumire to answer him, she finally takes the microphone. However, she treats the confession as a sign of what an interesting guy Yusaku is, and she uses this to play up his candidacy. Ryuuji chases after Sumire afterward and questions why she didn’t answer Yusaku properly after she had urged him forward. Sumire explains that she had wanted him to run for student council president, not to confess, and she feels that Yusaku should learn to live more wisely. Ryuuji wants to continue questioning her, but he’s stopped by Taiga who wants him to go comfort Yusaku because it’s not something that she can do. She claims that she’s okay, but after Ryuuji runs off, she pulls out a wooden sword and goes to confront Sumire in the classroom. Even though Taiga understands that she’s not the one Yusaku wants, she wants to do what she can, and the only thing she knows for sure is that she can’t stop.
As Sumire and Taiga trade hits, Taiga repeatedly calls Sumire a coward, and she refuses to forgive her for hurting Yusaku. Ryuuji eventually comes in and stops the fight, but Taiga continues yelling and wants Sumire to say that she hates Yusaku if she won’t accept his feelings. To everyone’s surprise, Sumire responds by saying that she wants to be a naive idiot like Taiga if she could, but if she said that she liked Yusaku, then he’d sacrifice a lot to follow her – that’s why she feels that she can’t be an idiot. Sumire realizes too late that Yusaku had heard all of this, and he ends up thanking her and telling her that he’s truly glad to have fallen in love with her. Nothing else happens until the teachers come, and after helping clean up, a few of the girls discover Taiga’s student handbook on the floor. Inside is the picture of her and Yusaku, and the girls – including Minori – realize that Taiga really did have feelings for him. However, before they can look at the picture underneath that first one, Ami confiscates the handbook so that it can be returned. As she then walks past Minori, Ami quietly questions if Minori’s feelings of guilt are gone.
In the aftermath, Sumire heads to America, Yusaku is elected student council president, and Taiga is suspended for two weeks. Sometime later, Sumire receives a postcard from Taiga, and on the back are two characters that make her laugh: baka (idiot).
- This episode, along with Toradora!, are the only 2 with a post credit scene.
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