Toradora’s Christmas Festival Episode May Be the Saddest in All of Anime

Christmas episodes are often a way to lighten the mood in anime. Festive magic and cheery romances pervade the air in these holiday specials, providing a bright and celebratory atmosphere. But occasionally, a series throws a real tearjerker at its viewers for Christmas. That was the case with Toradora, a romantic dramedy with a legacy that places it as one of the anime's greatest hits. While the storyline begins optimistically, by the end of its highly anticipated Christmas party episode, both the main cast and the audience are left brokenhearted. Here's how one of anime's most iconic Christmas episodes was also one of its saddest.

Toradora follows high school students Ryuuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka in their quest for love. Gentle and domestic Ryuuji was cursed with a scary face, which makes his classmates avoid him. When Taiga, the school's diminutive bully, discovers his crush on her best friend Minori Kushieda, she agrees to play matchmaker for him if he does the same for her with his best friend Yuusaku Kitamura. Gradually, Taiga and Ryuuji forge a familial friendship that eventually gives way to romance between the two.

Taiga and Minori see Christmas differently in Toradora

When the Christmas season arrives, Taiga is initially ecstatic. Using her most beloved holiday, she vows to create the perfect opportunity for Ryuuji to confess to Minori. While Ryuuji is cautiously optimistic, the upcoming school Christmas party seems like just the occasion to do so. The pair join Kitamura and their other classmates on the planning committee for the event to set the stage for a night of wonder.

Minori, on the other hand, is still reeling from her recent discovery of Taiga's burgeoning feelings for Ryuuji. Feeling guilt over her own crush on him, Minori believes that moving forward with him would be a betrayal to Taiga. Her anxiety becomes so bad that she ends up botching their school's baseball game, in spite of being the team's ace. Though she continues fronting with her characteristically jovial personality, she uses the loss as an excuse to avoid Taiga and Ryuji.

Little Taiga spent Christmas alone in Toradora

During preparations for the festivities, Taiga reveals that Christmas is her favorite holiday, as it helps her believe that someone is looking out for her. She is enamored by a childhood memory of Santa visiting her and gleams with hope brought by the winter festivities. Ryuuji, who has become privy to her home situation, knows how much this means, as Taiga lives alone and fends for herself emotionally despite having rich parents.

Ryuuji, who has taken on a guardian-like role for Taiga, is later confronted by Ami Kawashima, their class's most popular girl who also has a mild crush on him. Ami believes that Ryuuji is "playing house" with Taiga as his daughter and Minori as the mom, which is blinding him to his own feelings. Foreseeing the events that are to come, Ami believes that the current dynamic will only lead to tragedy for everyone involved.

Taiga and Ami sing Holy Night in Toradora at the Christmas party

When the party finally arrives, Minori continues evading the event along with Ryuuji's persistent invites. In part, she is ashamed after accidentally breaking Taiga's favorite ornament with a stray baseball, which serves as a symbolic omen of what she believes will happen if she pursues Ryuji. Still, Ryuuji prepares a present to confess to Minori with, should she change her mind and attend.

The celebration kicks into high gear as Ami and Taiga perform a musical number that moves  Ryuuji and the student body. Once the performance is over, Taiga runs off to convince Minori to come meet Ryuuji at the school before going home herself. Even though he knows that this is his chance to ask Minori out, Ryuuji rushes to Taiga's apartment, concerned that she might be alone and sad on Christmas. Clad in a teddy bear Santa outfit, he recreates her adolescent memory by climbing up to her window. While this lifts Taiga's spirits, she insists that he goes to Minori's side instead.


Ryuuji surprises Taiga as Santa before she cries on Christmas in Toradora

As Ryuuji runs back to the school, Taiga finally realizes that she does not honestly want him to end up with Minori. Ryuuji has become a person she depends on, and the thought of being without him drives her to tears in the streets. Minori, who was on her way to meet Ryuuji, sees Taiga's sorrow, which causes her to reject Ryuuji when she finally sees him. With Ami's forewarning coming true, the episode closes with shots of the main characters dejected and heartbroken.

Longtime fans know that these romantic issues are resolved by the series' finale. Nevertheless, when the episode first aired, it cast doubt on whether or not things would work out. Though Toradora is typically considered one of anime's most compelling school life romances, the Christmas party is a quintessential example of the show's ability to bring its viewers to tears along its emotional rollercoaster.

Heike Monogatari
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