It almost pains me to say this, but that's it, it's done - Toradora! is finished. It's strange how some shows manage to weave their way so deeply into the fabric of your life, and this series has been one of them - What started off as "just another romantic comedy" has ended up becoming something that I've raced home after work to watch, that I've evangelised and praised to anyone who will listen (and a lot of those people have now taken on the series with a similar fervour), and in a sense it's even connected me to people who I would otherwise have known that little bit less about (or in some cases not known at all). I think, having just watched this finale, that final fact is something everyone who worked on this series would be more than a little proud of.
Anyhow, after the last episode largely consisted of Taiga and Ryuuji behaving like kids, making rash decisions and following after them with little thought, the tables are well and truly turned in the first half of this instalment, reminding us that we can all make stupid decisions, and we're also often too stubborn to admit we were wrong and go back on those choices. This particularly applies to Yasuko, as we learn the truth about her relationship to Ryuuji's father, and how that impacted her relationship with her own parents - A state of affairs resolved, ironically, in no small part due to Ryuuji's own rash decision.
Speaking of the whole "let's get married" plot which bugged me somewhat last time around, this is very quickly resolved and put to bed here, with Taiga very sweetly making her point that it's too much too soon, but without denying her love for Ryuuji in the process - A really beautiful and sensitive scene sealed quite rightly with a kiss. At this point you'd be forgiven for thinking that's that, and the happy ending is all wrapped up, but not so - While Ryuuji has the blessing of his family to spend his life with Taiga, she's left in a far more delicate situation, and again we witness the parents acting like the children and vice versa. Rather than taking this opportunity to run away, leave her family ties behind and start anew, she instead takes the braver path of resolving things with her parents first and foremost, transferring away from school (and of course Ryuuji) without truly abandoning them.
This allows the rest of the episode to get down to what is perhaps the real story of Toradora! over and above love - Right from the outset the series has been about friendship above all else, and that is allowed to shine through here from the class' reaction to Taiga's transfer through to the varied responses of Minori, Kitamura and Ami to the situation. Although Taiga's departure makes for a slightly bittersweet ending to the series, all's well that ends well when it comes to graduation day, to seal that happy ending for definite in case it was needed.
I feel that I've said so much about Toradora! over the six months (has it really been that long?) that I've been watching it that it's somewhat tricky to find anything new to say. Put simply, this series has been one of the best characterised and most emotional anime works I've ever watched - It's made me laugh with its slapstick humour, it's made me smile at its main players and who and what they portray, and it's made me cry at its moments of sheer emotional intensity. The end of the series almost feels like walking away from some good friends, such is the feeling of being invited into a group of people that Toradora! has somehow fostered, but like all good friendships it's left me with plenty of good memories that I'll be sure to revisit, and for those of us left behind by Taiga and company there will surely be plenty of "Hey, remember in Toradora! when..." moments. That, above all else, it what makes any cultural medium of value, and that is why Toradora! is such a must-watch series.