I’m trying out this new regular column here on We Remember Love. Every week I’ll look into a character in anime or manga that made an impression on me (Mechafetish may do a few of these posts as well). These characters will be side characters for the most part, and will not be characters that I will obviously like (GAR pilots and leads, Lafiel, singing-idols, and lead characters in general especially from the anime that influenced me). Maybe in the course of this exercise I may discover Gundam characters that I presently don’t appreciate. I promise not to try to change anyone’s mind about Ranka.
The only criteria for a character to be included in this series (note the disqualification parameters I outlined above) is that for them to be in anime that I’ve already watched or am currently watching. My backlog is formidable as it is. If you want me to read a character for this column. Kindly refer to this list to know who I have a shot at getting to know in depth.
Today we look at Kitamura Yuusaku of Toradora! As of this writing I’ve seen 5 episodes, and it is on episode 5 that Kitamura became really interesting to me. He is the good friend of the lead male Ryuji and the love-interest of the lead female Taiga. In the past he liked and even confessed his attraction to Taiga, but was rejected. Taiga is now very much attracted to Yuusaku but his attentions are for the student council president Kano Sumire. He is the class rep, the vice-president of the student council, and the captain of the softball team. He wears glasses and is supposed to be not so good with girls, but rides a motorcycle to school and significant characters seem to be very attracted to him.
The above details aren’t going to make me interested in Kitamura. However, he showed me something in episode 5 with how he chooses to view and relate with Kawashima Ami, an arrogant bishoujo who bullies Taiga. Here are some screencaps that illustrate the events:
In the above scene Ami heaps insults upon Taiga, noting her diminutive size and proportions. Ami seems to really enjoy putting her down. Ami seems to be a self-centered, attention-hungry teenager. What makes her personality really distasteful is that she puts on a facade of self-effacing humility. She assessed Taiga’s social capital to be quite low making her a non-threat. The scene shows that Ami enjoys picking on the weak, as she perceives Taiga to be.
Regarding Kitamura, he seems well-aware of Ami’s personality and gives credit to how Taiga is enduring the insults without giving in to pettiness. Taiga slaps Ami to shut her up, but in my opinion this says more about Taiga’s standing up for herself rather than going down to Ami’s level.
Kitamura did not let on to anyone but Ryuji how much he’s onto Ami. He has something special in mind. In this scene Ami displays to us her competence in the usage of moe tropes (airheadedness, being dojikko clumsy). She portrays a completely false sense of vulnerability – moe, that manipulates the perceptions of others. It’s okay to like someone so vapid if she’s just a harmless stupid girl right? Desho?
Kitamura, fully aware of Ami’s duplicity, doesn’t seem bothered by it. Instead he displays (to Ryuji) how he seems to really care about her, by showing him his understanding of her character.
So he says, but I actually wonder how intends to make this happen. I suspect that he does not really want to show her up and embarrass her. I do give him the benefit of the doubt, and let him think how he intends to make this happen more thoroughly.
Tall order perhaps, but I think this is where Kitamura truly begins to shine. Ami’s behavior I think would normally inspire a wish to show her how wrong she is. We should want her to change, as if she’s a broken person that needs to be fixed. We might be even motivated by a desire to protect others from her malice and arrogance. Some of us may even be filled with righteousness and want to protect her from her own destructive behavior. We may focus on cutting her down, fixing her sense of superiority. That’s what we find so bothersome with her.
But not Kitamura. He seems to understand that one of the most gracious things you can give a person is the freedom to be. He sees that Ami has built a prison for herself with her reputation and her need to appear appealing and feel desired. She can’t be herself at all, and Kitamura sees this as the real, more important concern.
Yes, Kitamura. We know that what falsehood does is raise pickets that fence us in. Evangelion called this something beautiful, a field of absolute terror. It is what we benignly call identity; it is what we use to protect ourselves from others. And it does its job well – withering others who try to get close. Taiga has this too, hers being more obvious than others. We can call her AT Field tsundere.
Minorin sees through Ami’s AT Field. Minorin is powered by her own S2 Engine.
And Minorin’s sight is indeed penetrating. Right through the fourth wall we see Ami work her manipulations. She doesn’t really know if Kitamura indeed hates Taiga, but she knows enough that this is the kind of remark that would cause the most suffering.
And Taiga is saved. Kitamura revealed his plan to the person he knew who could do the most good for Taiga. It’s as if Kitamura is how Toradora! idealizes its audience: as an omniscient and omnibenevolent witness to the story as it unfolds. If Toradora! wants us to be Kitamura, even if only while we watch the show for the twentysomething minutes we do every week, then it is a good, good thing. It’s a kind of sincerity that is so much of Kitamura himself.
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