Toradora!: Bentou no Gokui and the Joy of Giving

The title’s on the corny side, bringing such titles like the cookbook the Joy of Cooking and Christmas card slogans to mind, but giving is truly what this special is all about.  Toradora! is one of those hit single season anime that prove that companies like J.C. Staff have what it takes to produce quality stories, despite bland franchise series like Zero no Tsukaima and Aria the Scarlet Ammo.  Bundled along with the BD release of the original TV series, this unaired episode comes at a great time in the holiday.  The gift of giving is a theme central to both this special and the Christmas season, a joy which Ryuuji forgets in the heat of his own created rivalry with Kitamura’s behind-the-scenes grandmother.

The bento has received a lot of attention in  various anime, and enjoys spotlight this fall season with an anime of the same name.  In most cases, the boxed lunch is an object of love, often unrequited love, in a school setting.  Taking the reverse in Toradora!, it is the male who makes the food for the female.  At first making it out of the sheer pleasure of seeing Taiga’s fervent eating, Ryuuji’s motivations change after Kitamura brings in a 3-tier bento worthy of feeding an army.  Ryuuji’s pride in his cooking skill takes over and he spends the next few days trying to up the ante.  Sadly, his food loses everything that once made it special, primarily the taste that only comes with the genuine desire to please the eater.  He ignores Taiga’s preferences and presents her with increasingly odd choices.  It isn’t until he literally gets the boot from his teacher and becomes the recipient of a bento made by Taiga that he realizes the error in his actions.

Part of why this special struck a chord with me is because of my current worries about Christmas presents for my family and close friends.  I was concerned about matching the quantity of my gifts to that of what I knew I would receive, but sort of lost focus on the quality and the recipients.  Taking a step back, I remembered that it’s not so much how many presents I give, but the attitude in which I give them.

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