Taiga enters the beauty contest wearing a dress worked on by Ryuuji, and although she thinks her father is late to come see her because of his job, she goes ahead with what she wants Ami to say for her introduction onto the stage. However, before Taiga’s turn comes up, Ryuuji gets a message from her father stating that something concerning work came up and that he won’t even be able to live with Taiga. Ryuuji realizes at this point that he shouldn’t have trusted Taiga’s father and that this was all his own fault. Taiga gets introduced onto the stage shortly thereafter, and what she wanted Ami to do announce that her father was there and get him to support her. Unfortunately, as everyone soon figures out, he’s not there, and to make matters worse, Taiga trips and falls flat on her face. Pissed off, she rips off the bottom of her dress, and to everyone’s surprise, Ryuuji and Minori start clapping for her. The other students soon join in, and after Taiga demonstrates how she can fit her entire body inside a bag, she wins the competition. Watching her on the stage, Ryuuji suddenly realizes that Taiga is all alone and tries to make his way up to her, but he’s interrupted by the announcement of a foot race for the guys. Among the prizes that the winner gets is the ability to crown Taiga and dance with her.
Determined to win so that he can reach Taiga, Ryuuji outruns almost everyone, but Minori manages to catch up with him. Seeing her reminds Ryuuji about how she was right and how he failed to notice that Taiga’s father wasn’t thinking about her. Ryuuji and Minori, however, get pushed back by a pair from the track team, so Minori nails them both with a softball and then throws herself at some other guys who are catching up. She urges Ryuuji to go ahead, but he helps her back up and the two cross the finish line together, hand in hand. Seeing all this, Taiga thinks to herself that the two don’t have to worry about her like that and that she can stand up by herself. In the aftermath, Taiga is back to her normal self, and Minori reveals to Ryuuji that Taiga’s father had done the same thing a year ago. Minori apologizes for not telling him about this and suggests that she was jealous of him because Taiga opened up to him. This leads her to question if she likes girls instead of boys, and she soon notices that she’s speaking normally to Ryuuji. Taiga meanwhile dances with Kitamura at his request even though he wasn’t the winner of the race, and the entire class then dances together. Ryuuji ends the night feeling that things will be okay.
I’m not used to seeing Taiga smile so much, but it’s good for her that she has such great friends. Not too surprisingly, Ryuuji is willing to do pretty much anything for Taiga (the race was certainly a lot of fun to watch), though the saving grace for his potential relationship with Minori is that he managed to get a little closer to her as well in the process. The parts of the episode where they clapped together and where they helped each other in the race were somewhat cliche, but it was still a fairly touching show of support for Taiga.
As for Taiga’s father, I would really like to hate him, but it feels like there’s something missing in his character development since the way he’s portrayed is rather one-sided. They didn’t really go into why he’s the way he is or why he ran off a second time – surely it’s not just due to work. Maybe they cut out something from the novels or maybe this’ll get talked about again later if Taiga’s father shows up again, but despite that, I still enjoyed the episode and the arc in general. And now that we’re at roughly the halfway point, I’ll say again what I said several weeks ago: I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how good this series has been so far. It’s got the right mix of emotions, comedy, and drama, plus some really great music. Hopefully the second half won’t disappoint once the show resumes airing January 7th, 2009 after a one week break.