And there’s the first of many tearjerkers to come…
I can’t. I just can’t. I know I’ve said this already but how am I going to handle what happens later down the road if I’m already struggling this early on? Simply put, I was a mess by the time this episode ended. Even knowing that this episode was right around the corner didn’t prepare me at all. Not that it would’ve helped though. This reboot just had to throw a new wrench with that flashback scene between Torhu and Kyoko. Why? Why must you do this to me, Fruits Basket?
So following the cliffhanger of last episode, Tohru learns that she can live with her relatives again and that proves to be more to her chagrin than she realized after getting used to the Somas’ company. Obviously, the arrangement is temporary and it ends with Yuki and Kyo taking Tohru back. We wouldn’t have Fruits Basket if those three lived separated from each other. That isn’t to say that this episode exists to pass the time though. If anything, I’d argue that the story needed something like this — Tohru coming to terms about where she belongs and what she would call “home”.
To start things off, there’s the title drop. Five episodes in and you finally learn why this story is called Fruits Basket. The title refers to a recurring memory of Tohru’s; how in Elementary School, her class would play a game of “Fruits Basket”. Classmates would pick on her by labeling her the “rice ball”, positioning her as an outcast since rice balls don’t belong in a basket of fruit. As a result, Tohru never gets picked but she nevertheless puts on a smile, happy with what label she does have and hoping that she’ll get picked one day. For a title that sounds so sweet, “Fruits Basket” is actually a rather somber metaphor, revealing that Tohru’s positive outlook sometimes belies a lifelong desire to feel welcomed. It isn’t just Yuki or Kyo who feels they don’t fit in, it’s also Tohru.
I always get annoyed at the occasional comment saying Tohru is one dimensional or unrealistic, that she’s just a saintly Mary Sue who is all sunshine and rainbows. It’s true that Tohru is an unbelievably kind and warming person but episodes such as this one show how she can be that to a fault. Because Tohru is so selfless, she’s conscious about being selfish. She doesn’t like to make a big deal about herself; she’d rather have the predicament center on anything but herself. It may be selfless of her to live in the woods by herself but it’s undeniable that she was making things harder for herself. Even when Yuki and Shigure offer her a place to stay, she tries to decline because she’s afraid she’s taking advantage of their hospitality. Along those lines, Tohru can be a pushover. That was already made evident with how little she resists the insults and demands Yuki’s fan club throw at her but a better case in point is with this episode when she tries living with her relatives.
There’s no denying how unpleasant Tohru’s aunt and cousins are. Having a private detective investigate her. Assuming she’s up to no good simply because Kyoko had a juvenile history (that’s a pretty big detail to drop though). Demanding she keeps a low profile for the sake of someone else’s reputation. Asking her if she was in a sexual relationship with one of the Somas. Even if you want to argue that Tohru brought this upon herself (and shame on you if you do), the treatment is still uncalled for. It hardly seems like Tohru is part of the Honda family at all.
Originally, I was surprised at these relatives’ attitudes but in retrospect, the writing was on the wall. It was mentioned at the beginning of the series that Tohru was stuck in custody limbo after her mother died. Perhaps Tohru had already known that she wouldn’t feel welcomed by her relatives. In spite of that, she still chooses to live with them, both to respect what’s already been arranged and to avoid “burdening” the Somas any more than she already has. She clearly looks uncomfortable but she doesn’t want to complain because she’s given a roof to live under and feels obligated to be thankful for it. She admits that she’d rather be back with the Somas but she expects that wish to go unfilled, much like how she was never picked during a game of Fruits Basket.
Thank goodness Tohru at least has her grandfather. Never has a face slap felt oh so satisfying. The grandfather doesn’t appear very often but I’ve always enjoyed the few times he does. To me, he really epitomizes the ideal elder — loving to the whole family but still willing to punish anyone should they go too far. His suggestion is exactly what Tohru needs to hear. He doesn’t reject Tohru but he’s still right in that Tohru would be better off elsewhere, something which he once saw with her parents. The other thing worth mentioning is how he keeps referring Tohru as Kyoko (something the 2001 anime omitted but the reboot had added back in). It’s a running gag Natsuki Takaya did with this character, making him appear senile. I do wish there was one time here where he called Tohru by her actual name (preferably when he bids her farewell). There was, however, that part where the grandfather talks to Tohru about Kyoko and refers to the latter separately from the former. A bit odd considering that he’s mistaking the two as the same person…
Even better was Yuki and Kyo coming to the “rescue”. Though neither boy can put their finger on it, there’s a void left when Tohru is absent. They need her just as much as she needs them. More importantly, they both arrive to pick up Tohru together. For all their bickering and fighting, Tohru is becoming their common ground, the one person that can get them to set aside their differences for her sake. Yes, you still have the Rat and Cat trading blows (albeit in very one-sided fashion when things get physical) but it’s still an improvement that they’re even tolerating each other for a lengthy period of time as they look for Tohru together.
I appreciate how this adaptation approached and even expanded on their scenes too. In the 2001 anime, Shigure bugs Yuki and Kyo with constant mentions of Tohru in an effort to convince them that they want her back. It’s a fine addition to the text (well, I maybe could’ve done without Shigure trying to sniff Tohru’s towel) but I do prefer what little Shigure actually does in the 2019 version. He mostly just reads his newspaper, thereby allowing the boys to come to their decision entirely on their own. I will admit that seeing the boys “rescue” Tohru is perhaps more surprising and therefore more satisfying in the manga. Plus, in terms of pacing, it makes more sense for the scene to be a climax, not a midway surprise and then a climax after seeing events from their perspective. However, I still like seeing them look for the Honda residence, eavesdrop, and react to Tohru’s cousin with disgust. It lets you see their resolve to take Tohru back build up.
If there is one thing I wish the 2019 anime did, it’d be keeping “For Fruits Basket” as the insert song for when Tohru cries and walks back home with Yuki and Kyo. The song they used instead is still good but it really is hard to imagine the scene without the very original Fruits Basket OP playing. That still doesn’t stop the scene from punching me in the damn gut. Tohru breaking down and crying? I’m going to need a minute after that.
Even when I manage to put sad Tohru aside, this episode hits me in other, more nuanced ways. It was already hard seeing Kyoko appear in a flashback but finding out its exact purpose made me want to punch a wall. By including it in this episode, you can have it work in conjunction to Kyo and Tohru’s conversation. Just like when Kyoko once told Tohru that it’s okay to be a little selfish, Kyo tells her the exact same thing in present day. The parallel created there helps Tohru realize that the Somas are now her family as well as remember the relevance of her mother’s guidance. You also have also the callback to the Fruits Basket game. All versions have Tohru imaging her young self finally getting picked during a game, symbolizing that she finally found a place where she belongs. For increased impact, the 2019 anime had young Tohru run up to Kyo and Yuki. After so much rejection in her life, Tohru has finally found a place where she belongs. She’s finally found her fruits basket and it’s with the Somas.
No matter what form Fruits Basket takes and no matter which form comes out on top, this particular episode or chapter will always be a standout in the series’ entire narrative. It’s the first major turning point in Tohru’s story, having the protagonist learn that the Somas are her new family and that it’s okay to be a little selfish. The message that ordeal brings will always stick with me. Loving others is important but so is having others who will love you back. The only thing crazy about all this is that Fruits Basket still has more to say.
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