Throughout anime, there are themes that reflect Christian values. You can see themes of loyalty, service, peacemaking, patience, love and acceptance just to name a few. Out of all the characters in all of the anime I have seen, the one I felt has come closest to what a Christian is supposed to be, or maybe the one I want to be like most, is Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket.
From her gratefulness, to her constant service mindset, to her unconditional love and acceptance of those around her, whenever I watch Fruits Basket I find myself wishing I would handle situations the way she handles them. It takes a certain amount of bravery and strength to approach life the way Tohru does.
The first thing I notice is her grateful attitude and the way she freely gives to others. Maybe it’s because she is used to going without, but Tohru approaches everything she receives with a surprised gratefulness. Petty complaints fall in the wake of the appreciation she shows for the smallest of gifts. In turn, she gives of her time, talents and the little she has to the point where it makes some of the Sohma family worry.
In one scene, some of the Sohmas are discussing the fact that Tohru needs to think of herself more and not be so foolish, but Momiji puts her situation in a different perspective by telling a story he heard in school called The Most Foolish Traveler in the World. The story is about a traveler that gives to anyone around him that asks until he as nothing…not even his own body. While most of his classmates said this man was a fool, Momiji had another opinion.
“I imagine it probably does sound foolish to some people, but not to me. I don’t think he was foolish at all. Even though other people probably think he was being tricked, I don’t think he was. I think he did exactly what he wanted to do. I think, more than anything, he just wanted to make people happy. Is that foolish? When you close your eyes and think about it… is that what it is?”
Tohru was so grateful for everything she received and gave everything she could with no resentment or coercion. She was so willing to give that it appeared to many as foolishness, but it wasn’t foolish because she was doing exactly what she wanted to do according to her own priorities. I think Christians are asked to adopt a similar attitude.
“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”
It’s not that we should actively look for someone to try and fool us, but more that we should adopt the attitude that the relationship is more important than what is being taken whether it’s fair or not. Showing love is always the priority, even when, and I would say especially when, it’s not fair.
The next thing I notice is her consideration and her willingness to think of other’s first so completely. Many times while watching the anime or reading the manga, my initial reactiton to what some characters think or do is “Well, that’s stupid.” Tohru’s first reaction is “Oh, I hadn’t thought about it that way.” While she is grounded in her key values, she genuinely considers other’s thoughts and opinions and put’s “their way” first when possible. She tries to see the good in everyone and every situation.
She explains this concept to Ayame when he talks to her about repairing his relationship with his brother, Yuki. She uses a story her mother told her about remembering a child’s perspective after becoming a parent .
“If you can remember those feelings then when you become an adult and have children of your own, you’ll be able to understand each other much better. And, even when you don’t agree, you can still meet them halfway.”
She understands the importance of meeting people where they are no matter where that is and prioritizes that over her own comfort. In Kagura’s crazy obsession of Kyo, Tohru see’s her passion, in Rtizu’s extreme, inconvenient timidity she see’s a gentle smile. In each situation she recognizes and appreciates the positive and grows a relationship based on that.
Again, I think this is something else expected of Christians.
“ Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law),so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Getting caught up in small differences, misunderstandings and assumptions is easy to do and can turn a pleasant interaction sour… fast. By prioritizing the other person’s perspective, we don’t lose sight of what matters.
The most important trait I notice when I watch this show is the unconditional love and unconditional acceptance she shows everyone she meets. The people Tohru interacts with know she accepts them completely, and that creates a safe place where they can be healed and refreshed.
Kisa winds up at Shigure’s house with Tohru after being bullied at school and running away. She retreated in fear from even her own family becoming completely mute. Tohru explained Kisa’s fears to the mother and then allowed Kisa to stay with her with no judgement until she was strong enough to go back. While many around Kisa were judging her for not being able to deal with the bullying and pull herself out of her depression, Tohru patiently loved her until she was refreshed.
After reading a letter from Kisa’s teacher, Yuki talks about how Tohru’s acceptance and love was what Kisa needed instead of the criticism and condemnation of her teachers and family.
“When someone else accepts you, that’s when you begin to see yourself through their eyes. You begin to realize that there may actually be many qualities to like about yourself.”
Throughout the anime, Tohru looks into the darkest, ugliest places in lives of the Sohma family members and still accepts and loves them despite what she sees. The most notable time is when she see’s Kyo’s true form. As the most cursed of the Sohma family, Kyo turns into a disgusting monster if he doesn’t wear a set of beads at all times. The head of the household referred to the form as the ugliest thing he had ever seen with a smell like something dead and rotting. Although she is afraid of him in this form, Tohru holds her relationship with Kyo above that fear. She seeks him out and, even though he harms her during this pursuit trying to keep her away, she continues staying with him at his ugliest until he is ready to return home with her.
To be healed, you need to feel safe. To feel safe, you need to feel accepted…completely. This is the trait I want most of all. I want to be that person that can look at the ugliest part of another’s life and still be able to love them. I want them to feel comfortable enough around me to show their ugliest parts. I think this is needed so much and it’s incredibly hard to genuinely find. If we are going to tell people God can heal them, we need to be willing to make a safe place where that healing can occur, no matter how ugly things get.
So, whenever I watch this anime, I always end up thinking “I wish I was more like you, Tohru.”