What makes Fruits Basket such a special series? There are a lot of reasons, actually, but one is how it so clearly gets to the very center of love—what it is, what it is not, and what it should be. Episode eight presents a very good picture of that as it defines love this way: It’s putting yourself second, no matter how much “second” hurts, to care for the one you’re placing first.
The premise of the episode is very simple. It’s New Year’s, an important occasion for the Soma family (no surprise seeing their intimate connection to the Zodiac). Tohru is not a Soma and cannot attend. That’s fine for Kyo and Yuki—they’d rather stay at Shigure’s home with Tohru than be part of the festivities (Yuki because of disdain for Akito and Kyo to escape Kagura). In fact, the decision is easy, but Tohru complicates things by telling them it’s wonderful they have family to celebrate with. The boys consider that she can no longer celebrate with her own parents, and that they should attend to their family to be considerate to Tohru.
Kyo and Yuki make the heavy decision to go to a place they very much don’t want to be just to make Tohru feel better. Later, of course, through Hanajima’s intervention, the boys rush home from their trek to the Soma’s estate to spend the holiday with Tohru, again, despite the consequences they’ll suffer by not attending. So twice in one episode do the boys put themselves second for a girl they’ve come to love.
I think we all know this kind of love. Yesterday, I felt an immense amount of pressure on me with much to do and little time and energy, but when a young man I’ve tried to mentor needed me, I put everything aside and talked to him for an hour. I did it because I love him. I came second; he came first. I’m not looking for kudos for that decision—in fact, it’s not a natural one to me. I pick myself first too often, even at the expense of others I love; if it had not been modeled for me, I’m not sure I could demonstrate even the amount that I do.
Kyo and Yuki are like me. Selflessness doesn’t come easy for them either; it’s not in their character. They have loved ones, sure, but rarely do they love; selfishness and rage more characterize these two. And yet, they’re changing because of someone who has put herself second over and over again, demonstrating love to everyone around her. Even in this episode, it’s not Kyo and Yuki who love the most—it’s Tohru. In her sadness, knowing that she’ll be alone and missing her mom, she chooses to send the boys off and suffer silently. She puts herself second to the boys whom she loves.
And that sacrifice is the love that’s changing the Somas. It’s also a love that can change you and me, for in its definition, the receiver is given much at some—often great—cost. And there are very few things that can transform us in life than love such as this.
Fruits Basket can be streamed via Crunchyroll.