Move over, Tohru. Our relentlessly-positive protagonist has devised one strategy to soothe the Sohma angst, but it’s far from the only approach. This week, her jaded and cynical homeroom teacher gets a moment in the spotlight. It’s Fruits Basket’s greatest strength that it doesn’t put the burden of the story entirely on its central cast. Episodes like this one show that even the characters who have received the least screen time have fully fleshed out lives. Even side characters have rich inner lives, a realization that makes the Sohmas’ world seem all the more real. The fact that Fruits Basket can offer such a strong episode devoid of any of its main characters speaks volumes for its thematic consistency: it shows us that the emotional beats of Fruits Basket transcend any one character’s story.
Homeroom teacher MAYUKO couldn’t be any different from her best friend. She’s aloof and standoffish—but Kana knows that beneath her prickly exterior, she’s hiding a big heart. “You Cried For Me” endears us to the sardonic, secretly sweet MAYUKO while rewarding viewers with a romantic side story in the Fruits Basket cinematic universe. Just like with Kureno and Arisa (and I’ll leave my squicky feelings about that age gap for another review), this episode’s deep dive into a side character love story answers our questions about what everyone else is doing outside of the Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo love triangle. This is the first time this manga chapter has been animated and since it’s been twenty years, it’s also particularly timely for this love story between adults to finally get an adaptation—the Fruits Basket fans who were Tohru’s age when the manga came out can now identify more closely with Mayu’s mother nagging her to get married.
We are quickly engrossed in Mayu’s life and troubles because she parallels so easily with other characters. She’s not as sweet as Kana, but she’s also much stronger—strong enough, it is implied, to overcome the psychological trauma of the Sohma inner circle that Kana would rather wipe her memory to forget. She’s able to go toe-to-toe with trickster Shigure (when she hung up the phone on him, I cheered). And the same way that Hatori rarely relaxes in front of others (remember how surprised everyone was when he fell asleep on the couch at the vacation home?), Mayu rarely reveals the bleeding heart she keeps under her hardened exterior. Mayu is perhaps an adult version of what Tohru might have become if she weren’t offered kindness: a woman toughened by the pain of the world who nevertheless is always thinking about those around her, in particular, when she buries her feelings for Hatori in order to help Kana find happiness. This is the weakest part of the story: the viewer is left to fill in the blanks as to why Mayu is in love with Hatori: we’re simply told that she is, with no real evidence or reason, because it makes sense for the plot).
Leave it to Fruits Basket’s most controversial character, that irritating Devil’s Advocate Shigure, to give Mayu and Hatori a shove in the right direction. Somehow by lying to Mayu that Hatori has found a girlfriend (in reality Hiro’s cute and clumsy mom), Mayu decides she has nothing to lose by telling Hatori how she really feels. Only Hatori, a character as expert at burying his feelings as Mayu, understands the power in her vulnerability, the offering inherent in her impulsive tears. We leave this pair closer than they started and with a promised happy ending: Mayu narrates from the future that they’ll end up together, even if we’re not privy to the continuation of their love. At a time when Fruits Basket is looking pretty dark and Tohru isn’t anywhere close to breaking the curse, it’s gratifying to have this hint at future happiness.
Fruits Basket is currently streaming on
Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist and model kits at Gunpla 101.