This is my second post with the lovely group, OWLS, and I hope everyone enjoys this as much as they did my last one. If you missed that post, you can view it here.
When given the topic of Mirrors, or self-image, my mind went to a couple of animes. Most were more mainstream and seemed obvious choices, so I thought a bit deeper and reminded myself of the fantastic show, Fruits Basket. Being one of the very first animes I ever watched, before I even had any interest in the anime world, I felt I had to bring it up again. When most people think of nostalgic animes, they think Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, or Naruto. Well, I never grew up watching anime. My friend introduced me to Ouran High School Host Club, Fruits Basket, and Sword Art Online far before I thought I would become a member of the fanbase.
I didn’t think of this show entirely based on its age, though. Being 16 years old now, nearly as old as myself, I’m surprised by the relevancy it still holds. There are two specific episodes I thought of when the topic of self-image was brought up. Episode 5, titled “A Rice Ball in a Fruits Basket” and episode 7, titled “A Plum on the Back.”
If you haven’t watched this show before, this post will spoil certain episodes, so I suggest you watch it first. But, if you don’t care, at least read my review on this show so you have some background, since I won’t be explaining the basic premise at all.
This episode focuses mainly on how Tohru views the way she fits in different groups of people, and really reflects on how she sees herself. She has gone through many things in her life, but manages to stay positive about everything that happens. This doesn’t mean that she always in confident in her actions and her image to others and herself.
There are many points in this episode that people make negative comments toward Tohru about her living with three men. She tries to not let the insults get to her, but these people make nasty assumptions about her intentions. But, rather than defending herself and explaining why she is staying with them, she remains silent. This is a huge part of her character that is reflected in this episode. In general, Tohru is a selfless, caring person, but doesn’t think much about her own wellbeing.
So, in this episode, Tohru is called by her grandfather because his house’s renovations are complete and she can move back in with him. She tells him that she’s happy to move back and be with her family, but before leaving, she has some second thoughts. She has enjoyed living with the Sohmas, despite how strange they are, and though she loves her grandfather she is sad to leave her new “family.”
Before she leaves, there is a flashback scene where she remembers the game she played with some other kids when she was younger. This game was called “Fruits Basket.” Each child was given a name of a fruit, and when that fruit was called, they would join and
The lonely rice ball
run with the others (I’m not sure what happens from there). Every kid was given their fruit, and Tohru was given not the name of a fruit, but a rice ball. Something that clearly does not fit in with the other fruits in the basket. She sat there, watching the other kids called by their fruit name, waiting for the rice ball to be called, but it never was.
She moves in with her grandfather no problem, but is immediately met with disgust and annoyance from her family. She is treated like an idiot, her belongings are treated like garbage, and she just generally is ignored. She realizes that she doesn’t feel comfortable with her own family. But, she doesn’t want to hurt her grandfather’s feelings, so she doesn’t say anything about wanting to leave. She lies, and says she is being treated kindly and that she loves living there. But really, she’s still a rice ball in that fruits basket.
It seems somewhat silly, but I love the symbolism it uses. Tohru sees herself as being a person who does not fit in with a lot of people. She lives with the Sohmas, and she feels out of place, since she is not related to them. When she moves to her grandfather’s, the other family members treat her like a foreigner.
She does end up going back to the Sohmas, and when she does, Kyo tells her that she needs to start telling people what she feels. She keeps it hidden, and becomes miserable because she doesn’t want to bother others. He tells her it’s okay to complain sometimes, and that it lets people know what she wants. They’ll never know if she never says anything.
I think this episode was a huge moment of development for her. She becomes much more open to the Sohmas and she is able to trust them much more. She views herself as fitting in with them now, instead of being the oddball of her own family. She found her own family in them.
This episode is probably one of my favorites. It introduces a nice form of symbolism as a plum on the back of the previously stated rice ball symbolism. Though, this episode does not focus on Tohru’s self-image, but Kyo’s and Yuki’s.
Something that is well-known throughout the show is Kyo and Yuki’s constant feud. This was started by their zodiac animals interacting in the past. All of the zodiac animals were invited to go to a banquet, except for the cat. He was invited by the rat, but was told the wrong date on purpose, so the cat would not be able to go to the banquet with the others. This cursed the cat of the Sohma curse to be even further cursed than the others. They were born to never fit in or be accepted by anyone. The rat is blessed to always be loved by many and to be naturally talented in many aspects.
Thus, they never get along. Though, in this episode it is revealed that both Kyo and Yuki envy the other for various reasons I will explain.
This episode focuses around the school festival, and Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki’s class decides to have a rice ball stand. Kyo and Tohru both add ideas, and Kyo’s is laughed at, but Tohru’s is praised and they end up using her idea in the end. This makes Kyo upset, since nobody even considered his idea once. He is constantly being ignored by his classmates and family members, and he feels this is all because of the curse his family is under.
When they return home, Tohru is working on preparing the riceballs for the festival, and Kyo decides to make one of his own. As she watches him, she realizes that he has a natural talent for forming the riceballs. She points it out, but he responds with “that’s not a real talent.” She assures him that it really is talent, and that not all people can do it so perfectly on the first try.
He insists that anything he does cannot be considered admirable or impressive, and that Yuki will always exceed him no matter what. He practices his martial arts skills constantly, but without training Yuki is still better than him. He feels incompetent in every way, and that there is no part of him that is admirable.
Tohru tells him that’s ridiculous. She explains that everyone has worth and admirable qualities, but they can’t always see it. She explains it as this: a person is compared to a rice ball. They see themselves as a plain ball of rice, but on the back of the riceball is a plum, a bit of flavor that others can see but they cannot. They are not so plain after all.
At first, Kyo doesn’t think that it’s true, but after thinking about it, he realizes that she may be right. Because there are things that Tohru does that she doesn’t see as admirable but Kyo does. This is a huge turning point for Kyo and how he views himself. He never knew that he could be someone admired or known for anything good. He knew himself as the cat, the outcast and monster of the zodiac. The one that nobody would ever accept because he was born to never belong. But hearing this from Tohru gave him hope and made him realize that maybe he can be something more than only the cat.
Later in the episode, they are at the festival, and the booth is doing well. Some third year girls talk to Yuki and give him a frilly dress as a present. He reluctantly accepts the gift, and must wear it for the remainder of the festival. He gains a lot of attention from girls mainly, and his picture is repeatedly taken. He is uncomfortable and annoyed with the attention. As being the “prince of the school” and having an entire fanclub dedicated to him, he expects these things. But he wishes this didn’t happen to him. He hates the way he looks, and the way girls attach themselves to him. He wants to be more average. He says he wishes he was more like Kyo, so he could be able to stay out of the spotlight. But he was born to be great in every way, so he just won’t be able to achieve that.
Both Yuki and Kyo have traits they view as negative, but the other views as positive. The plum on their back is the exact reason why they don’t like themselves.
I’ve always found this an interesting part of their relationship, since it seemed that they hated each other for no reason, but really they just envied what the other had.
Other people who struggle with self-image are Hatsuharu, Ritsu, and Hiro. Hatsuharu is viewed as being a delinquent, due to his two-toned hair and piercings, but really doesn’t want to hurt others. He really is a kind heart, but people won’t give him a chance to express that before making first judgments on him. Ritsu is often mistaken as a girl, due to the clothing he wears, but still identifies as male. He wears feminine clothing but doesn’t see himself being female. So, this is often a struggle with the way he views himself. Hiro cares deeply for his cousin, Kisa, but doesn’t want to seem weak for having feelings. As a young boy, he struggles between expressing himself and keeping his image.
Hiro and Kisa
This show has so many examples of the theme of self-image, it was hard to pick only a few. I have many more I wish I could talk about, but this post would be far longer than it already is.
I think this is how the show has held up after so many years, it has so many meaningful topics that are so very relevant today. I find myself being inspired and more open after watching this show, and I find so much joy in rewatching it. The show deserves so much more attention than it has.
Thank you for reading! I have been so excited to write this post and now it’s finally here!
Make sure to check out the previous OWLS post that Matt-in-the-Hat wrote and the one after me by ARCHI-ANIME. Hope you all enjoy July’s tour!
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All photos with the Funimation logo in the corner were screenshots I took. I do pay for the services, I did not steal the photos. All others were found through Google Images. Just thought I’d clarify.