In the beginning, she was just a classmate. Then she was the weird girl who lived in a tent. I invited her to live with us partially because she was in dire straits, but mostly because of some stupid spirit of defiance against the Sohma family and our curse. But something she said got to me.
After my memory gets erased, please become my friend again, okay?
And then Manabe finally makes his presence felt, probing Yuki’s feelings (as they are frankly unusual and complicated, not to mention controversial).
Manabe: A “mother”…A mother figure, huh? I gotta say, that’s, uh, hard to understand. You wanna borrow my mom?
Yuki: I had been longing for that kind of unconditional love, which I’d never known before. That’s why she made me so happy. She listened to all of my gripes without ever showing impatience or boredom. She accepted me for who I am, and didn’t reject me for being a weakling. She made me happy, and made me feel secure. I was looking for a mother. Or at least a mother’s love – and somewhere along the line, I found it in Honda-san.
Manabe: In a girl our age?
Yuki: Yeah…(internally) I don’t know why, but I think I realized it that night. The night Kyo transformed. When she ran after him, she definitely looked like a “woman.” I don’t know why, but that’s how she seemed to me that night. (aloud) […] I was flustered when I first realized that was what I wanted from her. Very much so, actually. Not to mention embarrassed…I didn’t want to admit the truth, so I pretended that I didn’t notice. From the start, I put a lid on those feelings. I told myself I didn’t feel that way. I tried to approach her like any guy interested in an attractive girl. But that didn’t work.
Manabe suggests that maybe Yuki’s exaggerating his feelings a bit – maybe he just wants a “motherly” girlfriend, and he’s falling back on these odd feelings as an excuse to give up on pursuing Tohru romantically.
Manabe: What’s his name, Kyo? Maybe you’re thinking you’re no match for him?
This is along the lines of most fan criticism of this development – that it’s just a lame excuse for Yuki to pull out of the love triangle. But the thing is, like basically all of Takaya-sensei’s “twists”, it actually does make sense. She clearly laid down the groundwork for this throughout the series. And I honestly appreciate it! Yuki still loves and cares about Tohru deeply, he’s just not “in love” with her. It’s good to present non-romantic love not only as legitimate and separate from romance, but as an equally powerful emotion. It’s especially hard for teens to sort out feelings like that, and it can even be dangerous to conflate the two.
Ironically, it’s obvious to the reader that if Yuki really wanted to compete with Kyo for Tohru’s affections, he would “win”. Because the Rat always wins. But it would also destroy all three of them.
Yuki: Whether I’m a match for him, whether it’s good or bad, right or wrong, I couldn’t care less about that stuff. I’m sure there are couples like the ones you mentioned, and that’s fine for them. But I don’t give a crap about that either. The thing is, I wouldn’t like it. In fact, I would hate that. Something like that would just make me lonely.
I want someone too. Not a person I put up on a pedestal, but someone who’s on my level. Someone I need and who needs me back…feeling secure when I go to sleep and being accepted, they’re not enough. I want to give. I want to give something that only I can give. I want to take all of the encouragement, kindness, and warmth you gave to me and set out once more. I don’t want to lose to the darkness. I want to have faith and move forward. This time for sure, I won’t waste what you’ve given to me. I want to find it. My own proof that I’m alive.
Courting Tohru would be the easy way out for him – if it’s really a way out at all. He needs to keep on making new meaningful relationships, otherwise he’s wasting the opportunity he got from Tohru.
Manabe cheers up Yuki by kicking a soccer ball in his face (at least beating up Kakeru seems to cheer him up and stop him from crying). He may not have the best methods, but you can’t doubt Nabe’s sincerity. Yuki finds himself surprisingly refreshed afterwards.
Is it because someone from a totally different world heard me out? Or maybe it’s just that he’s actually a really nice guy.
And he comes back home to find Kyo and Tohru fighting over a script.
Yuki: I don’t wish to interrupt, but do you mind if I enter my own home?
Kyo: H-how long were you standing there…!?
Yuki: You’ll never know.
Now that he’s gotten his feelings toward Tohru sorted out, it seems he’s finally ready to try reconciling with Kyo…but Kyo isn’t quite ready to deal with his own baggage.
Yuki: About that hat…I don’t have to bother giving it back, do I? Honda-san has it now.
Yuki: Maybe he’s touchy about that part of the past…but if he doesn’t get his act together soon it’ll be troublesome.
I want you to be happy. You more than anyone. I hope you find your own proof someday. A place where you can be yourself. Where you can be free…a place where you can sulk and be angry without holding back…I’m sure you’ll get there. And when you do, I’m sure I’ll finally be able to tell you thank you for everything you’ve done.
In other news, Ayame’s going to make costumes for the Cinderella play. And evidently he’s texting buddies with Manabe because of course he is. The play is going to be…interesting, that’s for sure.
Until next time…