WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Fruits Basket, Season 2, Episode 5, “Wait For Me, Tororo Soba!”, now streaming on Crunchyroll.
In the newest episode of the rebooted Fruits Basket anime, the story dives into metaphors to represent Tohru’s quest to end the Sohma curse once and for all. And it does so using… a haunted house in the middle of a mall. As strange as that sounds, it actually makes perfect sense.
This episode has two major storylines in it: Arisa Uotani’s charming encounter with a handsome man in her convenience shop (and her lunch date with him), and Tohru’s misadventure in a haunted house in the local mall. Momiji, Hatsuharu, Kyo and Yuki are all with her, and they’re not so sure Tohru can handle a spooky haunted house. Tohru is determined to try it, though, and marches right in. The boys follow her… and watch her scream in terror at just about everything. White-robed ghosts, overgrown shrines and mangled soldiers (all animatronics) are everywhere, and while Momiji finds them funny, Tohru is in over her head.
But she won’t give up, even if she has to close her eyes and keep marching deeper into the haunted house. At some point, Hatsuharu decides to intervene, and he points out the model of a graphically injured soldier and makes up a backstory for it. In Hatsuharu’s improvised story, that soldier (who looked the same as a kid) was tragically abandoned by his mother when he was ten-years-old, and he only had a hand-knitted sweater to remember her by. The abandoned boy longed to find his mother again, and he never gave up hope that he would see her again. Tohru listened carefully to this tragic tale.
Good news, according to Hatsuharu: the abandoned man’s mother is here today, and she is the long-necked ghost right across from him. Hatsuharu brashly tears off the model’s head and holds it right up to the soldier, declaring that mother and son have united at last, and the story has a happy ending. Momiji and Tohru are moved to tears, and they defend this story when the haunted house’s operator fusses at the group for damaging the property. Kyo, meanwhile, is exasperated at everything going on around him.
It’s clear what sort of analogy the story is trying to make. The haunted house, and its tormented and grotesque features, are meant to stand for the Sohma curse. From the outside, people are supposed to be horrified by the Sohma members’ zodiac curse, and indeed, Momiji’s mother abandoned him once she realized she gave birth to a rabbit. Most zodiac members’ parents see their children as monsters, and the cursed Sohmas see themselves this way, too. And Akito isn’t helping.
But are they really monsters? Tohru doesn’t think so, and not even Kyo’s monstrous true form scared her off, even when he tried to push her away. The Sohmas are human like anyone else, and they need help. Tohru is braving all kinds of risks and drama to save these people, sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong for all the right reasons. This makes her not just the kindest, but also the bravest and toughest member of the cast, almost to a superhuman extent. Hatsuharu humanized the scary archer with that story to ease Tohru’s fears, and Tohru is helping the Sohmas realize that they are wonderful individuals rather than monsters. Nothing is scary if you understand it and see the goodness inside it, even if no one else dares to come close.
Hatsuharu was the hero of the haunted house attraction, mirroring how Tohru is an emotional rock and savior to the cursed Sohmas who desperately need her help.
A haunted house is a metaphor for the Sohma family's curse and Tohru's fearless quest to fix it in the latest episode of Fruits Basket.