This week, we get a backstory episode for a character that you wouldn’t have necessarily expected to get one for… Mayuko, the teacher for Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki. In earlier episodes, we had seen hints and references about her dropped in the series (being Kana’s best friend and having once dated Shigure), but it never seemed like the series was ever going to do a backstory episode on her. But I’m glad this was here, because it shows there’s more to her than the strict teacher that we’ve seen up to this point.
Mayuko’s parents own a bookstore, and she has been asked to mind it while her father is in the hospital. She gets a surprise visit from Shigure, who has come to check on the status of a book he ordered. He brings up the past to her, and this leads us into the flashbacks that we see. It turns out that Mayuko had feelings for Hattori, but never acted on them because Kana was her best friend. Through these flashbacks, we also get to see Kana’s side of what happened after Hattori’s eye was injured during Akito’s hissy fit when Hattori announced his intentions to marry Kana. We knew from Hattori’s backstory that Kana became a wreck and had her memories altered by Hattori. In this flashback, though, we get to truly see how much of a wreck she became after that incident. It was also heartbreaking to see Kana and Mayuko talking after Kana’s memories were altered, especially when she was telling Mayuko that she and Hattori would be good together. And it was heartbreaking for Mayuko, too, because she actually starts crying. I appreciated seeing that there was more to Mayuko than the rough and strict exterior she normally exudes.
Another thing the audience learns is that it’s been two years since Kana’s memories were altered. As I recall, the amount of time between that incident and the present had not been revealed during Hattori’s backstory. To me, at least, it always felt like the amount of time was longer, so it was a little surprising to realize that it had only been two years.
In the present, after Shigure leaves, Hattori makes an appearance. We learn that the book Shigure ordered is actually for Hattori. It’s then that we realize that the sneaky Shigure was trying to find a way for the two of them to see each other, since Mayuko hasn’t seen or talked with Hattori in the past two years. The interactions between these two were quite amusing, but the moment that really shone during the episode was when, after getting frustrated with Hattori, Mayuko starts bawling loudly. The earlier scene with Kana showed that Mayuko was capable of shedding tears, but is wasn’t the loud bawling we see at this point in the episode. But I think this is realistic, because it seems pretty clear to me that Mayuko has been bottling up these feelings for the past two years, and she was finally able to express them and to let them out. By the end of this episode, it seems like a foundation is being laid for Hattori and Mayuko to have a relationship in the future.
It was kind of nice to have an episode where the focus wasn’t on Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo. Don’t get me wrong, I love those characters. But sometimes it’s nice to get an episode where other Somas or other characters get some more screen time. I should mention that not only was the focus not on the main three, they never once appeared in this episode. That’s a very rare thing for Fruits Basket.