because you exist

Kyoko didn’t just guide Tohru with words — her love for her daughter in itself was just as important in shaping the person Tohru has become, a person capable of imparting said love to others. The following is a compilation of scenes in early volumes where Tohru, without relaying actual words, mentions or thinks of Kyoko while reaching out to others.

In volume 2, Yuki is forced to don a dress during the school festival, something he is uncomfortable with due to his issues with his own frail appearance. After an entire day of wearing it, Yuki admits to Tohru that he has been avoiding her because he didn’t want her to see him in such a “pathetic” state. He’s particularly upset about being called “cute”.

Tohru, in response, tells him that it always made her very happy whenever Kyoko called her cute, which is an expression of love. She assures him that his fellow students, too, are all quite fond of him, and her words make Yuki feel happy and relaxed.

In volume 5, Tohru and the Sohmas she’s staying with come across the weakened and transformed Kisa, who refuses to go home. Kisa’s overbearing mother drops by only to corner Kisa because she wouldn’t tell her she was being bullied at school. Seeing how Kisa refuses to talk even though both mother and daughter are at their breaking point, Tohru speaks up for the young girl: “She couldn’t tell you. It’s difficult to admit that you’re being bullied. I never told my mother either.”

To Kisa’s mother, she explains the feelings of shame and the fear of rejection that are attached to being the target of bullying, and how she felt like she needed to apologize to Kyoko for failing when the truth eventually came out. Tohru consoles the young girl by showing her that she understands why Kisa didn’t mention anything, but also tells her about Kyoko’s reaction: “When my mother said that it was alright, it was a huge relief. She said that there was no need for me to feel ashamed.”

The chapter concludes with words not ascribed to anyone in particular:

Each of us needs someone who tells us that everything will be alright. We are ashamed for being so weak. It makes us embarrassed. And yet, we need these words, even if just once, even if they are a lie — because they give us the courage to be strong. […] You are my pillar of support. You give me my courage.

In immediate context, these silent words are Kisa and Yuki’s, who both struggle with self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy and shame. To them, Tohru is their support, their mother figure, especially due to their own strained relationships with their mothers. Beyond that, however, this scene is also very much about Tohru’s former struggles, her relationship with her mother, and Kyoko’s love and acceptance. Those are the feelings that Tohru now passes on to Kisa and Yuki so as to give them what her mother once gave and continues to give her, as Tohru still frequently calls upon Kyoko for encouragement.

In volume 8, the Sohmas are visited by Ritsu, the Monkey, who frets about his existence causing trouble for everyone around him. Frustrated with who he is, he questions why someone as “shameless” and “useless” as him was born in the first place. As the memory of Kyoko’s face flashes by, Tohru fiercely states: “So what if you’re shameless? It’s by living, it’s because you’re alive that you feel sorrow, pain and joy! All of that is a part of life! You don’t need a reason to exist!”

The next day, Tohru is shown reminiscing about a conversation she once had with her mother about the reason of existence, which is why Ritsu’s words called forth Kyoko’s image in the scene before:

Kyoko: I’m glad that I gave birth to you! Because you exist, I can laugh anew every day.
Tohru: Then… Then I must have been born so that we’d meet!
Kyoko: You think so? That’d be great!

When Tohru and Ritsu next talk about these feelings, Ritsu tells her he feels as though he has lost his reason of existence after becoming a disgrace to his family. Tohru can relate, having lost her own reason — Kyoko — a while ago, but offers Ritsu a different perspective, one that isn’t about being shameless just for continuing to exist:

That just means that you haven’t given up yet! In your heart, you’re still looking for it with all your strength — for your reason of existence. Nobody is born with a purpose. All of us have to look for it ourselves, and to find our own reason to be alive. […]

And because we have to look for it ourselves, it may be unclear and uncertain, and we may doubt its existence or even lose sight of it… But still, we need that reason as long as we live. I, too, am still looking for it. And if possible, I wish to find it in another person. Tohru

Tohru may have lost Kyoko, but she hasn’t given up on living, and her wish to live and be there for another person still remains strong. The vigour she shows in this scene is a testament to Tohru’s strength as well as the value of her time and bond with Kyoko.