at first glance
Kyoko Honda appears on the very first page of the story — as a picture that the protagonist Tohru Honda keeps in the tent that is her makeshift home. Tohru greets the new day and says bye to her mother, then makes her way to school. On the way, she narrates that she lost her mother in a car accident in May.
Tohru describes Kyoko as someone who was always cheery and full of energy. Katsuya, Tohru’s father and Kyoko’s husband, had passed away when Tohru was only three years old, so Kyoko raised her daughter herself. Although she spent much of her time working hard for her daughter’s sake, she didn’t neglect Tohru: She often told her stories about the zodiac, was physically affectionate, and whenever Tohru overexerted herself, Kyoko reminded her to take the time to be herself. Although Kyoko’s passing is fairly recent, what stands out from the first chapter is Tohru’s bright and optimistic approach to life, and how vivid her mother’s personality and mannerisms remain in her memory.
What’s also plain to see is how much Tohru appreciated her mother in life and still adores her in death. She speaks to her as she narrates, greets her picture when coming back from the day, and reacts very strongly when a landslide buries her picture. She still heavily regrets neglecting to say bye when she left the house on the morning of the accident. And despite wanting to quit school and start working so as to be self-reliant, Tohru also follows her mother’s wish for her to enter high school — something Kyoko couldn’t pursue herself.
Kyoko’s strong presence in Tohru’s everyday life cannot be understated: Her words of concern and advice still help Tohru brave difficult situations, and Tohru often shares her mother’s words with those around her.
A few more glimpses of Kyoko in the first volume:
- Tohru is proud of the person Kyoko was — it’s evident that Kyoko is her role model in many ways. When Tohru learns of the Sohmas’ family secret, she keeps quiet about it, citing that her mother always told her not to gossip.
- Kyoko seems to have been extreme in some regards: Tohru mentions she’d often sign promises with blood.
- Tohru’s paternal grandfather (Kyoko’s father-in-law), her only relative who cares about her, calls her Kyoko rather than Tohru. He also speaks fondly of Tohru’s father Katsuya, his son; a memory of a brightly smiling Kyoko next to Katsuya indicates that the two must have been happy together.
- Kyoko wasn’t liked by Tohru’s unpleasant paternal relatives. When they speak derisively of her, a picture of a young Kyoko flashes by, showing her in her gang attire back then.
- Interestingly, Kyoko is shown with at least four different hairstyles of varying length in the first volume alone.