With the characters being more preoccupied with family trauma and rejection, as well as adorably shy when it comes to self-expression, Fruits Basket is much less of a romance anime than it could have been – and this is probably a good thing. The slice of life, shojo anime has so much more to make it worth watching, so, when romance is there it feels like a natural part of the characters’ growth, rather than something gratuitous, only there for the views.
Over the three years the show has been around, and even earlier, when the manga was still ongoing, many fans have followed Tohru’s story, eager to see who she was going to end up with, Yuki, or Kyo. In many ways, Yuki, the “prince” of the school, a gentle boy all girls are impressed by, ticks many shojo boyfriend boxes, and he’s the type of character you would expect to see involved in a love triangle. As it turns out, however, things are more complicated for him – and aren’t they always in Fruits Basket?
Yuki isn’t there to embody the stereotype of the prince but to challenge it, same as Kyo doesn’t unquestioningly embody the “bad boy” type, and their romantic arcs reflect that. So, who does Yuki end up with, in Fruits Basket?
Warning: Season 2 and manga spoilers ahead!
Of course, when you haven’t read the manga or watched Season 2 yet, you’re justified in thinking so. It’s a reread or rewatches that makes all the subtle hints come to light. The fact that Yuki himself took two seasons to articulate his feelings didn’t help much.
As it turns out, Yuki never really had romantic feelings for Tohru. He did like her as a friend and was glad of the opportunity to help someone, given that he wasn’t doing such a good job at helping himself before meeting her.
When Tohru first moved in, Yuki was having a hard time. His parents’ abandonment and Akito’s bullying would still sting, and the memories of his past trauma held him back. Despite being popular with his classmates, he wouldn’t dare come close to others, make friends and pursue his interests.
Spending time with Tohru, helped Yuki find his voice and resolve to become more confident and independent. The two helped each other in so many little ways that some fans thought a romantic culmination was only natural, but the characters themselves didn’t think so. It took three seasons for Tohru to admit her feelings for Kyo to herself, let alone to Kyo himself, but everyone around her figured it out before she did, including Yuki.
Once again, if this was another anime, we could have ended up with a cliché love triangle and plenty of drama. Luckily, this is not the case here, and Yuki isn’t one for drama. It took him a while, but eventually, he figured out his feelings for Tohru wasn’t romantic. Rather, he almost came to view her as a mother figure because she took care of him and rooted for him when his own mother was only thinking of ways to make him profitable to the family.
Even though his relationship with Kyo remained bad, Yuki was happy for him to be with Tohru as long as he did not hurt her, realizing that the two were perfect for each other.
Since Yuki’s arc is largely about self-discovery and overcoming trauma, a romantic subplot for him wouldn’t have been necessary. In fact, not pairing the “prince” of the school with someone could have even been refreshing. In any case, Yuki’s romantic relationship does go well with the whole concept of subverting the tropes his character is associated with.
When Yuki becomes the school president, he meets Machi, the treasurer of the student council, and a very private, cold, often self-destructive girl. Like Yuki, she has significant emotional baggage to sort out.
Machi is the half-sister of Kakeru, another student council member. They both have the same father, but Machi was born to her father’s wife, while Kakeru is the son of a lover. Due to that, the two were born into a family conflict that spanned many years: her mother thinks that Machi should be her father’s heir, being a legitimate child, but Kakeru’s mother tries to promote him as an heir simply because he's a boy.
While Kakeru managed to distance himself and forge his own path, Machi was greatly influenced by this conflict, all the more so when her mother gives birth to a baby boy who is immediately preferred as an heir. Machi spent her whole life trying to live up to her mother’s wants, and when she fails to do that, she’s even accused of trying to kill her brother and sent to live away from her family.
Of course, Machi and Yuki don’t instantly bond over family trauma. At first, she acts very cold towards him, but Yuki is eventually able to see behind her demeanor. As what initially seems like a friendship starts budding between them, Yuki comes to appreciate the fact that Machi doesn’t see him as a “prince.” She’s one of the very few girls at school who don’t try to pursue him romantically.
Instead, Machi sees Yuki as the sad, lonely boy that he is and treats him like a normal person once she starts warming up to him. Their relationship is a bit of a slow burn, and perhaps less dramatic than Tohru and Kyo’s but it’s really satisfying to watch how they learn to be vulnerable around each other and watch each other grow.
As is the case with other characters, including Momiji and Hatsuharu, Yuki is not reduced to one or two characteristics. He and Machi are both well-rounded characters who don’t get together to satisfy viewers' expectations but because their character arcs naturally led to that.