“Let’s Start the Watermelon Splitting Contest” isn’t quite the upbeat fluff parade its title would suggest, but it instead hints at Shigure’s machinations, reveals just how twisted this family truly is, and gives us a little more insight into Akito’s relationship with the rest of the Somas.
While the episode does start off with the titular watermelon splitting contest, it quickly devolves into a barrage of feelings – some of them tender, and some of them infuriating. I do love when Fruits Basket is irreverent and silly, with scenes like Shigure “joking” about perving on Tohru and the watermelon splitting contest collapsing into mass chaos. I really enjoy getting to see the Soma kids be actual kids, since it’s clear that’s not something that gets to happen to them all that much.
But “Let’s Start the Watermelon Splitting Contest” is more about the twisted familial relationships in the Soma family, and how it affects all of the kids.
For starters, you can see how isolated Kureno is, even within the family. When he was first introduced, he said he’d never been to a convenience store before, and you realize that he’s an incredibly sheltered individual. But this episode reveals he is even kept away from the rest of the Zodiac. You do eventually learn why that is, but for now, it makes his desire for human interaction and his quick attachment to Uotani all the more understandable – and sad.
The scenes between Shigure and Hatori reaffirm that Shigure is Up To Something and Hatori knows about it; that Hatori hasn’t attempted to interfere yet indicates he tacitly approves of Shigure’s plan, or at least is curious to see what will happen. While Shigure is chaos personified – blithely using a bunch of teenagers in order to get what he wants – I believe Hatori is concerned about everyone’s well being (he is a doctor after all). But I do think Hatori believes that whatever Shigure is planning will be better for everyone in the long run.
Something I’d like to point out is the Soma family dynamics that are on display here. Aside from purposely excluding Kyo from everything because he’s the cat spirit, everyone in the family follows Akito’s every order even if they don’t want to or are afraid. Compare Kisa’s fear that Akito will hurt Tohru with Momiji perkily announcing that he’s used to Akito’s ire and just wants this over with. The Soma family is extremely toxic even without the physical, emotional, and verbal abuse because Akito’s authority is absolute and the others have no respite.
The members of the Zodiac can’t have normal lives outside the family; even when they have to go to the hospital, it’s one that the family controls. Their only safe space is within the walls of the Soma compound and that’s not safe at all with how much absolute power Akito wields. Retaliation is not really a thing any of them ever considered before, because those who tried were punished severely.
And then they met Tohru.
“Let’s Start the Watermelon Splitting Contest” highlights the influence that Tohru has over Yuki and Kyo in particular, but it’s evident that her presence and her friendship have begun to affect the other members of the Zodiac as well. She’s endeared herself to Hatori and Hatsuharu, Kisa idolizes her, Hiro puts up with her because Kisa idolizes her, and Momiji adores her. When they’re walking to meet Akito, both Kisa and Momiji are thinking about Tohru, but for different reasons.
While we’re on the subject, we can contrast the different roles that Tohru plays in both Kyo and Yuki’s lives. For both of them, she has been a catalyst, changing their interactions and the way they see themselves and their futures. With Yuki, it has been about him opening up, and therefore opening up to other people. Tohru has had a bigger impact on Yuki than he has on her; she treasures the memory of the little boy who helped her when she was lost, but for Yuki that is a defining moment in his life and something he holds on to when he needs to break Akito’s conditioning.
Kyo, meanwhile, seems to revolve solely around Tohru – his relationships with others haven’t changed so much, but for Kyo, it isn’t about him. It’s about Tohru. He has an impact on her as much as she has an impact on him. Tohru is a pillar of strength for many of the Soma family – especially Yuki and Kyo – but Kyo seems to remain one of the few people focused on what Tohru wants and needs.
I love this show so much, and I know that it just keeps getting better from here on out.
Have you seen “Let’s Start the Watermelon Splitting Contest”? What did you think?
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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