We’re past the point of no return in Fruits Basket. With a presumed one cour, thirteen-episode final season, we’re now more than halfway to the end of the story. There is a tonal shift in “That’s Right, It’s Empty” that is difficult to go back on, so I’d wager we won’t get many more light-hearted, fluffy moments until we’ve reached the climax.
“That’s Right, It’s Empty” gives us a little more insight into Akito, revealing that she suffered from the Soma Family Curse of having Terrible Parents. Our first real look at Akito’s father, Akira, reveals that he was always very sickly, which potentially explains Akito’s health issues (which seem to come and go when convenient). He is also partially to blame for Akito’s god complex (well, it’s sort of literal for Akito, but still) by spending her formative years telling her how special she is, and that she was born for everyone to love. This is amplified by the way the household servants have treated Akito, and the fact that she is head of the family.
(Side note: The servants refer to Akito as “he”, so it is obviously an extremely well-kept secret that Akito is a woman.)
Shigure is right that Akito needs to free herself of Akira’s memory; she needs to stop obsessing over the things he said and stop clinging to the Zodiac bonds. Otherwise, she’ll always be a shadow of what she could be if she just let herself be a person and not a position.
Ren establishing herself as part of Akira’s life would probably be romantic in any other shōjo manga, but in Fruits Basket it seems obvious she manipulated Akira so she could rise above her station. Her possessiveness over her husband led to her being jealous of her own daughter, which is a level of gross I won’t even try to decipher, because I’m not sure I can. She might have truly loved him, but I don’t think it’s fair to call that sort of obsessive codependency “love”.
You have to wonder… why even have a child if you so clearly don’t want to? Would she have been just as jealous if Akito had been born male? I’d wager that she would have, because I don’t think it was Akito being a girl that was the issue; it was that suddenly there was someone else with rights to Akira’s time, and that simply was not acceptable to someone like Ren.
Any time anyone might start having any sympathy for Akito, she does something that reminds you she is just horrible. Akito is a complex, highly-nuanced character, but at this point, I believe she’s completely beyond any sort of redemption. “That’s Right, It’s Empty” gives Akito the first blush of self-awareness before she falls back on familiar behavior and absolves herself of all blame. Unfortunately, she does this by stabbing Kureno.
Akito makes a truly excellent point about common sense; it’s called “common sense” because it’s generally understood that there are certain things that everyone has either been taught or learned on their own. “The stove is hot; don’t touch,” isn’t something that you think you would have to explain to most people above a certain age. But Akito’s upbringing was extremely unconventional, and she was pampered and worshipped in a way most people aren’t, so her “common sense” is not common at all.
That may be one of the reasons Akito resorts so often to violence. In “That’s Right, It’s Empty”, she attempts to kill her mother and Kureno (all while blaming Kureno). Because that sort of behavior was expected of her, because she’s the head of the family, she’s the head of the Zodiac, and she’s allowed to do what she wants with people – at least in her eyes, and the eyes of the family servants. Imagine what that sort of unchecked behavior would be like once a person reaches Akito’s age.
I mean, look at the childhood Akito had. Her mother was actively against her from the moment she was conceived, her father instilled an undeserved sense of entitlement in her from a young age, and the attendants encouraged and occasionally provoked her domineering behavior. There was no one to teach her how to love genuinely. So once again, we have an explanation, but not an excuse.
Akito blames Kureno for what she’s become, because he stayed after the curse broke. He stayed because he pitied her, and because she begged him, and because he was a child, and now she’s blaming him. The sad truth is, she’s not entirely wrong. Both Shigure and Kureno himself have postulated that his devotion to her after his bond broke may have contributed to her current behavior. But it’s hard to fault a domestic violence victim who stays in an abusive situation because sometimes leaving is worse.
The self-awareness comes in the form of questioning the Zodiac bonds, wondering when it all started to go wrong. We know from Yuki, from Shigure, and from Kureno that Akito wasn’t always like this, but we’ve never really seen what triggered the change in her behavior. Was it Kureno’s curse breaking? Or was it something else? (There’s a scene in the manga that might explain it, but I’m not sure if it’s been skipped completely or if it just hasn’t been adapted yet, in which case I’ll refrain for the time being.)
Now, the scene in “That’s Right, It’s Empty” with Uotani finding a dead bird might signal a death flag for Kureno, but it might not. After all, Kureno’s curse is broken, so he isn’t tied to birds the way he was. (Remember, they all fly away from him when he goes to talk to Tohru at the end of season 2.) That scene could just as easily signify that Kureno has finally been able to escape Akito’s hold on him.
One more thing before I move on from Akito, “That’s Right, It’s Empty” gives even further evidence in the Akito/Tohru parallels. Tohru and Akito had similar but vastly different upbringings. They both lost their fathers at a young age; their fathers’ deaths essentially broke their mothers. But while Tohru desperately tried to cling to a mother that was rapidly moving away from her, Akito was attempting to free herself of a mother that never wanted her in the first place.
There’s a nice contrast between Kyoko and Ren as well. At the beginning of “That’s Right, It’s Empty”, Kyoko is telling a young Kyo that she pulled herself together and made herself live for Tohru, that she had to be there for her daughter after Katsuya’s death. But here we have Ren, who is still obsessed with Akira years later and absolutely refuses to let go.
Both Akito and Tohru have unhealthy attachments to a deceased parent that unnecessarily glorified them. Akito clings to an empty box she half-believes contains her father’s soul because she needs to believe he loved her most of all. No one else seems to love her, so she holds on to the one remaining proof that someone, at some point, did. Tohru is terrified of letting anyone else into her heart because she’s afraid that means she is replacing her mother. She has never truly believed she is worthy or deserving of love on her own, which is why she isn’t in the headspace to admit that she loves Kyo.
We’ll have to wait until next week to see if Tohru confesses to Kyo, but I think we can tell from what little we saw in this episode that it’s not going to go over well. The look that Kyo gave Tohru when she called him back near the end of the episode was ominous. I don’t think Kyo has ever looked at Tohru that way.
You see, while Tohru is finally realizing that she is allowed to have selfish desires, and that she is allowed to be loved for being herself and not someone else, Kyo is slipping further and further away. They still haven’t told us what he may have had to do with Kyoko’s death, but her (seeming) last words continue to haunt him. And the visions of his mother beckoning him into the Cat cottage lend further credence to his belief that his lot in life is to suffer. Not only that, but his dream about Tohru bleeding implies that he expects anyone who he cares about to suffer as well.
In other news, Hiro’s curse broke! I had completely forgotten that he was the next one to break, and I had tears in my eyes when Satsuki walked into the room and he was standing there holding his baby sister. Yet another reminder that Satsuki is Number 1 Soma Mom because she not only recognized the complex emotions her son was feeling, she told him it was ok to have those feelings and express them.
It is devastating to realize that while he can now hug his sister and his mom, he cannot hug Kisa until her curse breaks.
Hiro’s curse breaking next posits the question of what exactly causes the threads to snap? I had that thought after Momiji’s and it still doesn’t really make any sense. Momiji’s I could sort of understand, because of his growth spurt and his feelings for Tohru and everything that’s happened with his family. But there’s been no real recent change in Hiro’s life – other than his sister – and it seems extremely sudden that his bond broke, and that it broke when it did.
I suspect that Momiji’s thread snapping – and Haru’s thread fraying – has weakened the curse enough that it won’t take much for everyone else to break free. It was already fairly weak anyway, considering Kureno’s thread broke when he was so young.
I’m concerned for all my children. Their curses are breaking, so you’d think they’d be happy, but they’re losing something they’ve had all their lives. I mentioned this when Momiji’s curse broke; there is nothing connecting them anymore, so they feel as if they are losing something. Now they will have to work to keep their familial bonds strong because there isn’t anything supernatural tying them together.
And now with this tonal shift, this dark mood that has taken hold of Kyo, this homicidal rage that Akito is in, you just know that something bad is coming.
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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