by Jacob Chapman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Fruits Basket (TV 2/2019) ?
"So what was cut from the Fruits Basket manga in the first adaptation?" It's the most common question from fans of the 2001 series who never read the source material, but it's not an easy one to answer. The changes between versions were mostly ones of tone rather than content, so trying to break down the minutiae of what made it in and what didn't was just an exercise in tedium, before this remake proved how much of a difference little tone choices can make between two interpretations of the same plot. But every once in a while, we get a perfect encapsulation of the juiciest cuts from the manga, like in this remake's most mysterious and foreboding episode yet. What was cut from the Fruits Basket manga the first time around? Well, basically everything we get in episode 10.
While Akitarō Daichi's version of this Valentine's Day story only retained the manga's comical chocolate-based escapades before skipping ahead to White Day, Natsuki Takaya's original intention was to make this cuddly holiday about romantic love the most uncomfortable step in Tohru's journey with the Soma family so far. Episode 10 raises a thousand questions but gives almost no answers, leaving us with zero closure for the mysteries surrounding Kyo and Shigure's respective motivations. Barring some brief high school hijinks, this Valentine's Day episode is a thoroughly unromantic series of vague conversations in unnervingly quiet spaces, and I love it.
With little in the way of concrete answers for why this time of the year is so painful for Kyo and Shigure, the best we can do is make some educated guesses. Kyo is haunted by a nightmare from his early childhood, where he reached out to someone who appears to get obliterated right in front of him. This helps explain Hana's seemingly contradictory wave report about Kyo's heart being especially "innocent" today, despite being full of chaotic emotions. Kyo is unusually quiet yet extra confrontational around Yuki, because his flashbacks have mentally regressed him to a more childlike emotional state. Instead of challenging Yuki to fight in his more ambitious and rambunctious way, the Cat seems genuinely afraid of the Rat, to the point that he can't so much as look at Yuki's face without bristling up to defend himself. We saw something like this happen to Yuki back in episode 3, when he thrashed Kyo especially hard just so he could stop having to look at him. Yuki explained that this was because he envied Kyo's relative freedom and got angry whenever he was reminded that the Cat wanted to throw it all away just to join the Zodiac's inner circle. But for Kyo, the emotions at play seem to be less irritation and envy and more fear and hatred, feelings so raw that he's too terrified to share any of them with Tohru.
Of course, Tohru is initially relieved to dismiss Kyo's chaotic heart as a consequence of Kagura coming to visit for Valentine's Day. It's nice to see Miss Piggy return to liven up this unusually dour episode, and my favorite detail we learn about her this week is that she sincerely cares about Kyo's well-being outside of their relationship. It would be easy to dismiss Kagura's lovey-dovey enthusiasm as selfish and possessive, but whenever she can manage to cool her head for long enough to express it, the Boar exudes unabashed love for the people in her life, even her romantic rival Tohru. Kagura doesn't just want Kyo to be hers, she wants him to be happy, and she's probably right that his life would improve if he could open up to Yuki, since their mutual admiration is becoming just as obvious as their surface enmity.
But in a first for Fruits Basket, Kyo refuses to take even the smallest step toward addressing the feelings that are tearing him apart, even telling Tohru to ignore his obvious psychological pain that's supposedly none of her business. Fortunately, that doesn't mean Tohru has failed to help Kyo, turning a scene that could have just been foreshadowing for future reveals into a thoughtful exploration of how respecting boundaries—even if we don't understand them—can sometimes heal people more safely than pushing them, especially if they aren't yet feeling strong enough to make changes to their life without breaking their spirits. I love the shot of Tohru gently approaching Kyo while his back is turned to her, curled up on the ground as if trying to protect himself from his own heartache. It's classic Beauty and the Beast imagery that illustrates the power of stubborn kindness in emotionally hazardous situations, eliciting that intoxicating combo of tension and sympathy that makes well-written melodrama so rewarding.
It's not easy to make an episode where "nothing" happens so engrossing, but Fruits Basket makes it look easy as Tohru resolves the situation for now by telling Kyo that it's okay for him to keep hating Yuki, if that's what it takes to keep him stable enough to keep living. Considering that Tohru's New Year's wish was for exactly the opposite outcome, this is difficult advice for her to share with Kyo, but I don't think it's a weak or appeasing decision on her part. Tohru's just coming to understand that the Soma family has damage much deeper than she can handle on her own, no matter how happy it would make her if the boys became friends instead of enemies. She would rather see Yuki and Kyo continue to grow at their own pace than risk damaging their fragile hearts, and after hearing Hatori's story, she probably understands that there's a personal risk to her prying too deeply as well.
While Kyo doesn't feel safe enough to re-open his old wounds to Tohru just yet, it's clear that she's softened his heart once again, as he opts not to run away from home, but return to the cottage after nightfall and even agree to go on a double date with Kagura the next day! Then he delivers the cutest moment of the episode by expressing his growing affection for Tohru with a little bop on the head. We know from past episodes that Kyo is more comfortable expressing himself through his physicality than his words, which must make life difficult for him as a Zodiac member whose options for physical contact are limited, so it's cute to see him finding his own unique way to flirt with Tohru that the otherwise emotionally astute riceball doesn't yet understand.
Unsurprisingly, Shigure's to blame for all this drama, as he reveals to Hatori that he riled Kyo up as part of a little experiment to see how Tohru would handle the situation. Her indomitable empathy had the desired outcome, calming Kyo down from a deeply traumatized state to relative normalcy more quickly than ever before, and these results couldn't be more promising for his long-term schemes. Over the course of one conversation with his "obligated" best friend, all of the audience's trust in Shigure goes right out the window, as he states explicitly that he will follow his master plan to the end, no matter what lies he has to tell or who has to get hurt along the way.
It seems that while the Cat has been running away from a nightmare, the Dog has been chasing a beautiful dream. But the most captivating thing about Shigure's situation is his self-deprecating self-awareness over this wild goose chase that's consumed his life. "I had a dream about the one I love, and then it was all over for me" is his bitter way of summing it up. This mysterious vision from his childhood is one Shigure shared with both his best friend Hatori and another friend we've yet to meet named Aya, but those other two Zodiac members have long since left the dream behind, because time had warped that once-beautiful morning into something painful. As much as he may have tried to move on in the past, Shigure finds himself unable to let go of the eternal beauty he saw in that mysterious love story, which may explain why he devotes his time to writing romance novels that run the gamut from sleazy to sentimental, despite not needing the income and not caring enough about the deadlines involved not to torture his editor. Perhaps it's the only thing he can do to keep that fading dream of love at the forefront of his mind as the decades pass him by alone.
Regardless, it's hard to harbor much sympathy for Shigure's dream when he's so frank about manipulating Tohru and the others to achieve it. While everyone else in the Soma family finds Tohru's boundless optimism soothing, it mostly agitates Shigure, like a demon shrinking away from heavenly light. The darkest and most embittered parts of Shigure find Tohru's innocence irritating, because her level of open-hearted goodness is so alien to his own twisted personality and calluses of life experience. At the same time, the shriveled remains of his conscience that still cares about Tohru and the boys finds her kindness painful, as a constant reminder of how far he must have fallen to be okay with using someone who trusts him wholeheartedly. Since we don't know the true nature of Shigure's dream or what he will have to sacrifice to make it come true, it's hard for us to know what to make of all this, but Hatori's determination to remain neutral in this scheme at least reassures us that Shigure isn't going out of his way to hurt anyone—it's just something that might happen in the fallout, and Hatori doesn't want Shigure to come crying to him when one of the boys (or even Tohru?!) punches him right in his smug face.
So what conclusions can we draw about this mysterious dream and Shigure's plan to make it come true? Well, it obviously has something to do with the Zodiac, and since this is a shojo series, it's not unreasonable to assume that Shigure, Hatori, and "Aya" are among the Zodiac's oldest members, now in their late twenties. Since they shared the dream before our teenage members of the Zodiac were born, its secrets are almost certainly known by the Soma elders, including that ominous family head, Akito. Back in episode 5, Shigure mentioned that he understands "jealousy" more deeply than Kagura could know, and in this episode, he mentions being jealous of Tohru, Hatori, basically all the people he considers to be "good" in his life, because his lone quest to fulfill the dream that Hatori and Aya gave up on makes him "the most cursed one of all". So he considers his desire to make this dream come true to be villainous in some regard—even though the dream itself was pure and beautiful—and it all relies on a wager he's made with Akito. We know that Akito is always on the lookout for people who might have the power to break the curse, but that he didn't consider Kana or Tohru particularly eligible for the task. So does Shigure think that Tohru has the ability to break the curse? It's probably not that simple, because Shigure's dream was about creating something that will last forever rather than breaking something. Either way, this doesn't bode well for the three children whose fates are being nudged around like pawns in a childish game between two selfish adults.
We probably won't understand the true nature of Shigure's master plan until we know who matters most to him. Naturally, he gives conflicting answers to this question within the span of five minutes, telling Akito that the Head of the family matters most to him (in a scene that heavily implies they share a sexual relationship of some kind, as Hatori warns Shigure not to let Akito catch a cold while they're playing doctor), before telling his editor that no one matters more to Shigure than himself. Yuki's spot-on in his assertion that Shigure plays a wicked game of letting people in before pushing them right back out, like a ripple on the water (or perhaps an ornery jellyfish). We can only hope that Shigure's better instincts override his temptation to sting those who venture too close to the truth.
Stray Snippets Lost in Adaptation This Week: Tohru originally recognized Yuki's comparison of Shigure to a jellyfish as an analogy that Hatori invented on her visit to the Soma estate, but the mystery of who came up with the initial "ripple on the water" phrase is left unsolved. We only know that the metaphor was floated by a woman around Shigure's age (not his beleaguered editor) who we see in a vague profile shot. On a totally unrelated note, eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that Mayuko Shiraki, Tohru's homeroom teacher who's intent on dyeing Kyo's hair, is the same woman who visited Kana at the Soma estate before New Year's. Now that's an unexpected connection between two worlds! (Side note: it's my personal headcanon that the Somas are magically unable to dye their hair, because nothing else makes sense to me given how much strife those unusual colors cause them.)
discuss this in the forum (104 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history