by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 33 of
Fruits Basket (TV 2/2019) ?
Editor's Note: Due to the recent unfortunate circumstances, Jacob Chapman has understandably decided to step down as reviewer of Fruits Basket. Lauren Orsini will offer her expertise on the show in his stead.
This week we reached a milestone in Fruits Basket: every member of the Zodiac has now been revealed. When Tohru comes across a beautiful, furious horse, she's confident that she's cracked the case—the family head Akito must be the final animal. She doesn't know what the audience already does: that Akito has Kureno on such a tight leash that the rooster hasn't been allowed to meet Tohru yet. It's certainly Akito who steals the show this week. Even in the scenes in which Akito doesn't appear, he casts a dark shadow on the other characters' every interaction. While the beach retreat has its bright spots, it's not exactly a party. Despite Tohru's attempts at cheerfulness, this episode brings the Sohma family's dysfunction into stark focus.
I can't think of another anime antagonist quite like Akito. His petty cruelty feels like such an ordinary, everyday type of evil rather than the epic deeds of villainy most shows put on display. And yet, that is what makes Akito feel powerful: though few of us can relate to battling a bad guy bent on world domination, almost all of us have encountered a person who has abused their position of authority in order to make us feel small. As the family head, Akito is supposed to be the Sohma's protector, but he's twisted that role into a mesh of codependence: his is a misery that loves to have company. The mental hold that Akito has on the Sohmas is particularly visible during the beach retreat. He can make otherwise kind characters like Kisa and Momiji turn their backs on Tohru and reject Kyo in order to spend time with him. At the same time, Akito's very presence at the beach house is a sign that he recognizes Tohru's power to unwittingly shift the Sohmas toward her influence with nothing more than kindness. He wouldn't be calling her “ugly girl” with such venom if she didn't get under his skin.
Everyone's visits with Akito leave Tohru and Kyo with lots of alone time. After Tohru's intimate moment with Yuki, this refocusing to Kyo maintains the “who will she choose” narrative the show continues to tease. But instead of romantic overtures, they build sandcastles, badly at first, and then greatly improved. It's interesting to see Tohru and Kyo literally build this foundation together right next to the opulent, but twisted beach house where Akito rules over the Sohmas. When Akito and Kureno walk over to where Tohru and Kyo are, this contrast in values is further underlined. “Is it fun to be with a monster?” Akito asks Kureno rhetorically, but judging by Tohru's laughter and Kyo's silly ocean-yelling hijinks, the answer is clearly “yes.”
Just when we thought it was a full house, Rin decides to show up. We know her mainly as Hatsuharu's ex-girlfriend (I'm going to just tell myself they're like, fourth cousins to feel better about this revelation), but Tohru learns firsthand that she's also a large, dangerous animal. Yuki rescues Tohru from a potentially-deadly horse kick without batting an eyelash, but I'd say that was practically attempted murder. If that wasn't bad enough, she calls Yuki “Akito's toy.” Talk about an unpleasant first impression for Tohru! And yet she handles the encounter with the same wide-eyed optimism as usual. One thing's for sure: Akito's not going to handle Rin's surprise visit with the same nonchalance. It's in the calm before the storm that the pathos of Fruits Basket is at its most powerful. Though Akito's influence is limited to this family alone, the potential havoc he could wreak on their lives next week is enough to give me chills.
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