by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 48 of
Fruits Basket (TV 2/2019) ?
This week, Fruits Basket got meta with a story within a story. “It's Cinderella-ish” took its title from the school festival play of the same name, which the cast of the show either starred in or observed. Despite the artificial trappings of the play, characters got real about their feelings on stage. As everyone's most deeply-held vulnerabilities unfurled for an audience's entertainment, I couldn't help but think about the way Fruits Basket itself is a performance for the viewers, one that must maintain a semblance of realism in order to keep us invested. This show within a show had no such constraints, and perhaps that's why it's such a fun change of pace.
Just like when its contemporary, Card Captor Sakura, put on their own odd version of Cinderella, Fruits Basket has taken quite a few liberties with this globally-recognized fairytale. Hana-chan as Cinderella is dressed in a black getup that only her mother could love (and I loved to see her clapping enthusiastically amidst an otherwise shocked audience). The prince is reluctant, the wicked stepsister is too kind for her own good, and the fairy godmother is just Yuki in a dress. Arisa as the second prince is unexpected and particularly dashing. And I have to give a special nod to the narrator, a nameless student who keeps the play going by explaining the progression of the story, even though it's often totally at odds with how the characters are acting! The audiences' remarks on the zaniness of the play, such as “This Cinderella is boss!”, play out like straight man reactions in a comedy duo. It's clear that Fruits Basket author Natsuki Takaya had a lot of fun with this play, which reads like an alternate-universe fanfiction. I felt something akin to secondhand embarrassment as the characters allowed their true colors to show through the restrictions of the play, because it felt like they were showing off their deepest emotions for a packed audience (as if that isn't what Fruits Basket is all about, week after week). Since anything and everything could be forgiven as mere acting, the cast really let loose. But for those of us who have been paying attention (like the Fruits Basket audience), there was real weight behind some of those declarations. It won't be hard for Kureno to figure it out once Momiji lends him the recording.
The second half of the episode pales in comparison to the outsized emotions of the play. Still, it's easy to draw a parallel between the Cinderella performance and the scene that Yuki witnesses in the hallway (unbeknownst to its actresses). When Machi is cornered by some mean girls, Yuki immediately wants to interfere but Kakeru stops him, correctly assessing that his contrarian little sister can handle herself. Although she has no idea that anyone else is overhearing her speech just totally unloading on Yuki, I doubt she'd soften the edges even for the object of her tirade. Yuki has finally encountered a woman who isn't awed by his princely aura (and you gotta admit even Tohru can get a little dazed by it), and he's captivated. The story is setting up a romance between Yuki and Machi in record time, perhaps as a reaction to the way Yuki and Kakeru's ever-deepening friendship has been giving off BL vibes for weeks (and I know I'm not the only one who thinks so).
As Yuki and Machi grow closer, Tohru and Kyo are growing frustratingly apart. The final frame of the episode can't make it any more overt, even depicting a giant tear between the two of them. While Kyo doesn't think he's worthy of Tohru's love due to his lifelong complex about being the Cat, Tohru's reasoning is more complicated—she seems to be worried that loving Kyo means replacing her memory of her mother as the person she holds closest in her heart. She just needs to recall that Cinderella-ish spirit that allowed her to belt out her true feelings in front of everyone on stage—and hold onto it in everyday life.
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