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This Week in Anime
Crying Your Eyes Out with Fruits Basket

by Steve Jones & Monique Thomas,

The tearjerker draws to a close in the final season of this drama-filled classic. Nicky and Steve look back on the characters, warts and all, to reveal the deep bonds of family and how to overcome those bonds when they turn into chains.

This series is streaming on Funimation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.

Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Nicky, I just wanna say, it's a really good thing the final season of Fruits Basket talks about crying so much. That just means we'll have a ton of screenshots to choose from when we talk about how much we cried. Isn't that great? I'm so happy! Hahahahawaaaaaaaahhhhhh
If there's any show that's gonna have to make me write tissue boxes as a work expense, it's The Froob.

The recent anime has not held back any punches when it comes to the sorrow or the warmth contained in this beloved drama. A perfect way to stoke your unused tear ducts! It's a big contrast to the more cheerful '00s series I watched back in the day. But, after whopping 50+ episodes fans are now getting to see the ending of the story proper fully animated for the first time ever in this season, dubbed The Final.

It's also been about a year since we last covered Froob for the column. A lot's happened since then, and we certainly can't cover all of it—we aren't even gonna have time to get to everything in this season—but this is no longer the weird romcom about surprise furries anymore. Froob has evolved into something much more ambitious, and there's only one thing I'm absolutely sure of: I watched all 11 currently available episodes from this season yesterday, and I still feel tired.
A lot of stuff happened in season 2 which is a whopping 25 episodes that we didn't cover either, partially because it's so long. (Anime work is tireless, folks.) But given that this is the ending of a long-running show and an already well-established manga, I'm gonna assume that most people who are reading are already aware of the events of the story so far and aren't just reading this blindly. I'll provide any context for events as it relates to this season, of course.

However, if you're a Fruits Basket fence-sitter who either hasn't checked it out yet, or was waiting for the final word on the adaption to do so. Let me preface that this adaption has been if anything, very consistent. Those who liked the first season will probably still like the rest.
Agreed! I'm not at all familiar with the manga or the first anime, so I can't compare it to anything, but I'm really glad I got to experience the story and these characters in this way nevertheless. For example: my life has only been dramatically improved now that I've seen Tohru wallop Kyo with a scarf pompom.

Definitely the most dramatic thing to happen this season, yep.
It's those little moments that still keep the series very comforting and enjoyable despite a lot of the heavy things we're about to discuss. You can tell this is a loving adaption because it never quite forgets itself in that way. Even after all the things that happened in the past few episodes my favorite moment was the resident cowboy asking if he could order out.
With payoff!
and nuggets.
Can't forget the nugs.

Everyone gets a lot of intergenerational trauma and a little bowl of nugs. It's only fair.

Can I also say that the person sitting across from Hatsuharu is like...an irredeemable sociopath who doesn't deserve Pizza OR Nuggies? We will get to that. Now, where to start on this pain-train?
We're really spoiled for choice, and all the choices are horrible. I guess, though, I "appreciate" this season's reminder that shitty parents aren't a Soma-exclusive phenomenon.
Ah yes, you can't spell Furuba without "Bad Parents." In terms of notably bad anime guardians, Froob can give Neon Genesis Evangelion a run for it's money. Both express heavily how the expectations of adults ruin the lives and selfhood of the teenage characters. We see it happen to several of the members of the zodiac, Yuki's friends from the student council, and many others. Family can be a blessing, but our blood ties can also be a (literal) curse. With that I'm going to redirect to a pretty important character introduced this season.
Lol yeah Akito's mom explains quite a bit. Also Shigure banging Akito's mom. Really there are a lot of things about and around Akito that finally start clicking into place in this final act.
Shigure went and took the "YOUR MOM" jokes a bit too far. But since we never covered season 2, we have yet to really dig into Akito, the head of the Soma family, and the God of Zodiac. But with how S2 rolls out it's like "WTF, Akito?! Who hurt you?" and we finally get the answer to that.
To be fair they're pretty equal opportunity about the hurting nowadays, but there's little doubt who started it.

Akito's mom...just isn't a good person. Maybe she had some genuine affection for Akira at one point, or maybe she just really wanted a ticket out of servitude, but either way, she really messed up her child.
I don't even think Ren Soma is the Worst Person in the SHOW, or even the worst parent. Like Akito, she's actually very pitiable, but she's definitely a major catalyst for everyone's misery.
Fruits Basket's philosophy is to dig into the reasons behind all of its character's psyches, even the most terrible ones. And I think it usually works, because it contextualizes without necessarily "excusing" anybody's behavior. Like, it's easy to pity Ren for obsessing over what turns out to be a completely empty box. But it's also easy to pity Akito for being hung up on Akira's last words, because it is apparently the Soma Family Way to turn love and affection into a messed up zero sum game that makes everyone miserable.

I forgot to actually create this meme, but imagine one astronaut is saying "Wait, you're telling me unresolved trauma is propagated down family lines as long as it continues to be unresolved?" and the other astronaut with a gun is Akito.
Even when that empty box almost gets Isuzu "Rin," the zodiac's horse with the on point looks, killed by locking her up in jail for several days without food!

After y'know, she already got tossed out of a second story window as punishment, previously.
Look there was suffering to be had in Uma Musume season 2, lemme tell ya, but those horse girls have nothing on what Rin goes through.
But all of this relates back to the "curse." Ren says all the things that Akito does NOT want to hear. That all the power and affection being granted to Akito is artificial in comparison to what she considers to be true love and affection. And as much as she sucks, she's right about that. This is no excuse for how she treats Akito though, including forcing everyone else to treat her biologically-female child as male so she would never have to compete for Daddy's affection. Pretty messed up! It's part of what instills a pretty misogynistic attitude in the young head of the family, continually punishing women in order to reap suffering out of the men closest to them, and calling a crisis of loyalty.
And the really messed up part is that even Akito, on some deep unconscious level, recognizes that these zodiac bonds are wrong and can only be detrimental in the long run. Skipping ahead a bit, it turns out that the power to break the curse was in Akito all along. This also explains why Kureno's was broken first, because their relationship was the closest, the most codependent, and the the worst for both of them. Subconsciously, Akito realized at some point that it had to be broken.

Now of course it would've been better for Kureno to take the hint and not just flock back to Akito's side when that happened. And it would've been much better for Akito to consciously realize this without literally stabbing Kureno in the back. But baby steps, I suppose.
And there isn't one member of the zodiac who isn't interested in breaking the curse! Everyone is acting in one way or another this season to try and puzzle it out, most of all, Tohru. But, while the curse started out as a cute gimmick, it's now clearly a shackle for every character. It's only when they are free is when they're allowed to feel immense pain, relief, and even pity.

I can feel the tearful piano music welling up already!
Godddd, Momiji's scene there is so good. Akito is smaller than him now on both literal and metaphorical levels, and it's as liberating as it is upsetting. Like, this season is pretty blunt about using the zodiac bonds as a symbol for toxic familial relationships, but even the dissolution of the worst of those can still be saddled with conflicting feelings. That pain was still a part of you, and it's no small feat to say goodbye to it.

The soundtrack is a deadly weapon wielded with pinpoint emotional accuracy this season. I was felled by it multiple times.
Again, with hands less adept these emotional consequences could feel totally weightless or too soul-crushing. It's hard stuff and it hammers it home a lot! But the team seems to deliver it with just the right touch.

Like, the '00s series could never pulled off the pure horror of some of the scenes like the aloof Shigure telling Tohru that everyone knows that Kyo is the scapegoat and pariah for the zodiac's crimes.

And I should say, I don't think an anime that makes me cry is, by definition, superior than one that makes me laugh, or one that gives me chills. Froob is really good at making me cry, make no mistake, but what I love the most about it is its dedication to big, messy, tricky emotions that require a lot of thought and a lot of heart. More often than not, Froob meets those emotions with inspiring dexterity and delicacy.

And frequent, necessary dunks on Shigure.

There's still many good moments as well. Like, speaking of Kyo, how about watching our two romantic leads finally get their shit together after everyone tells them to? However, overcoming trauma isn't so easy.
All of Fruits Basket is about unloved kids learning how to love each other in defiance of their upbringing, more or less, but these are kids we needed to see that from the most. So naturally, theirs is the relationship that gets the wildest and bloodiest last minute curveball.
Now for a heaping dose of SURVIVOR'S GUILT! Hooray!! Now with twice the number of dead moms!
Mmm nothing spicier than a conveniently forgotten dead mom.
In season 1, Kyo had to cope with the trauma of his own mom's suicide, but he also happened to inconveniently know and get close to Tohru's Mom too while she was alive. From a pure plot perspective, this would be pretty contrived but this connection has been foreshadowed for a while and I think in execution it still comes together with the themes of bonds. Even our positive relationships can become negative when weighed down by grief. By getting to know Tohru, and falling for her, Kyo fears he has doomed her. Conversely, Tohru struggles with the idea of moving on and replacing her mother as the most important relationship in her life.
I still think the "oh I repressed the memory of seeing your mom die because I felt personally responsible for it, only to remember at this, the most melodramatic time possible" thing leans a liiiittle too far into contrivance, but the core of their conflicts, which you just covered, remains strong and resonant. They're both vulnerable people who are scared of letting themselves be vulnerable, but that's also the only way forward for them.

Which, not coincidentally, runs parallel to many other character arcs in the Soma family.
It would not be a shōjo manga if everyone didn't somehow coincidentally know each other since childhood and then conveniently forgot about it. Like we already had to deal with that with the related "Who Was Hat?" Plot.
After the Rat and the Cat, the Hat is the super secret 14th member of the Zodiac.
Anyway, one of these parallels is Akito, who's so upset after the events at the estate that the only emotion left is KNIFE. Coming to blame Tohru for everyone's abandonment. But Tohru sees this and can only empathize with the specter of her own trauma.
It just so perfectly encapsulates the whole messed up Soma family perspective on relationships that Akito tells Tohru she "won." That's simply no way to think about what love is. And thankfully, Tohru's unflagging empathy helps her connect with the human buried under Akito's long-calloused shell. She does what she does best: makes a new friend.

And they all lived happily ever after. The En—
Remember that Tohru got into this whole family biz because her tent got caught in a storm and then later fell in a landslide? That mountain land hasn't gotten any more stable.
And to circle back, it also would not be a shōjo manga if we didn't have to fear at least once that our heroine might be stone cold dead.

Never fear: she gets better. And she gets bunnies.
Pretty much the only thing that gets a fire under Kyo's butt is his worst fear coming true. He decided to push someone away again, even from the brink of death, yet Tohru is still able to comfort him. The girl might be inhuman.
If it takes a little near-death experience to push your waffling feline boyfriend to get his act together, then all's well that ends well, even if it requires a little cat-and-mouse (no offense, Yuki).

But also, Kyo, mister, you better count your lucky stars that Tohru is literally the nicest person on the entire planet.
I mean, Tohru isn't an island. if Kyo did anything to Tohru she's got a whole defense squad to back her up. Yuki and Tohru's friends take a backseat this season in favor of getting all the dramatic beats out, but their unwavering support makes the whole resolution feel "earned."
Under no circumstances are the Tohru Defense Squad to be messed with.

Especially because Tohru, being who she is, absolutely needs someone looking out for her.

Tohru is a great protagonist, kind to a fault, but she's also so flawed she'll literally walk into someone's knife before thinking about doing anything for herself. Her decision to be with Kyo is her one true act of making a move for her own happiness.
And if anyone deserves that, it's definitely her, the human equivalent of a precious cinnamon bun too pure for this world.
But she's also still dealing with the same complicated, messy emotions as everyone else. Tohru doesn't see herself as any more deserving of happiness than anyone else. These words allow even Akito, both an abuser and a victim, to finally let go.
The arc Akito takes, especially in this final act, is probably the neatest thing Fruits Basket pulls off. Our perception shifts from cartoonishly cruel villain to a flawed and fascinating character without dismissing or "redeeming" any of those past cruelties. Akito still has a lot to answer for and a long way to go on the path towards healing. But the decision to walk down that path, as scary as it is, is an unequivocal good first step, both for this "god" and for all the wounded left in their wake.

That old lady can still go to hell though.
Again, when I said the worst people aren't even Ren or Akito, I count that old lady as one of them.

BTW, The worst parent award goes to Kyo's father!

It's a crowded bracket, but he definitely makes a strong case for himself.

Plus, y'know, foisting the responsibility he felt for his wife's suicide onto his young impressionable and already ostracized son. That part's pretty bad too.
One of the best revelations in the show was figuring out that Kyo's mom's suicide was not his fault but likely propagated his own father being a cruel POS since the day he was born. Something he as a child did not have the perspective to fathom.
I mean, it's good that Kyo finally realizes that, but it sure does suck that he spent all those years flattened by the weight of that guilt. But his dad also can't take away the real family Kyo has now, which is what enables Kyo to walk away and forwards, one step at a time.

Although Fruits Basket is ending in two episodes, I like that so much of its conclusion feels like a new beginning for so many of these characters. They deserve it.
Even though Fruits Basket is fiction with a few magical elements, it's problems are very real. When we learn the full story behind the first banquet between God and all the animals, we're finally able to discern the events as not one of a fanciful fable, but an example. People often struggle with the concept of mortality and abandonment, and in doing so they let the bonds once sacred become ones of toxicity and codependency. The conflict itself isn't the fantasy, the fantasy is being a person strong enough to calmly accept and move on with grace that so few of us are afforded.

If you can't do so calmly, do it as loudly as possible. We're allowed. We're only human.

Incidentally that also describes what I looked like watching this scene in this week's episode.
And with that, dear readers, I bid you farewell. May all your tears be wiped away, and all your curses be lifted. This goodbye hurts, but as Fruits Basket the Final shows us, we can all find the strength to walk forward. Sayonara.
So long, Froob, and thanks for all the tears.

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