Let’s face it, growing up is hard. Becoming an adult comes with a lot of responsibilities, one of which is owning up to your own mistakes or realizing when your actions are negatively affecting other people. Fruits Basket has taken us on a wild journey from kooky supernatural comedy to a story of self discovery and emotional maturation for all its characters. The character growth we’ve seen so far has been so fulfilling, and volume eleven takes its characters to their satisfying conclusion with one last round of profound growth before the final volume 12 and its wrap-up of the story. Kyo, Akito, Tohru, Momiji, Kureno, and Uotani all see their lives change and grow with their relationship to each other and specifically to Akito changing drastically at the end of this volume. Like I said, it’s a wild ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Natsuki Takaya has succeeded in taking us deep into the psyche and shadows of the dysfunctional and toxic Sohma family while seriously talking about issues like grief, depression, suicide, love, family, abuse, ad growing up.
Volume eleven continues after Kyo’s reveal that he not only knew Tohru’s mother but was there the day that she died, harboring a tremendous amount of survivor’s guilt over her death. In his highly emotional state Kyo tells Tohru he’s “disillusioned” by their relationship and runs off, leaving Tohru questioning whether or not he actually loves her. At the same time, Akito is at her breaking point after more of the zodiac member’s curses have broken and has gone in search of Tohru to confront her for her perceived role in ruining her future of eternal happiness. But their confrontation and almost reconciliation is cut short when the ground falls away and Tohru plummets down a cliff and is rushed to the hospital. What follows is the culmination and resolution of the last ten volumes worth of story.
What is the scariest part of growing up and becoming an independent adult? I think if we asked Akito, she might say it was the lack of guarantees about the future. As children, we’re brought up depending on and living under the guidance and protection of our parents. Part of growing into an adult is distancing ourselves and finding our own why in the world which comes with a lot of fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of things we can’t really prevent. We grow into the realization that we can’t control or predict the future and that there really are no guarantees. It’s scary. And I think through the cultivation of Akito’s storyline we see that one of the biggest things holder her back from maturing emotionally is this fear of the future. She’s scared of a future with no assurances, of leaving behind the future she tried to build for herself that included a guaranteed social circle, a sense of self-importance, and power over other people that became her emotional foundation. Of course it would be hard to just accept a life of unpredictability and leave all this behind.
As we see this confrontation between Tohru and Akito where all this fear and anger is laid bare, I’m reminded of Kyoko and Kyo. If you really think about it aren’t their pasts kind of similar to Akito current struggle. Kyoko, the rebellious teenager, rejected by her parents begins running with the wrong crowd and seeing power over others for some sense of reward or validation. She’s angry, angry at everything including her parents, teachers, and school in general. It’s only through Katsuya that she realizes that she was really just lonely all along, searching for someone to take her seriously and love her for who she was, something she never got from her parents, teachers, or fellow students. Katsuya saw her for who she was, just a lonely girl who tried to cover it all up with anger and blame everyone else for how she was feeling. Kyo was the same way. Rejected by those around him, he turned to anger to mask his own sense of loneliness, blaming Yuki for all his problems as a way to avoid facing them head-on. It was Kyoko who saw through him, calling him out for using Yuki as a scapegoat. Here, now with Akito, we see how her loneliness at being put above everyone else has manifested in fear and anger towards everyone around her. It’s only when Tohru sees her for who she really is and treats her as an equal that all that anger begins to dissipate. It’s such an interesting cyclical relationship to see how Kyoko’s experiences are passed down over the years, eventually translating into life lessons that Tohru begins applying to her own life and relationships.
It’s a sad thing to say, but Tohru’s fall off the cliff and subsequent hospital stay becomes the catalyst for so many relationship and story resolutions in this volume. Her acceptance of Akito and then immediate life-threatening accident prompts Akito to seriously reconsider her actions and attitude. She had already seemingly hit rock-bottom, but Tohru’s accident I think pushed her over the edge to really consider how her actions affected other people. Tohru’s accident also gives Kyo, with some help from Yuki, some clarity when it comes to his feelings for her. The age-old saying “you don’t really know what you got until it’s gone” sort of fits in this situation. I think the fear of almost losing her after still healing from Kyoko’s death makes him see that he really doesn’t want to live without her. And, in the end, it allows Yuki and Kyo some modecrum of reconciliation. Yuki’s confrontation of Kyo’s attitude towards Tohru spills over into them both finally admitting they were jealous of the other’s life and coming to the realization that the only thing they can really do is accept who they are and move on.
But I think one of the best parts of this volume is seeing how all the different relationships and romances come to a close. We’re not entirely at the end yet, but we do get to see Yuki and Machi being adorable together and finally admitting their feelings for each other. We also get to see the long process of Kyo trying to win back the favor of Uo, Hana, and more importantly Tohru as he realizes just how big of a mistake he made. It’s honestly quite adorable and hilarious how much Hana and Uo tease and rag on him throughout all his attempts to see Tohru in the hospital. His genuine remorse and efforts to do right by Tohru and her feelings are wind up being really adorable. In the end, we also get to see the resolution of Uotani and Kureno’s relationship as he finally feels like he can actually leave Akito’s sphere of influence for good this time, taking Uo with him to a far off part of Japan.
At the end of the volume we see the final release of everyone from the zodiac curse, Akito finally releasing her hold on all of them, and Kyo being able to live freely apart from the worst of the curse. The breaking of the zodiac curse also corresponds to a real change in the way the Sohma family functions, a shift to a new future or culture for all of them. In a way, the curse is the curse of the Sohma family itself. It represents their darkest secrets and toxic culture. We see this even in visual metaphor on one page where Akito makes the decision to let Kyo live his life however he wants and physically walks from the shadows into the light, leaving the toxicity of the Sohma family past behind.
We also see it in the breaking of Kyo’s prayer beads when his curse finally breaks. That shattering of his bracelet is the last sign of the past being left behind. It not only represents the darkest part of the zodiac curse, but also the release of Kyo’s guilt over those who have died. He has confronted his father about his mother’s suicide, seeing that it was his father’s words and actions that pushed her to kill herself. He’s revealed and reconciled with Tohru over his part in her mother’s death. And he’s been freed of the pressure of the Sohma family, a future of being locked away for the rest of his life. All of this comes together is this one moment where Kyo tears off his beads, sending them scattering out around him, beads that were made from the bones and blood of monks long dead.
This whole volume is one of growth, reconciliation, and coming to terms with who you are. We see the breaking of the zodiac curse, the culmination of a whole bunch of relationships, and the beginning of a new future for all the zodiac members. While this isn’t the final volume, the story is almost completely wrapped up here with just a few more loose ends to tie up in volume twelve plus an epilogue. Stay tuned for the last volume and the end to this read-through next week.
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