Episode 174 – Fruits Basket Part Two Transcript

Transcribed by Melissa Brinks.
[THEME MUSIC]

Missy
Hello and welcome to Fake Geek Girls, a podcast looking at nerdy pop culture from both a fan and critical perspective, encouraging the things we love to do better. I’m Missy, I’m a writer, and I cried so hard about the beads. Just the beads. It was so much for my tender heart.

Merri
I’m Merri, I’m a marketer and I would die for Tohru and Kyo. Like, their relationship is so – that’s what I want to read. Like that’s it. That’s what I love. I love Kyo. I love Kyo so much. It hurts. It hurts.

Missy
Today, we are continuing and finishing our episodes on Fruits Basket, Natsuki Takaya’s famous manga series and its second anime adaptation, which began in 2019.

Merri
Superior.

Missy
Yeah, I would definitely say the superior. There were so many good changes in it. I love the art. I love – I don’t know, I know this is such a small thing, but I really love that they use like a soft brownish outline for the characters instead of black. I think it looks so nice.

Merri
I love the transformations. The colors and stuff.

Missy
I really loved in the final opening sequence where there was the little puff and it made it look like Kisa farted.

Merri
Oh my god. Also, every season had a banger opening.

Missy
Oh, yeah! What’s your favorite?

Merri
I think my favorite was the second season.

Missy
Yes, that one was so good.

Merri
That one was really good. But I feel like the third season was so appropriate.

Missy
Yeah, I really liked the opening to season two.

Merri
It was so good.

Missy
And I really liked the ending to season one.

Merri
Yeah, you did. And I liked the ending of season two because I thought it was the prettiest to look at.

Missy
Oh, it was very pretty. But I think that – I always get the opening to season three stuck in my head. The, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Anyway.

Merri
It was very good.

Missy
It was very good.

Merri
It’s the little things.

Missy
The back half of the manga cover some of the backstories of the characters we met over the first half, including their relationships with the Sohma family head, Akito, as well as Akito’s own backstory. Without jumping immediately into the big spoilers, we learned that every member of this current generation of the Zodiac has been through some extreme trauma, without any real attempts at healing or fixing things, resulting in the family being deeply traumatized and inflicting their trauma onto one another and every one that they encounter. It’s a disaster. Again, as a reminder, we are talking about this series from an American perspective. While we have done some research into different aspects of Japanese culture to understand what something might mean contextually, we are not authorities. And I recommend looking into work by Japanese critics and scholars if you want a more in-depth understanding of Japanese culture and how it’s represented in Fruits Basket, because I simply cannot give that to you.

Merri
Yeah, there are some parts where it’s really clear this is not part of my culture and [is] difficult to understand.

Missy
Yeah, yeah. And so we’re always going to be coming at it from an American perspective. And something might mean something completely different in Japanese culture. So don’t – like us, for example, like us talking about misogyny or something may mean something different in American culture than it does in Japanese culture. This came up – I cut a lot of it simply because I didn’t want to spend the entire episode talking about Ritsu. But one major difference – in America, there’s a huge movement by trans people to decouple trans identity from a medical diagnosis. Because that creates a gateway to accessing gender affirming care, such as surgery, or hormones, etc. In Japan, that’s not the case, especially because they have socialized medicine. So there’s actually a move to preserve the medical classification, because that makes it easier and more – it makes it easier to access treatment. And it makes it more publicly acceptable to say, “Oh, I have a medical condition,” as opposed to “This is my identity.” So that’s like a huge cultural difference that you have to understand from the perspective of the culture that it exists in. That’s the kind of thing where, like, I can do as much research as I want, but I will never understand the nuance. And so again, just keep that in mind as you’re listening to us talk about stuff. We’re always talking from an American perspective, I cannot say what something means in Japan. I do also want to give a content warning. If you haven’t watched the show or read the manga, it’s quite serious. It’s still heartwarming and sweet, but it deals very heavily with trauma, with abuse, physical and mental and emotional, like the all the flavors are there.

Merri
All the flavors.

Missy
It deals with suicidal ideation, all that kind of stuff. We’re going to be talking about that – not any more intensely than it appears in the show itself. But if that is distressing for you, feel free to skip this one. Especially the last couple sections are where we’re going to focus on trauma and that kind of thing. Just be aware. So the first thing I want to talk about here, and we spent a good amount of time on this in the last episode, but like there’s just so much to talk about is gender play, and confusion and gender bending, because the series has a very interesting relationship with gender. I say interesting in the broadest possible definition. Sometimes I’m like,”Hell yeah.” And sometimes I’m like, “Huh.”

Merri
“Interesting.”

Missy
And sometimes I’m just like, “Interesting.” Obviously, having now finished the story, we know that we were only really scratching the surface of the gender conversation in our first episode. There’s a lot going on with gender in Fruits Basket, some of it very clear, and some of it more subtle. And there are also a lot of complicated feelings about individuals because of their gender. It’s just, you know, I don’t know how much of this was like intentional exploration of gender issues on the part of the creator, or creators in terms of the anime, but it is – like, it’s there, whether it was intentional or not. So this is a quote from Transnational Transformations: A Gender Analysis of Japanese Manga Featuring Unexpected Bodily Transformations, which is by Jane M. Madely, who writes, “In manga, there’s a long history of highly fluid and often ambivalent depictions of gender, sexuality, and gender relations. In these texts, the reader finds evidence of highly traditional and stereotypical gender depictions while also encountering a great deal of playfulness about gender and gender relations. These contradictory messages open up the multivocality of these texts. They can at one and the same time offer both traditional and transgressive gender models to readers. The participation of the reader in completing the meaning through closure may generate a number of possible gender messages from these texts, regardless of whether the reade’rs gender traditions are based in Japanese or other cultures.” Which is just really – that’s it.

Missy
That’s true. I think that the second sentence there, which is, “In these texts, the reader finds evidence of highly traditional and stereotypical gender depictions while also encountering a great deal of playfulness about gender and gender relations,” is extremely true in Fruits Basket. We see some highly traditional depictions of gender and gender expectations. And then we see some very interesting some versions of those expectations. On the one hand, as we talked about in the last episode, there seems to be some expectations placed on characters because of their gender, such as that Tohru is the caretaker of the house and that Yuki and Kyo physically fight one another a lot. Like those are pretty traditional gender expectations. But there’s also a lot of like – playfulness is maybe not the right word, because I think that suggests a levity to a lot of it that doesn’t really fit Fruits Basket – but maybe gender bending or gender exploration to the story. Many of these characters, especially the Sohmas, have either serious hang ups about their gender or they are comfortable with their gender and gender play to an extent that sometimes makes other characters uncomfortable. So first I want to talk about Yuki. We did talk about Yuki somewhat in our last episode, but we – again, only scratching the surface as far as Yuki goes. So the earliest example of discomfort in the series with regard to gender and gender expression is probably Yuki. Kyo also seems irritated with characters like Ayame, Ritsu, and Momiji, but he’s irritated with everybody like constantly so it’s hard to say like – is Kyo mad about the alternate gender expression, or is Kyo just mad all the time?

Merri
They also happen to be over the top personalities.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
So you never know.

Missy
You just really never know with Kyo. Whereas with Yuki who is generally pretty nice, he seems really – not necessarily offended, but irritated by characters who don’t do gender the way that he thinks gender ought to be done. Yuki seems to take particular issue with male characters in feminine clothing, no doubt in part because Ayame is so self confident and fine with being so pretty, whereas Yuki spent much of his childhood feeling abandoned by his mother and everybody else except Akito, who herself has some serious gender issues. We’ll get to Akito later. Yuki seems to resent that feminine part of himself because it suggests a connection to the person who hurt him so much, which would be his mother. He doesn’t know about Akito being a woman, but he does he does know for certain how awful his mother was to him.

Merri
Yeah, and I feel like he saw Akito treat women so terribly, that there has to be lthis connotation between like women and being weak or something like that. So not wanting to be associated with femininity couldn’t have helped.

Missy
Yeah, and like like he says – and I think we talked about this in the last episode – that part when he wears the dress to the cultural festival, and everybody’s calling him cute and he’s like, “It’s not a compliment to call a man cute,” and Tohru tells him, “Saying you’re cute is just another way of telling you I love you.”

Merri
Cute is not gendered.

Missy
Yeah, exactly. But as we talked about in the last episode, the word cute in Japanese, kawaii, does have a connotation of weakness and frailness and that is offensive to Yuki. So throughout the series, and when we learn more of his backstory, his relationship with Akito, his relationship with his mother, we start to understand why he might resent the implication that he is in some way not masculine.

Merri
Especially if there’s a connotation between weakness and femininity, and he happens to also be a very sickly kid, and like having been oppressed, like in the literal sense of being kept in a room and essentially being kept weak by Akito.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
He moved out of a house for a real – well, he was asked to move out of the house for a reason.

Missy
Right.

Merri
And good thing he did.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
Because I mean, the way that Akito treated women specifically was clear.

Missy
Yes.

Merri
Clear. And like you said with his mom and everything else, Yuki was destined to have some –

Missy
Some hang ups.

Merri
Some hang ups.

Missy
Yeah. Now, when Tohru enters Yuki’s life, Tohru represents another way to look at femininity and feminine traits to him. Not only is she incredibly nurturing, which is not something he’s ever seen from a woman in his life – and she does that regardless of romantic or familiar relationships – but she also praises these parts of him that he sees as weak or as dangerous, such as, again, when she tells him that calling someone cute is another way of saying I love you. That’s important to Yuki because he has never had a woman in his life treat him with anything other than scorn or distance in the case – because like there are female servants at the Sohma household. There are female members of the zodiac. But it’s different. It’s different to have a peer or a servant than it is to have a person who loves you because they choose to, or a person who loves you because they’re your mother.

Merri
Which makes the overprotectiveness makes so much sense. Because like, yes, you’re protecting Tohru, but you’re also protecting this like thing you never had.

Missy
Yeah, yeah.

Missy
I think there is a lot of mistrust of the Other in the Sohma family just in general, not just because of the curse, but also because it’d behooves Akito or whoever is in the god position at the time, to keep them isolated and trapped in fear, right? They interact with society, but they mostly stick to one another. For Yuki in particular, he’s totally unsure of how to relate to people who aren’t Sohma’s because of how he was intentionally isolated by Akito, which is quite literally an abuse tactic. That makes him – the fact that the way that he was raised gives him these traits that read to others as mysterious and kind, but are not necessarily connected to how he actually feels, which is that he doesn’t belong.

Merri
Which you see so clearly towards the end when he actually starts to get a personality.

Missy
Yeah.

Missy
To Yuki there are a lot of Others – like there are lots of different kinds of Others, not just like literally other people, but like Otherness. There are lots of different kinds of Others. And one of those types of Others is women. There are a limited number of women in the Sohma family, and none of them are particularly caring, primarily because they are literally children or because they’re awful.

Merri
And you can see, specifically with the Zodiac, the older women are tougher.

Missy
Yes.

Merri
As opposed to Kisa, who is not, and I assume this is because she has not been abused by Akito as much.

Missy
Yeah, probably.

Merri
And the other women have, so they have to create this tough exterior and if someone like Yuki doesn’t understand that, then it only adds to it.

Missy
Yeah. It’s not surprising, then, that Yuki has such hangups about femininity, just simply because he hasn’t seen any people not act like this toward him. They either revere him because he’s mysterious and hot in the case of the students, or they are distant from him because they have to be in the case of like the servants or they’re just not peers to him like Kisa or even Isuzu or –

Merri
I love Isuzu.

Missy

– any of the other – I’m drawing a blank. Ki – I said Kisa, right?

Merri
Kagura.

Missy
Yeah, Kagura.

Merri
That’s it though, right?

Missy
Yeah, there’s not a lot of female members of the zodiac.

Merri
And Akito.

Missy
But Tohru represents something different to Yuki, right? She’s deeply caring. She’s deeply feminine. And she’s patient enough with Yuki to help him start untangling these gender hangups. It’s not that Yuki needs to be comfortable in women’s clothing to be considered healed so much as it is that he needs to understand that there is nothing wrong with wearing feminine clothing for any reason. Right? There is nothing wrong with femininity. There’s nothing wrong with him in particular being feminine. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you weird. Even if he never wears a dress again or a skirt or anything like that again, wearing it should not make him feel like he’s less of a man, which is what Tohru helps him begin to understand. It’s less like, “Yuki, you have to wear a dress or you’re not better.”

Merri
It really feels like we could have used Ritsu better for us.

Missy
Right? We could have used Ritsu better in a lot of ways.

Merri
Ritsu could have helped draw like context with this stuff really well.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
But I guess not.

Missy
I guess not. This is a quote from The Always Smiling Girl: How Tohru Critiques Toxic Positivity by Olivia “Livi” Burke, who writes, “What elevates Fruits Basket from the most common version of the ‘cheerful helpful girl’ trope is that this support is mutual. Yuki and Kyo appreciate Tohru so much that they want to help her value her own feelings and wellbeing. Yuki helps take care of her when she is sick and helps her study so she can pass the upcoming exam. Kyo often calls Tohru out when he sees her suppress her feelings. He reassures her that she is not a bother and provides her with a safe space for vulnerability and openness.” So while Yuki is a kind person before meeting Tohru, like it’s not like he’s mean or anything, he is, generally speaking, a kind person, he has empathy. he cares for other people, but he feels very distant from them. Tohru helps him learn to express his feelings and get to know people better. She encourages him to stop keeping people at arm’s length. He needed that nurturing to come out of his shell and become the person that he wanted to be. It’s quite funny when Kakeru describes Tohru as Yuki’s mama.

Merri
Oh my god.

Missy
Especially Kimi’s joke about daddies in response to that.

Merri
Oh my god, it’s so good.

Missy
But it’s also not inaccurate.

Merri
No, it’s not! That’s what makes it so great. Yuki even says later, I think it’s in the manga, to Tohru, “You’re like my mom.”

Missy
Yeah. Yuki has not been nurtured by somebody before. That is simply – that’s something he’s never had. He has never been nurtured. And he hasn’t really seen the power of platonic love in his family. Nobody has ever shown it to him before. When Tohru shows him the power of platonic love, he mistakes his reciprocal feelings for romantic love, or at least he deems the romantic part more important than the platonic part.

Merri
It’s like as if there couldn’t be a love unless it was romantic love.

Missy
Exactly. And again, I think that just comes from the fact that he has not experienced love, and he has not seen love unless it’s romantic in nature. But throughout the story, he learns to value that platonic love for what it is and that acceptance of nurturing outside of a romantic context is what allows him to eventually connect with Machi, even if it does become romantic eventually. Without the platonic love of Tohru, without the platonic love that he develops with all of these characters, with Kakeru, his BFF whom I love.

Merri
He’s just a gift.

Missy
He’s just a gift to the world. Without that platonic love, he would not have been able to accept and reciprocate Machi’s romantic love.

Merri
I just gotta say, when they’re sitting in the classroom, and she gets that box of chalk, and he just casually –

Missy
Oh! Breaks a piece!

Merri

– Breaks a piece and without – he just continues what he’s doing – doesn’t stop talking.

Missy
Oh!

Merri
I was like, “This is true love.”

Missy
It’s so good!

Merri
Why is my husband not breaking chalk for me?

Missy
It’s just such a – it’s such a small gesture of understanding. And it’s so sweet and so good. And it’s one of those things that’s like, indecipherable to anybody outside of the relationship. Like anybody looking at it is like, “Why the fuck did Yuki just break a piece of chalk? What’s he doing?” But between the two of them, that gesture – in the same way that Tohru was saying, “Saying you’re cute means I love you,” that expression of breaking a piece of chalk is also an expression of love. It’s such a small thing, but it shows how much that Yuki has grown.

Merri
And that he’s paying attention and can understand the subtleness of somebody, because she doesn’t really talk to him. I think at that point, he had heard her backstory, right?

Missy
I think so.

Merri
But she still doesn’t really talk a lot. So he’s pulling a lot of what he’s getting from this from her actions. And to like, just know – and he wasn’t there when she originally like threw the chalk on the ground. So he didn’t see the first time she reacted to it. He just knows.

Missy
He just knows. He’s paying attention and he just anticipates like, this is something that she will need.

Merri
There’s a really good Tiktok girl who does like a series where it’s “Turning my husband into a fictional male character,” and I’m ready for the, “Hey, Michael, would you break chalk for me?” It’s a really good Tiktok. I highly suggest it. It’s is extremely funny. And her husband very much is like – she’ll be like, “Do I smell like daisies and fresh water?” and he’s like, “You smell like throw up. The kid just puked.” Or “You smell like dog. You just give the dog a bath.” It’s so funny. Anyways.

Missy
Do you have anything else to say about Yuki?

Merri
No, I really – I have like, not mixed feelings about Yuki, but I never really cared too much about him, and then when he started getting a personality, I almost like… didn’t care for him even more. And I think part of it is because I only felt like I saw that personality that was actually interesting when he was in Student Council and not really with anyone else. Every now and then with Tohru, but once he actually got with Machi, it felt better.

Missy
I think my feelings about – I really like Yuki, especially now having read the manga. I did not like Yuki until I read the manga and watched the 2019 anime, because when I first read – or when I first watched the show in high school and I think I read like maybe a volume or two of the manga, it was still in the love triangle phase, and in my friend group it was team Kyo or team Yuki, and everybody was team Yuki except me. And so that – when you are a teenager, that kind of breeds resentment toward the part of the love triangle that you are not a part of.

Merri
And then I watched and I was like, yeah, Kyo.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
And then Missy and I knew we’re friends forever.

Missy
Yeah, exactly.

Merri
I was like, “Who gives a fuck about Yuki?”

Missy
Um, so now having you know distance myself from that, I can appreciate Yuki more. And I especially love the fact that this went in a platonic direction and talking about the importance of platonic love, because I just don’t think that that is done enough.

Merri
I think the use of Yuki with Tohru was so good because he gave her explicit care. Whereas a lot of other things – like people cared about Tohru but it wasn’t necessarily like, “Here’s me caring about you,” where with Yuki, it really feels like he’s like, “Here’s me carrying – let me carry this for you. Because I appreciate you.”

Missy
And the way that he expresses love, too is different from the way that Kyo expresses love. And I think as people we are generally not satisfied by just having one caring person in our life, because everybody provides care in a different way. And we need love in a variety of forms, not just in a single –

Merri
A single drop.

Missy

– a single –

Merri
Rain.

Missy

– expression –

Merri

– comes down from God.

Missy
[LAUGHS] A single expression of love. Romantic love is great, platonic love is also great.

Merri
Love is great.

Missy
Love is great. You heard it here, folks.

Merri
Hot takes.

Missy
Hot takes. Love is great. Let’s talk about Momiji a little bit. Unlike Yuki, Momiji doesn’t seem to have any particular gender hangups as such, but he does have interesting gender expression, right? Momiji is portrayed as more feminine than other people his age. And he shows up to his first day of high school in a girl’s uniform.

Merri
Yet Momiji is the most well adjusted.

Missy
Despite the fucking tragic story.

Merri
I still hold that that’s one of the saddest – I didn’t cry as hard as anything else as I did at that.

Missy
God!

Merri
But like even like after everything broke, the way that Momiji handled it was so like logical.

Missy
Momiji!

Merri
And I’m just like, how did you – what’s your secret?

Missy
Oh my god, Momiji! Momiji shows up to his first day of high school in a girl’s uniform which causes Kyo and especially Yuki some frustration and honestly what looks a lot like distress. Like, they both seem a little distressed by Momiji’s choice of clothes.

Merri
I’m curious if it’s because it’s like, how it would reflect the family.

Missy
Yeah, I think that that’s probably part of it. And I don’t think that there is a clear reason why this is so off-putting to Kyo and Yuki other than the fact that it is unusual and could draw attention to the Sohma family. But to be honest, teenagers feel things that are kind of outrageous all the time and they act on it like teenagers. Sorry, teenagers.

Merri
Sorry, teenagers.

Missy
Sorry to teenagers, but, as a recovering teenager, teenagers do and feel a lot of things that don’t make a lot of sense. And they don’t always interrogate those feelings. They’re just kind of like, “It’s what I feel, so it’s right.” There’s also no clear reason why Momiji dresses more feminine than the other boys, which I think is also refreshing. We do not have to pathologize or explain his gender expression in any way because there is nothing wrong with any form of gender expression, no matter what the person’s gender is.

Merri
I was thinking a lot about Momiji and dressing in girl’s clothes. and this feeling of connection to playfulness and being a child still, and I’m wondering if it has to do with his childhood was essentially taken away from him. His childhood as a nurtured child was taken away and he has to watch his sister have that life, so it’s like a way to connect to a life he could never have. Yet still so well adjusted.

Missy
I really appreciate that Momiji finds joy in his gender expression because I think that’s really important – and we’ll get to Ritsu in a minute, but that’s something that is really missing from Ritsu’s story for me, is the ability to find joy in your gender expression, whatever that gender expression is. There, you know, so there’s no clear reason why Momiji dresses the way that he does. And I find that refreshing. For all we know, he just dresses in feminine clothing for no reason other than that he likes how he looks in it, which is a perfectly valid reason.

Merri
He looks great.

Missy
He looks great. I think since we do have multiple characters with hangups about their gender and how clothes make them feel, it is nice to have a character like Momiji embrace a more feminine style because he simply chooses to. He does you know kind of grow out of it a bit – he certainly grows toward the end of the series –

Merri
Oh my gosh. Suddenly.

Missy
But he keeps his rabbit backpack which is still more of a feminine choice. And I appreciate that even as he grows up and the curse breaks and he’s kind of like –

Merri
He’s so mature.

Missy
He’s so mature.

Merri
Like even talking to Kyo, like, “Do you really want to watch her be with somebody else? Like this is your fault if you let her go. And if you let her go I’m snatching her up.”

Missy
Yeah! Like the fact that he keeps the rabbit backpack and that connection to playfulness and that connection to his his gender expression as being more feminine makes – as much as I’m going to have criticisms with Ritsu’s characterization, the fact that we have Momiji there makes me feel a little bit better, because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to say that Momiji is immature or anything like that, because Momiji is one of the most emotionally mature characters.

Merri
Absolutely.

Missy
I don’t know how Momiji’s thriving.

Merri
Momiji just – I don’t know. I have no clue how they are so well adjusted, emotionally mature, can see things and be like “That’s wrong and that’s right.” And I’m just like, “Where’d you get this from?”

Missy
Yeah, but I love that. So shout out to Momiji.

Merri
Shoutout to Momiji.

Missy
Especially the expression of joy in his choice of clothes makes me happy and it makes me – it is nice to see that it’s not an attempt to like say like, “Oh, Momiji is so harmed by his upbringing that he wears feminine clothing.” It’s just like, “No, that’s just Momiji.”

Merri
[singing to the tune of “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus] Just bein’ Momiji.

Missy
Anything else? I know that section was really short, but anything else to say about Momiji?

Merri
Nope.

Missy
I wanted to do the positive gender expression before we get into Ritsu. So, speaking of characters with gender hangups… One thing I want to get out of the way here is that I think readings of Ritsu as trans are totally valid. But that is not how I read the character.

Merri
Mm-mm.

Missy
I think if Fruits Basket were written in a different time, or with a different intention, or perhaps by a different person, I might be more likely to read Ritsu as trans. But like many of the characters in the series, he sounds to me more like a person with deep trauma and hangups about gender. In this case, he seems to associate femininity and feminine clothing with being weak. It’s very interesting and kind of similar to Yuki in a way. But unlike Yuki, Ritsu dresses feminine to sort of embrace that perception as being more in tune with how he feels. So the thing to me is, I think it’s totally fine to read Ritsu as trans, you do you, chase your bliss. That’s not the reading I’m going with here, simply because I think – Ritsu is one of my points of criticism of the series.

Merri
I just don’t think enough care was put into it to really make me feel like that’s the case.

Missy
Right. Yeah, I agree. I find Ritsu to be a really complicated character to talk about for a lot of reasons. One being that very little time spent is on him, which I believe Natsuki Takaya has expressed regret about, if I remember reading. I seem to remember reading that she was like, “Yeah, I should have spent more time on Ritsu.”

Merri
Yeah, I mean, there’s just so much that could have been done, especially since there’s so much emphasis on gender and like here’s somebody that is outwardly portraying – there’s no subtlety here –

Missy
Literally cross dressing.

Merri
Yeah, there’s no subtlety here. And you just let it go.

Missy
Yeah. Ritsu is introduced, then disappears for the majority of the story, which is both unfortunate and not really surprising given how many characters there are in the series. I love the the Zodiac thing. I love the Zodiac motif, but there’s too many characters.

Merri
There are too many characters.

Missy
I’m sorry, there’s just there’s too many. This manga needed to be like 1000 volumes to give everybody the same care and it just didn’t happen. And it sucks that it’s Ritsu who had the least attention paid to him.

Merri
I will say I found Ristu so fucking annoying. And like I am sad that they didn’t do anything with Ritsu, but at the same time, I’m like, “Thank god I don’t have to listen to this loudmouth.” Like I just – like the constant bowing and like, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I just couldn’t take it.

Missy
It is annoying.

Merri
It’s so annoying.

Missy
And I think it’s by design.

Merri
Yes, I think it is by design.

Missy
Ritsu is one of those characters where I’m like, “I want you to be done better because, like, I feel like that sometimes, too, Ritsu! Apologizing for my own existence.” There’s also the fact that we don’t really get a good insight into Ritsu’s character because of how little time we spend with him. Unlike many of the other characters, we really don’t know much about his relationship with his parents or even Akito. We have no idea.

Merri
Yeah, because they said in that Ritsu was too young to know what was going on.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
Akito’s in the space of he’s older, but he doesn’t know what’s going on. And he’s not younger, but he acts that way.

Missy
Yeah. Did you mean Ritsu?

Merri
Ritsu, sorry.

Missy
He’s just kind of introduced as this oddity and then left that way until the end, where we see that, much like the other Sohmas, Torhu’s influence, and her speech to him about finding reasons to live, which we’ll touch on later, has been positive. And when the curse breaks out, or when the curse breaks, he cuts his hair, and he’s dressing more masculine, and he’s dating –

Merri
Another very annoying character.

Missy
The editor, I can’t remember her name.

Merri
Yeah, I don’t know her name.

Missy
Which means, you know, that he’s feeling more comfortable in his own skin and no longer needs to mold himself into something that he thinks will be more easily accepted by society, which is like, weird, I feel like? And it’s quite possiblewe’re running into some cultural differences here. But it seems odd to me that Ritsu takes up dressing feminine to better match his personality less because it brings him joy and more because it makes him easily palatable to others, because he’s seen as weak and overly apologetic, etc. It’s more socially acceptable for him, a man, to dress as a woman to just simply be a supposedly weak-willed man.

Merri
I feel like there’s this sense of – and I don’t know if this is what they were going for – but when I think about this, because I thought a lot about Ritsu and the reasons in which he dressed as a woman, and I feel like there’s like – Ritsu has such a clear, like, you know what he’s thinking. So it’s clear women are weak, and I feel weak, and therefore I’m embracing this. It kind of feels like, “Let me point out my flaw before you so that you can’t hurt me. Yeah, it’s traumatizing.”

Missy
Yeah. The reason I think this is like, – I think we might be running into a cultural difference here is that in our culture, it would be far weirder for a man to dress as a woman because he thinks that that is a way to be more palatable than it is for a man to simply be weak. Neither of those are good things in our culture, but it is less palatable in our culture for a man to dress as a woman. So I do wonder, is there a cultural difference there with regard to gender expression that we simply –

Merri
I would have to think so just because the way in which, like, maybe there isn’t so much given to Ritsu, for a lot of reasons, but maybe part of it is that there’s a cultural understanding that maybe for Japanese people that doesn’t need to be explained?

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
And so it’s easier to have more insight on Ritsu than it is for us.

Missy
I think that no matter what, Ritsu’s going to be weird, just judging from the reactions of characters around Ritsu.

Merri
But you might understand it better, whereas I sat here trying to figure it out and I understand the connection to being weak, but it’s just like – to go that far into it. How does that make you more palatable when you are still just really fucking annoying? Like that’s not what made you not palatable. That’s not it, dude.

Missy
So the thing that really gets me about this ending for Ristu – like I’m of course I’m happy for you, Ritsu, that you feel better about yourself and your body and your dressing as a man because that’s what brings you joy. But that means that in the end, the biggest sign of Ritsu’s healing is essentially heteronormativity?

Merri
Which goes in the face of Tohru?

Missy
Yeah, you know, in that he starts dressing more masculine, he cuts his hair and he starts dating Matsuri, is Shi-GU-re – [LAUGHS] Shigure’s – former editor.

Merri
Every time I was reading it, I’d be like, “SHIGURE. Shigure? Shi-GU-re.”

Missy
So that you don’t – Sugar Ray.

Merri
I liked when they just said Gure. Yeah, we should just go with that.

Missy
It suggests something unfortunate, which is that challenges to binary gender and, depending on how you read Ritsu, heterosexuality are the result of trauma and not one of the many facets of what makes people unique, right? It feels like it suggests that challenges to binary gender only come from trauma and nothing else.

Merri
Well, I think too there’s trauma healing and being more normal, because like clearly a lot of these characters are not straight. But they all end up with –

Missy
The only one we know basically for certain is Hatsuharu.

Merri
Yes, yes. But like Shigure? No. Ayame? No. But they end up with heterosexual relationships, which, I don’t kno. It just kind of feels like “In the end they all live happily ever after in normalcy.”

Missy
Straightly.

Merri
Yeah, very straight. Like even Yuki. Even Yuki. I just thought when you look at Ritsu and dressing more masculine and then looking at characters who are – like when what’s his name, when Hattori, when he’s like “I gave Shigure a shot. It was really big.” The way that he’s saying it really feels like “I put my dick in him.”

Missy
I mean, they’re always flirting with one another. Hatori, Ayame, and Shigure are always flirting with one another.

Merri
They definitely have sex a lot. So it’s just kind of like – “And then they all lived happily ever after in their heterosexual relationships.”

Missy
I mean, the thing is, I think this may be another cultural thing that we’re butting up against, because the laws with regard to sexual expression in terms of sexuality in Japan are very different to how they are here. What is palatable is very different here.

Merri
This is true.

Missy
So their relationship to Japanese readers may not read as actually romantic, it may read as a very, like, “Ha ha, they’re playful,” with regard to their sexuality, whereas here, we’re like, “Well, they’re probably gay.”

Merri
So we worked at an outlet mall. This sounds like a really weird place to go, but it’ll make sense. We worked at an outlet mall that was very high on tourists. And one of the things that I had noticed is that there are some countries people are from where being extremely close to you is normal, which means two men can be extremely close together and very touchy-feely, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily attracted to the other one. So I think that’s a really good point. I think that there could be a cultural thing that we’re not seeing, like, maybe it might be okay to be like that. If you’re going to be like that with a woman, it might be okay to be like that with a man. Like Shigure, I don’t think he actually wants to have sex with Tohru.

Missy
I don’t know. I don’t trust that man.

Merri
That’s true. I don’t trust that man. I don’t trust that man. But I think that there is a possibility. Like, probably there’s some cultural thing that just doesn’t click in the way it would if ywe were from Japan.

Missy
I think similarly to Ritsu’s gender expression I think it may read differently to a Japanese audience and to an American audience –

Merri
I agree.

Missy

– in terms of like, this is acceptable in this way. The jokes made about – I don’t know, it could be that there’s an implicit “no homo” to everything that Shigure says, right. And in America, we just feel the need to actually say “no homo -“

Merri
When they don’t need to.

Missy
Whereas to Japanese readers, there’s no need to say “no homo.” Like, we get it. I don’t know.

Merri
It could be different in – fuck, what are these comics called?

Missy
Manga?

Merri
Nope. I mean yes, but –

Missy
Fruits Basket.

Merri
Nope, the genre. Oh, fuck. Flowers and girl –

Missy
Oh. Fuck. Shoujo!

Merri
Shoujo! There may just be a difference, like literally just in the ways it’s in shoujo versus shoujen – Right? Shoujen?

Missy
Shoujo versus shonen.

Merri
Shonen. So there may just be a difference in that sense of like, it’s okay, like, this isn’t weird within this genre, but it may not fit into others. So there’s just a lot of cultural things that could be happening.

Missy
Yeah. But the thing the thing that gets me is it the ending for every character is just so goddamn heteronormative.

Merri
It really is.

Missy
With character – we’ll get into Hatsuharu. We’ll have a brief discussion of Hatsuharu.

Merri
I love Hatsuharu.

Missy
But it really does feel like the natural place for – like it feels like a return to nature is a return to heteronormativity in a way that is disappointing to me, frankly.

Merri
Especially with just how much they flirted.

Missy
Yeah. And I think the journey for Ritsu into heteronormativity is at least somewhat balanced by Momiji’s non-traditional gender expression when he’s young because it is an expression of joy.

Merri
And Momiji doesn’t end up with anyone, so we don’t know.

Missy
Yeah. I mean, although that is also tempered as he ages, right? He stops dressing so feminine.

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
He keeps the rabbit backpack. That’s great, but like it is somewhat tempered as he ages.

Merri
I think he even says – I don’t know if it’s in the manga – but I think he even says in the anime, like, it was time to grow up.

Missy
Yeah. And the fact that while he doesn’t use any clear words to describe himself, Hatsuharu has been in love with Yuki for much of his life. And he says, repeatedly, in love with. It’s not “I love Yuki” as in “you are my family.” It’s “I am in love with Yuki.”

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
Which is different.

Merri
And in the end, he’s like “You’ll still always be my first love.”

Missy
Yeah. So I do wonder how much of Hatsuharu’s sexuality comes from playing with the light dark concept of a cow, because cows have two colors, there’s light and dark Haru, bisexual.

Merri
Which they really just give that up after a while.

Missy
They sure do.

Merri
They’re like, we’re not gonna deal with this anymore

Missy
Yeah. I just – I feel with Hatsuhaur – like, I love, actually I really really like Hatsuharu.

Merri
I would marry Hatsuharu. He’s so hot. Like, I know he’s a child, but he’s so hot.

Missy
And he has the voice of a 30 year old. Why does Hatsuharu sound like that?

Merri
Yeah. That doesn’t help. Like – I just absolutely love him. I love Kyo. But when it comes to like, being attracted to someone, I’m attracted to Hatsuharu.

Missy
Yeah, I just, I feel like there’s some playfulness with regard to Hatsuharu being a cow, and therefore being two colors and having a light and the dark side, and then also being bisexual, where I’m just kind of like, are you just playing with the idea of bi as a prefix? As opposed to like really making –

Merri
Bicolor.

Missy
Yeah. As opposed – and even, and I know this is not – but this was, you know, the 90s when this was written – the idea of Hatsuharu as bipolar in having two –

Merri
Oh, yeah. Never thought about that.

Missy
The flipping. Ups and downs.

Merri
Thought I would have, but I didn’t.

Missy
So I just kind of wonder if there’s a playing with that concept of flipping back and forth.

Merri
Now that you mentioned, like the bipolar, and like the ‘bi’ of literally like two different colors of a cow.

Merri
Yeah. And I mean, the prefix ‘bi’ would not appear in in Japanese as such, but the idea of like –

Merri
Yeah, the same idea of bi.

Missy
Back and forth. Yeah.

Merri
I think that is – I never thought about that. And as you’re talking about it, I’m like, I don’t know. But as you talk more about I’m like, yeah, no, I think that is – like there’s a good question there.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
Because he does blatantly say I’m in love with you. And we don’t really get that with anybody else.

Missy
Yeah. And it’s not like, I’m happy for Hatsuharu to be bisexual.

Merri
I’m happy for Yuki because like, dang, I wish I could get that.

Missy
It’s just one of those things where like, I don’t know how much care was put into Hatsuharu as a character in his potential sexuality as bisexual or pansexual, or however you want to look at it. As opposed to just like, Haha, funny cows often are two colors. You know? The thing with Ritsu – to return to Ritsu – the thing with Ritsu is that I don’t think he was created with any ill will. You know, I don’t think that Takaya was trying to make any kind of statement about like, oh, you know, gender non conforming people, crossdressers, etc., it all comes from a place of trauma. Nor do I think he is meant to be representative of a trans person, nor any real honestly, type of person at all.

Merri
I think there’s just so much connection to gender and gender performance, that I think it does make sense for a character like Ritsu to be in this. It just needed more care. But that’s why I agree. I don’t think there was ill will, when whencreating this character. I just think that it made sense to have a character like this when talking so much about gender, and so much about femininity, and masculinity and weakness, it feels natural to have a character like this. unfortunate, but no time, and unfortunate he’s so fucking annoying.

Missy
Like, Ritsu seems to me, like the rest of the Sohmas to be a traumatized person dealing with their trauma in the best way that they figured out how to, you know? But unlike Hatsuharu, Ayama, or Rin, that maps on to a real issue of gender and sexuality, right? That doesn’t make it not transphobic, although that’s probably not the word I would use to describe it. But I think it’s worth examining whether the story is trying to make a mockery of trans people or whether it’s doing something else. And I think it’s the latter. I think that it may be transphobic by accident. I don’t think it’s intentionally so. But it’s not not transphobic. But it’s also –

Merri
It’s complicated.

Missy
It’s complicated. It’s trying to say something about gender and about Ritsu’s trauma. And I think it’s doing it poorly.

Merri
I think it’s trying to say something without ever thinking about trans.

Missy
That’s the thing is I just don’t know that that entered into Takaya’s mind whatsoever in the course of writing Ritsu.

Merri
A long time ago, the idea – there were a lot of people who don’t even know what trans is.

Missy
Yeah – of course, trans people have existed forever. But the the idea of transness in the 90s – and I don’t know anything about what this was like in Japan -but speaking, again, from an American perception,people don’t understand the difference between cross dressing for, you know, sexual gratification, cross dressing for the fun of it, drag, transness – like all of these things in the common consciousness were the same, you know? And so people did not understand the nuances of these conversations. And again, I can’t speak for what the concept of this was in Japan, but it’s one of those things where I’m just like you did do something that I think is transphobic. I understand you didn’t do it intentionally. I wish you –

Merri
And there’s cultural differences.

Missy
And there’s cultural differences. I wish you would have put a little more care. Just a smidge more care into how you handled this character, because I would have loved to see a Ritsu who, instead of finding shame in his gender expression, embraces cross dressing as an act of joy. That doesn’t necessarily have to map clearly onto transness. But you can still find joy in an alternative gender expression. And I would have loved to see a Ritsu who’s just like, I feel beautiful in my kimono.

Merri
I feel like there was a there was a missed opportunity between Ritsu and Ayame. Because Ayame doesn’t feel that they’re weak.

Missy
No, Ayame loves the way that he dresses. Yeah, he feels beautiful.

Merri
He feels beautiful. And there is no weakness there. There’s only strength.

Missy
And that’s the kind of thing that I that I would have hoped for from Ritsu’s journey but did not receive.

Merri
And Yuki could have learned so much from that.

Missy
Yeah. The lack of overt queerness in the series does feel deeply strange, because it plays so much with gender and sexuality in ways that might be taboo in media created elsewhere. But again, I wonder if we’re bumping into a cultural difference here, maybe Fruits Basket is completely normative to a native Japanese audience. I have no fucking idea. You know, like, I just cannot make that judgment.

Merri
There’s lot of things where it’s just – like the age differences and stuff. It’s really hard. But then you have to think like, that’s not – it’s difficult for us to be like, that’s a really big age difference and really young person, but there are cultural differences in which you have to respect

Missy
Yeah, and that doesn’t – again, like we talked about in the last episode. That doesn’t mean that it’s like, “Well, it’s fine to do it there, because it’s normative.” It just means we have to understand that there’s a difference between taboo and criminal.

Merri
Yeah,

Missy
Right? Like, what happens in the series with a lot of the characters is literally criminal in the US, and therefore we have a different concept of it than in Japan where it is not criminalized. It’s still taboo, but it’s not criminal. And that’s just something that you have to keep in mind when you’re –

Merri
Why would you want to date someone that young?

Missy
I don’t know.

Merri
They’re bonkers.

Missy
I don’t know. I – I don’t know.

Merri
I was talking about this with Bob, because he was at the dentist, and he was just waiting for the dentists. And they were playing a song and the song starts with “She was 16.” And we’re talking, and I was like, “I just can’t imagine dating someone that young.” He goes, I don’t even know. He’s like, the idea of a 16 year old alone is rough.

Missy
No. Nothing. When I used to – because I used to tutor middle and high schoolers, and I’m like, those are babies. Those are babies.

Merri
Just the reasonings, like how they reason thing is just – I mean, as a 16 year old, you barely want to date a 16 year old.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
There’s a reason you’re like, I gotta date someone older.

Missy
I mean, well, honestly, we talked about this in our Twilight episode, and we’ll talk about it again in our upcoming Eclipse episode that like the fetishization of youth, I think is a real factor here. It’s just – again, there are cultural differences with differences with regard to like, criminality and that kind of thing.

Merri
Especially in like manga, and like anime.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
Especially in that because tthere’s this stereotype that all anime is just sex.

Missy
Yeah. Which is clearly not true.

Merri
And big titties, which can definitely happen. Definitely have accidentally started watching like, this seems cool, witches, oh, they’re not wearing anything.

Missy
Yeah. I just think it’s complicated. And there’s an element of fantasy also, I think, because a lot of the relationships that we’re seeing in here – like May-December romances are – like with, I think it’s Katsuya – and that might actually might be the Sohma guy. I can’t remember. Anyway, Kyoko and her boy, the adult man. Kyoko and her adult man. That’s a May-December romance. But that is a sort of wish fulfillment, right?

Merri
Yeah. Well, and like she’s, she’s definitely still a kid, right? But she’s still like, mature in the world that she had to grow up in. So it does feel like – he’s still young. I mean, he’s like 23. Like 23 you’re still fucking dumb. So, I don’t know, it doesn’t feel as bad to me. But then again, I think the way in which she writes it – I don’t feel like I’m reading a 14 year old.

Missy
And you know that it’s safe.

Merri
Yeah. And you know it’s safe. Exactly.

Missy
You know how the story is gonna play out, and you know that it’s safe, and so you’re indulging in this safe fantasy of a May-December romance – or May-December but it’s over like eight years. Do you have anything else to say about Ritsu?

Merri
No. Poor Ritsu.

Missy
I know. I just – I really wish Ritsu was handled better.

Merri
There was a lot of opportunity.

Missy
Yeah, yeah. Okay, so remember, Merri, when you asked me, when we were recording the last episode, “Do you think that Akito seems more feminine in the second anime?”

Merri
The answer is yeah!

Missy
I can finally answer you: Yeah. I’m guessing in the first anime that the creators simply didn’t know where the story was going. And therefore –

Merri
They had to have not known.

Missy

– Akito looked more masculine and was voiced by male actor. Since the 2019 anime started so long after the series finished, they had the awareness of the direction of the story that the original anime lacked. That said, I kind of wonder if they were a bit too obvious.

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
Because my husband was like, “Oh, was that supposed to be a surprise?”

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
There is ambiguity in the manga because you can’t hear anybody’s voices, right? You can imagine them however you want. And I feel like Akito’s voice is very feminine even if it’s deepened a little bit. I don’t think she needs to be successfully impersonating a man at all times. But it seems like Tohru’s shock is a bit overboard because of how feminine Akito is in this adaptation.

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
Like yeah, it would still be surprising, of course. But not nearly as shocking as in the original anime where I would have been like, “What?!”

Merri
But I can see Tohru being shocked, literally, for other people.

Missy
And there’s other reasons too, we’ll talk about in a little bit, with regard to like, why Tohru’s reaction is the way it is. So we learned in the back half of this series from Kureno – Kureno is who I was thinking of, not Katsuya – that Akito is in fact a woman raised as a man on the orders of her mother, Ren. Ren is an extremely abusive and toxic woman who hates that Akito’s birth essentially robs her of attention she feels is her right.

Merri
And her husband.

Missy
And her husband. There’s some Oedipal shit. This series: there’s some Oedipal shit. We’ve seen throughout the series that giving birth to a member of the Zodiac can take serious mental tolls on mothers, right? Some of them remain okay, like Kagura’s mother, some can’t handle it, like Momiji and Kyo’s mothers, and some are cruel like Yuki and Akito’s mothers. There’s an additional wrinkle here, too, because Akito is actually the god of the Zodiac story. So Akito, a girl, is born into what seems to be seen as a masculine role. And that role is to be worshipped by the people around her. That really doesn’t set a person up for a normal relationship with others. Akito was not set up for success in life.

Merri
Especially that one servant lady. She’s the worst.

Missy
It’s true. So this is a quote from Thoughts on Fruits Basket and Toxic Motherhood by Jackson P. Brown, who writes, “The main focus of Akito’s hatred is women. She hates them. Her mother is the first woman she knew, and in some way she internalizes that feminine rivalry that Ren is so good at, seeing other women as a challenge to her own importance, not wanting to come second, desiring the attention, both familial and romantically, of men, a source of power and respect.” So raised by a woman like Ren, raised in big quotes, Akito comes to internalize the hatred and resentment that Ren feels toward other women, including Akito. It’s really not a surprise to me that Akito embraces living as a man to some degree. With her main touchstone for womanhood being Ren, who would want to embody that, right? Like, if your main if your main model for motherhood or for femininity is Ren, like yeah, fuck, I wouldn’t want to be like Ren either.

Merri
Well, and then when you inflict pain and essentially cause weakness to other women, then you really are like, “Can’t do that.”

Missy
And that she technically has the soul of a masculine figure.

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
There’s lot going on in Akito. It reminds me of how Yuki feels about femininity in that his mother was cruel and his brother, who is a man but quite eccentric and feminine, therefore, you know, leading to Yuki’s distrust of femininity. Akito is really set up to have a fucking disastrous life. It just so happens that she follows in her mother’s cruel footsteps rather than going in a radically different direction. But because the Sohmas are so isolated from outside society and Akito more isolated and spoiled and influenced by the spirit of a literal god than most, it is not a surprise that she models her behavior off of what is expected of her and what she has already seen. Which is why Tohru’s kindness toward the Sohmas has such an impact, right? Many and even most of them have not experienced that level of selfless kindness before. They have only experienced what they are owed as members of the family or in the sense of worship. Some of them are doing okay, Momiji, for example.

Merri
Yep, that’s about it.

Missy
Doing okay. Kagura, doing okay.

Merri
Doing – gets a lot better. I love her a lot.

Missy
She gets better. Some of them are doing okay. Some of them have loving families, but many of them have not seen the kind of radical acceptance that Tohru. So when Tohru shows Akito kindness it is probably one of the first times in Akito life that someone has been kind to her, not because it is their duty or because they are scared of her, but because they literally choose to show her kindness.

Merri
And that’s like the lesson that Akito needs to learn. Kindness is a choice. And it can be strength. Because it takes strength to stand up to Akito, and Akito knows that. That’s why she keeps just pushing people down. God forbid if anyone feels more strength than Akito.

Missy
That has an impact on Akito, even if the first impact is that Akito begins to hate her.

Merri
Which makes sense.

Missy
Yeah. And it’s notable, too how Akito chooses to denigrate Tohru. The choices that she makes – and we talked about this a little bit in the last episode, without the context of Akito being a woman – but Akito targets Tohru with feminized insults, calling her ugly or a monster or disgusting, making these statements about her that are clearly about her looks, even if they’re not entirely about her looks, you know. Basically implying that Tohru is a being that should be repulsive rather than attractive, which is, to Akito, the most cutting remark that you can make about a woman. Akito simply doesn’t understand why anybody would choose Tohru over her when she’s a literal god, and she’s scared of losing her power, and therefore her connection with others, to this teenage girl who is really nothing special at all. She does not understand. “I’m a literal god. How could this nothing girl my take my people away from me? She’s a disgusting monster.” That’s how she chooses to knock her down.

Merri
Which I think only adds to the fact that there really is – in the end, there really is nothing special about Tohru. She doesn’t break the curse. She’s not ome mythical being. She’s just a girl who loves hard. And I think that that makes Akito’s story and eventual lesson learned more impactful.

Missy
I totally agree. This is a quote from “Love, Sex and Power in Fruits Basket,” which is by Sarah Connor, who writes “Akito’s relationship with [MISPRONOUNCES SHIGURE] – I’m so sorry – Shigure also illuminates the manga’s themes surrounding love, sex and power, precisely because it is so different from her relationship with Kureno. Unlike Kureno’s feelings of intermingled compassion, pity, and pseudo-paternal love for a quote-unquote ‘sobbing little girl’ Shigure expressly sees Akito as an adult when Shigure’s editor sees Akito at a family event and observes that she looks very young, Shigure corrects her, offhandedly remarking that Akito is actually in her 20s. Additionally, he tells Ren that he is attracted to her because she looks how Akito might have looked if she were allowed to live as a woman. This is explicitly sexual and focused on Akito as an adult rather than as a child. This difference helps to establish the relationship as one between equals, even when it’s at its most dysfunctional. Shigure also refuses to allow Akito emotional control over him. She repeatedly refers to him as cold or cruel, eventually admitting that this is largely because he is not afraid of her. Even with someone she genuinely loves, sex is a negotiation of power for Akito, an attempt to maintain control of the future regardless of anyone else’s desires.” So again, Akito doesn’t seem able to even comprehend a relationship that isn’t based on control and power, and not in a healthy negotiated way, which, you know, can happen. Like, you can negotiate a relationship with power dynamics. That’s not what’s going with Akito.

Merri
No.

Missy
Establishing her as an adult is really important, because we need to understand that her behavior is not the result of being a child, right? Akito does not have the excuse of, say Kyo, or –

Merri
Hiro.

Missy
Hiro. Thank you. The kid that I just –

Merri
Despise.

Missy
I’m so sorry.

Merri
He tries, though.

Missy
He does try. He gets better. But, oh my god, I could not handle early Hiro. We need to understand that Akito is making choices. Although she and many of the Zodiac adults are childish, they are not children. Right? They may behave immaturely, but that does not make them children. There is no excuse of a lack of life experience to explain Akito’s actions. Yeah, she has been isolated. Yeah, she doesn’t really see other people. But she’s capable of making decisions. Shigure not pursuing Akito reads to her as cold and cruel because she is accustomed to being the object of desire. Not necessarily sexual desire, but she is used to being loved for being who she is. Or feared. I don’t know that she can tell the difference between love and fear.

Merri
And it’s only exacerbated that he had sex with her mom.

Missy
Yeah. Just the worst.

Merri
Which is interesting. because when you think back on Rin, who also very much looks like what Akito would look like, and Rin tries to come on to Shigure. When that happened, I was like, “Whoa! Whoa!” And then you find out they did not sleep together. I really thought that they did.

Missy
Yeah, I did too.

Merri
I really thought they did, and I was just like, “First of all, whoa. Second of all, how dare you to Hatsu? Like, how dare you? How like – come on. Look at the two of them. How could you even compare?”

Missy
As the Sohma god, everybody should want Akito in Akito’s mind, right? She’s god, therefore everybody should want to be around her. Well, this essay points out that Shigure accepts her advances but does not pursue her himself. That is not enough for Akito – accepting advances is not the same as active desire, which Akito feels that she is owed. Shigure does however express desire for Tohru, no doubt adding to Akito’s hatred for her. Shigure is constantly hitting on Tohru.

Merri
I think it’s just because he thinks it’s funny.

Missy
Bruh. I don’t know. Shigure is the most manipulative –

Merri
But I think that’s part of the manipulation towards Akito.

Missy
He’s playing every character like a fucking fiddle.

Merri
And he admits it.

Missy
He does. At first, you just think that he’s a weirdo. Once you know that he’s really manipulative – because I knew – I can’t remember if I read a spoiler or something – having to do with Shigure being manipulative, and you go back and you watch the beginning. And you’re like, bro.

Merri
Everything’s calculated.

Missy
Bro.

Merri
Which does make me feel like the hitting on Tohru was only meant to make Akito even more angry.

Missy
I think it’s to make everybody angry. But I also –

Merri
It’s true.

Missy
I also don’t know – I don’t know that –

Merri
He’d say no to Tohru?

Missy
Yeah, I don’t know that he isn’t also interested. You know? I think he likes – I think he just likes the ladies. You know?

Merri
He does love the young ones. [SINGING] High school girls~

Missy
Yeah, just something else. This is another quote from “Love, Sex and Power in Fruits Basket” by Sarah Connor who writes, “Akito’s relationships with Kureno and Shigure, the rooster and dog respectively, reveal how damaging her approach to power as well as romantic and sexual intimacy is for herself and others. This unspools the series’s core themes, illuminating the ways in which love, sex, and power are inextricably entangled. Only once Akito lets go of her role as god, accepting both her powerlessness over others and her power over her own destiny, can she enter into a relationship born of mutual desire rather than power and control.” So I’m sure that prior to the curse breaking, Akito wanted to things. Presumably Akito had wants. But it’s hard to say whether she wanted anything that also wasn’t tied up in her desire for control and what she saw is rightfully hers, right?

Merri
I just have a hard time believing that she didn’t. Like, that she that that was always there. Because it was just instilled in her by her father and by her awful nanny.

Missy
And the fact that everybody’s crying.

Merri
Everyone’s crying, and despite being awful, there’s this clear – like even with Kyo, Kyo has a hard time standing up to Akito, because there is this connection that no one can understand unless they are part of the zodiac.

Missy
Right. And I think much of this desire for control and power is gendered, too Akito is violent and domineering when dealing with the younger members of the family who see her as god. When she’s dealing with Shigure, who is older and an object of desire for her, she doesn’t seem as likely to lash out physically. She does. But she doesn’t – it’s not her first move, as it is with the younger Sohmad.

Merri
It’s more of like, “How dare you treat me – I’m so weak.”

Missy
This isn’t universally true. She does hurt Hatori’s eye and he’s also older than her. She scratches Shigure. It’s not that she does not lash out physically, it’s only that it doesn’t seem to be her first move. But even that could arguably be said to come from romantic jealousy. Right?

Merri
It kind of feels like when someone hits on you and they’re all nice and then you’re like, “No, thank you,” and they’re like, “Well, you’re a bitch anyway.”

Missy
Yeah. Even if Akito isn’t attracted to Hatori, the way Hatori and his girlfriend are attracted to one another, the fact remains that Akito is jealous of the intrusion of a woman into what Akito sees as the place she ought to occupy. Right? It’s not necessarily that she wants to be Hatori’s girlfriend, but it is like, “This woman is taking up some of your desire that should be on me.”

Merri
Yeah, and the jealousy of just simply, “I don’t get to live that life.”

Missy
Right.

Merri
“That’s taken away from me and therefore I must take it away from you. That’s only fair because I am God.”

Missy
Yeah. And again, just so much of this, even if it’s not explicitly gendered, is still gendered. To be the object of desire is itself a bit gendered. Especially because again, Akito, to all of the younger Sohmas is a man.

Merri
And we see Akito tends to lash out the most when they find a partner.

Missy
Yes. And to lash out physically at the younger Sohmas who don’t know that she’s a woman, and tends to respond primarily with scratches, which are more of a feminine attack, toward the Sohmas that do, in fact, know that she is a woman. There’s like – not playfulness in a positive way -but there’s something coded in the way that she interacts with these characters.

Merri
Just a little coding.

Missy
Yeah. So Akito’s a mess. Do you have anything else to say about Akito, before we get into the next section, where we’ll talk more about Akito?

Merri
I really loved Akito’s story. The only complaint I have about Akito’s story is it does feel like suddenly she’s good. Suddenly, because Tohru is so magical in changing people, Akito magically is better.

Missy
Well, we’ll talk a little bit about this.

Merri
What I do appreciate is that not everybody accepts that.

Missy
Yes. We’ll talk a little bit more about that in the next section, which is on manipulation and trauma. Two really light hearted topics. On the surface, Fruits Basket is a cute little comedy playing with reverse harem dynamics, right? Sure. Once you get past that surface, it is a melancholy but ultimately hopeful series about healing from intergenerational trauma.

Merri
It’s quite impressive that they’re able to take this absolutely God fucking damn depressing story and still feel hopeful. Which is why a character like Tohru is so needed and so necessary, because without Tohru, fuck!

Missy
Yeah. Though we have a magical explanation for why these characters relate to one another the way that they do and why that causes problems for them, the bigger problems for the Sohma family specifically come from their upbringing in an isolated abusive family community, right? The parents tend to be absent or abusive, with a few exceptions. And that causes trauma for the various members of the Zodiac, some of which we discussed above, or earlier, because you’re not looking at an outline, you’re listening to a podcast in which time passes. Even when you have one of the you know, quote unquote, “good” sets of parents, there’s still potential for trauma. Intergenerational trauma as a term refers to trauma that is passed down through families, often stemming from a long-ago source that nobody necessarily remembers, right? For example, if you come from a family whose ancestors fled as refugees from a crisis, the descendants may have habits, fears, emotions, and other things that negatively affect you. If an ancestor was subjected to intense food insecurity, they may hoard food, for example, right, and you may be raised with a relative who hoards food in a way that reads as abnormal. If a relative was abused, they may not be abusive themselves, but may develop coping mechanisms or tendencies like hypervigilance, anxiety, substance abuse, and so on, which in turn affect the child. In the case of Fruits Basket, we have some magical influence, right? But the state of the soma family can largely be traced back to the original story of the Zodiac. Not the one that were told at the beginning, but the true one, another one that made me sob like a fucking baby. We learned in the end of the story that the version of the Zodiac myth we’ve been told, the one where the rat tricks the cat into not attending a banquet, is inaccurate. In fact, God befriended the animals and when the cat came to the end of its life, he created a magic potion that would keep them alive forever and forced the cat to drink it without explaining what it was going to do. The cat resented this, but having already drank it was doomed to be resurrected eternally, like the rest of them. The cat was like, “No, it is natural to die. And I want to experience death. I want to be able to appreciate the beauty of life in its briefness, and not have eternity, have immortality, forced upon me.” And this led to animosity between the cat and the rest of the Zodiac as well as the god. Over time, this animosity changed, but the point remains the same. God wants all of the Zodiac animals to be nearby and friendly, and when they stray, that is taken as a personal offense.

Merri
Therefore, you must turn into a Digimon.

Missy
Therefore, you must turn into a Digimon.

Merri
That part of like – turns into a monster is still like… it works for the story, but I still don’t quite understand why it’s necessary.

Missy
Yeah, I think that – I don’t know. I don’t feel that that was necessarily fully explained. But I assume it’s just God having revenge on the cat for –

Merri
Yeah, that’s what I assumed. But I do think it served its purpose well, in creating the relationship with Kyo and Tohru.

Missy
Yeah. God wants everything to stay the same forever, and the cat does not. No matter which version of this story you hear, it becomes clear how intergenerational trauma can happen, especially for the cat.

Merri
I’m curious ff other gods, like Akito, were so awful, like Akito. I know there were a lot of outside influences to Akito as well. But I wonder if there’s a natural tendency to, especially because the God in the story that we’re told doesn’t necessarily feel like vengeful or evil, but also the cat turns into a monster.

Missy
Yeah, I think what happened – I think that probably the soul of the God is angry at the cat, and that anger intensifies over generations.

Merri
Yeah, so are other gods or other iterations of Akito awful?

Missy
I think so. I mean, they were locking the cat in a prison.

Merri
This is true.

Missy
So they didn’t seem like particularly nice people.

Merri
This is true. But her dad seemed pretty cool.

Missy
But he wasn’t the God.

Merri
He wasn’t? I thought he was.

Missy
I don’t think so.

Merri
Oh, JK.

Missy
I could be wrong. I think he was head of the Sohma family but not God.

Merri
Okay, okay. Yeah, because they say Akito is the head of the family, so maybe that’s where I got mixed up. And that’s why he’s had – anyways, yeah.

Missy
Yeah, I don’t know that Akira was God, but he was head of the family. So I think there’s- because this is the only time that all the members of the Zodiac had been alive at the same time. So I think that maybe there was not a god in the previous generation. But I could be wrong. I think there’s a prequel out there somewhere. With the second version of the story, we see that there is a more toxic relationship between the god and the zodiac animals as well. The God didn’t want them to leave and if and even if they consent to staying, their descendants and reincarnations did not, right? the God’s actions have trapped them in a cycle of love and resentment, which is demonstrated very effectively in the scene where we first see Yuki meet Akito. He starts crying, and then there’s an overlapping series of voices in his head saying things like, “I hate you, I love you.” Yuki doesn’t get to have his own feelings about Akito, because he’s always going to be torn between the rat’s feelings and his own. So while each character has their own unique experience, some of which have been quite dramatic for Kyo, Momiji, Rin, and Yuki, for example, they also have the shared intergenerational trauma of codependency with the Zodiac God. Because the Sohma family is so isolated from the outside, it is quite difficult to escape that, which is where Tohru comes in. So this is a quote from “Honda Tohru and the Strength of Nurturing” which is by Caitlin Moore. “Unconditional love and acceptance is hard work. Caretaking is hard work. Takaya even makes it clear within the narrative that caring for others is a learned skill. Tohru describes how her mother Kyoko would say that people aren’t naturally kind. We come into this world only knowing our own wants and needs, and only learn to overcome their own instincts over years of growth. To be fair, Tohru seems to have a preternatural talent for it, able to heal the Sohma’s intergenerational trauma with her soothing presence that makes her similar to any given scrappy shonen hero with some great destiny or unusual potential to fill.” Now one thing to know here is that it’s quite possible that the curse would have broken without Tohru because all of the Zodiac members are alive at the same time.

Merri
That feels like that’s why happened.

Missy
That is what breaks the curse. It is not Tohru. But even if the curse had broken, it’s Tohru’s selfless love that allows all of these characters to develop views of themselves and alternate ways of relating to people, right? Yes, the curse might have broken. But would they have been living as good of lives without Tohru’s influences?

Merri
I think, too, it allowed them to process – because I thought what the show did really well is when the curse breaks, the difficulty there is in mourning the loss of something that was abusive. And I think without Torhu that would have been much more difficult, especially for someone like Yuki, to deal with. So it really does feel like that selflessness – even though Tohru doesn’t feel like it’s – Tohru’s like, “I’m a selfish person,= because I want this.” I think without that though, it would have been so much harder for a lot of them to cope with what’s going on.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
Especially because you’d be like, there’s no other good in the world. So what’s the point?

Missy
Right. Like, they may not have been forced to turn into animals anymore, but they would not have had as many skills to handle being free of that curse as they do without her influence.

Merri
Exactly. Yeah.

Missy
Because like, listen, all of us are carrying around some form of trauma, some more intensely than others, right? But we’re all but we’re all carrying around the effects of the environment that we live in, the effects of the environment that we grew up in. We’re carrying the effects – as much as we’re carrying individual personal traumas, we’re also carrying the effects of growing up under capitalism, under ecological disaster, like –

Merri
Fuck.

Missy
All of these things are weighing on us and are causing us to act in different ways. If we don’t experience love or caretaking, it is even harder for us to escape the desire to inflict our negative emotions on others, right? This is genuinely hard! It’s not easy!

Merri
It is why the relationships around you when you grow up are so important.

Missy
Yeah. So I actually really, really like that Tohru does not break the curse. I’m so glad –

Merri
I so agree.

Missy

– that she didn’t do it. I also kind of like that the curse just breaks without anybody really doing anything. It just breaks because it breaks.

Merri
I feel like it’s really important and was very purposeful that Tohru didn’t do it, because then Tohru would just be a next God that they are bound to

Missy
Yes. Nobody has to do anything. Nobody gets credit for it. Because the curse, while certainly a factor in the trauma, is not entirely to blame for how everybody acts, right? Without it, they are better able to heal, but that ability also comes from Tohru’s compassion and what they’ve learned from her, not just because now they can hug people.

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
This is another quote here from Love, Sex, and power in Fruits Basket by Sarah Connor who writes, “Kureno and Akito’s relationship is framed as that of an addict and enabler, as Kureno offers kindness but fails to ever enforce consequences for bad behavior. And this way Kureno’s relationship with Akito bears more similarity to the other parent child relationships we see throughout the manga: indulgent to a fault, but also consistent and unconditionally supportive, both qualities Fruits Basket to pics is crucial to a parent-child relationship.” I think the relationship between kureno and Akito and Tohru and the rest of the Zodiac can’t go unremarked upon. When interacting with Kureno, Tohru sees how beat down and resigned he is. He keeps giving and giving to Akito and getting nothing in return. He only lives for Akito.

Merri
Which only makes the fact that he won’t go to her friend even worse.

Missy
Throughout, we have seen that sometimes we need another person to affirm us, right? Or if we can’t find a reason to live for ourselves, another person will do, right? if we cannot for ourselves live, it is okay to find somebody else to live for.

Merri
As long as we live.

Missy
As long as we live. But just like both Kyoko and Kyo remind Tohru that it’s okay to be a little selfish, Kureno serves as a warning about a potential future for for Tohru, one in which she barely has a life because she has dedicated it to others. Her shock in their conversation is as much about the reveal that Akito is a woman as it is about the horror of this potential future for herself, where, in deciding to live so completely for another person, she lets that other person completely subsumed.

Merri
Which I think is an important lesson to learn in the end when she has to acknowledge she loves someone more than missing her mom.

Missy
Yes. Notably, after this point, we see Tohru doing more to pursue the things that she wants, including allowing Kyo to understand that she has been hurt. She doesn’t just immediately forgive Kyo.

Merri
[SIGHS] It’s so good.

Missy
This quote also mentions that Kureno plays an almost parent-like role to Akito because of his indulgence and unconditional support of her, which Connor says that Fruits Basket sees as crucial in a parent child relationship. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, but I also don’t have the evidence to disagree. In Fruits Basket we really only see parents who are unconditionally supportive, such as Kyoko, and parents who are totally neglectful such as Momiji’s mother. I think some consequences from Kureno might have actually helped Akito. Just a smidge. Though I’m not sure Kureno is capable of enforcing them. The really black and white parental relationships are one area where I feel like the series is lacking, probably because parents are either absent or the children are already kind.

Merri
Well, it’s also really difficult to me, with the parent relationship with Kureno, when they had sex.

Missy
Yeah. One exception would be Hiro and his mother Satsuki. But we barely see them interact.

Merri
I love Hiro’s mom. He’s like, “I can’t hold the baby.” And she’s like, “I’m here. Like, I’ll catch you both.” And I’m just like, why can’t everybody have – why can’t they all be as good as Hiro’s, and even Kagura’s mom is very kind, takes an Rin and is just like, “You know, life is hard.”

Missy
This is another quote from Thoughts on Fruits Basket and Toxic Motherhood by Jackson P. Brown, who writes, “The scene between Akito and Kureno is heartbreaking. She, small and fragile and still a child, screaming at him, eyes overflowing, begging him not to leave her, and Kureno, a tween at this time, perplexed and scared and concerned for Akito’s health. Here we see that Akito’s sense of self worth is all in the zodiac. Without it, she is nothing and every evil thing her mother said to her suddenly holds merit. She’s unable to see that her father loved her because she was born. Instead, she believes that she’s only worthy of love because she is the heir of his position. She is lauded and revered by the family aides because she is the God of the zodiac. Akito Soma by herself is nothing and thus begins her descent into hatred. Mirroring her own mother’s abuse Akito spends the rest of her life abusing the zodiac.” So one thing to know about abuse is that there’s this common narrative that abuse is cyclical, right? If you experienced abuse as a child, you are doomed to become an abuser yourself. That isn’t true. This is demonstrated –

Merri
This is harmful thoughts.

Missy
This is harmful. This is destructive, especially to victims of abuse. It can be true, in that it happens.

Merri
It can be true when you weren’t abused.

Missy
Yes. But abuse can cause a number of results in people. Akito is not doomed to become an abuser because she was abused as a child. Between the abuse and the literal God Complex, she certainly has a toxic recipe for becoming an abuser, right? But she still makes choices. She is not absolved of any culpability in becoming an abuser just because she was abused and just because she is literally a god. But I think it’s important to know that she does come from an abusive background. It helps us understand that there are two parts of her, both of which are hurting, especially when we learn the actual story of the Zodiac, right, which is itself a story of rejection. And she’s carrying this generation upon generation of what the original God would have seen as rejection, and the pain of that. She is broken on several levels. And everybody indulges her bad behavior because they don’t know what else to do, right? They simply don’t have the tools to get outside of this toxic codependent relationship they have with regard to the zodiac. And for her, we may feel some empathy as we learn that she was raised by someone who hates her so much that she wouldn’t even let her live as her own gender. The person who ought to have nurtured her rejects and hates her, and therefore the only model she has of positive behavior is being the object of worship, which is just not a good way to live.

Merri
And Kureno even is more important to Akito in the fact of the bond is broken, and it needs to be. That’s not the only reason you’re still here. And if youleave just because it’s broken, that means my mother is even more correct. So poor Kureno.

Missy
Yeah. And this is where Tohru and their first interaction come in. It’s literally the first time that Akito has experienced unconditional love, right? She doesn’t change in that moment. In that moment when she is holding Tohru’s hair, Tohru is kneeling before her and still expressing kindness toward her even if she’s physically threatened. She does not change in that moment, right? And she actually continues to get worse. She hates Tohru, even though she was the one to show her a different way of living. But it’s Tohru’s influence that frees the other Zodiac members from Akito’s rule, right? And that moment of compassion from Tohru sets a model that Akito can begin to follow if she chooses. Something that we kind of touched on in the previous episode, but that we weren’t able to fully expand on, is that while it can be frustrating that characters like Tohru so easily and apparently naturally slip into the role of mother slash nurturer, which matches with gendered expectations, that doesn’t necessarily make the character bad or even stereotypical. I argued very briefly that because the series is so interested in masculinity and femininity – femininity is such a hard word to say. That’s misogyny is the fact that it’s so hard to say femininity. Because the series is so interested in masculinity and femininity and the possibilities for nurturing and radical compassion, it actually feels like much of Fruits Basket is about untangling misogyny from trauma and cultural teachings about women and femininity. Now that we’ve made it to Akito, I think we can look at that more closely. Because Ren and Akito have some pretty horrible ideas about femininity. Ren seems to believe that any power she has comes from being a woman in terms of, like being, sexually available or –

Merri
Well, it raised her status too, so it makes sense that she only embraces that feeling. And then you have Akito born into a privilege that Akito didn’t have to work for. And everyone loves Akito.

Missy
Everyone “loves” Akito, quote-unquote.

Merri
Everyone “loves” Akito.

Missy
And so therefore Ren is jealous of Akito and forces her to live as a man. Akito’s main touchstone for what a woman is is Ren, who treated her terribly and gave Akito the idea that women are weak, selfish, and abusive. Or, failing that, subservient to her as the God of the Zodiac.

Merri
Or just sexual beings.

Missy
Or just sexual beings. I don’t think the series gets into a ton of Akito’s healing, but things start to shift with Tohru’s involvement, and Akito becomes increasingly unhinged, before she finally starts to accept that her bonds with the Zodiac spirits are dissolving and that she’s also being hurt by her reliance on their presence as validation. She’s about to accept Tohru’s hand in friendship before Tohru’s falls off the cliff, which is a wild plot twist, but whatever.

Merri
They set it up season one though.

Missy
They did. And it was raining, so the cliff is a little is a little shaky. It’s set up.

Merri
We got there.

Missy
It was just a little like, now? You know. That marks a huge degree of growth for Akito. And it’s not surprising that, following tha,t we see her relationship with Shigure deepen into one that’s more mutual and less manipulative and she starts living as a woman in a way that suits her. Frankly, it’s kind of nuts that the next time she meets Tohru they really do hold hands and smile at each other like Akito absolutely wasn’t thinking of stabbing her, but whatever.

Merri
It makes sense for Tohru to do that.

Missy
People in the series turn into animals, so how fucking critical can I be of this unreasonable turn of events?

Merri
I feel like there is something to say for the Azula-ness of her of her breakdown. Like when you have a breakdown, the radical come-to-Jesus moment that you have afterwards. I could see that. But I do still feel like it was just so sudden.

Missy
It was sudden. The thing I like and, the thing that makes me not feel bad about the ending in terms of – as you said, nobody has to forgive Akito. What the biggest sign to me of Akito’s growth as a character is not anything she says, but rather the fact that she chooses not to go to… I think it’s a banquet. She, she chooses not to go. She realizes that her actions have hurt those people so much that she willingly chooses to isolate herself from them because she doesn’t want to inflict any more pain. That to me is the biggest sign of growth, not her being friends with Tohru, not being upset that Tohru falls off the cliff. None of that fucking matters. What matters to me is that Akito realizes the harm that she has done and chooses to remove herself and put other people and their healing before her own.

Merri
Yeah, I would agree.

Missy
That to me is what made me not feel bad about like, “And Akito was redeemed.” It’s like – she’s fucking not redeemed.

Merri
Yeah, and I think Rin – right, Rin?

Merri
Rin refuses to forgive her.

Merri
Yeah. And I and I so appreciate that. I love Rin. I fucking love her.

Missy
Akito fucking pushed her out a window.

Merri
Yeah. And then trapped her where the cat supposed is to be trapped forever. And essentially is like, “Let her starve to death.” And cuts off her hair. And it’s just like – there’s no way there’s no world that she should say like, “Ah, it’s fine.”

Missy
Yeah, no. And what matters to me about that is that Rin – the story does not demonize Rin for refusing to forgive her. Nor does it say that Akito is beyond redemption. Because the fact that Akito does not go to the banquet, or whatever it is- it’s been a bit since I finished the series. The fact that Akito chooses not to go is a sign of growth, it is not the end. Right? Akito is not like, “Oh, she’s all better now.” No, it’s just the fact that like, she was willing to think of other people’s well-being before her own, and that is a sign of growth. And just to emphasize, Akito inherits the generational trauma inflicted on her by her parents and everyone like quote, unquote, “beneath her” in the Zodiac hierarchy inherits that trauma as well. Kyo destined to be locked up because nobody thinks to break the tradition. Right?

Merri
[INTENTIONALLY WHINING] Why?

Missy
Everybody’s just like, “Well, that’s how it’s done.”

Missy
[INTENTIONALLY WHINING AGAIN] Why?

Missy
Yuki is psychologically abused because that’s how things work in this family. Momiji is basically abandoned by his family because nobody knows how to deal with the repercussions of giving birth to a Zodiac child without wiping memories. Everyone is suffering under the weight of this intergenerational trauma, no matter how good their own life may be. Even Hiro, who has a supportive mother, has had to deal with believing himself responsible for Akito hurting Kisa. There’s literally no healthy family life in the Sohma family.

Merri
I feel like Encanto does this really well.

Missy
I haven’t seen that.

Merri
There’s a lot of generational trauma going on. It’s like what the whole story is about. Not as like, devastating as this, but still … if you want some more of that flavor of story. It does it really well.

Missy
This is a quote from 2D Boys, 3D Desires: A Critical Fan’s Primer to Romance, Sexuality, and Gender in Manga, Anime, and Otome Video Games, which is by Katherine M. Randazzo, who writes, “But unlike other shoujo series, Fruits Basket examines the ramifications of the curse on members of the family afflicted. It quickly becomes clearer as the plot continues that what appeared to be a reverse harem setup is in fact a love triangle between Yuki, Kyo, and Tohru, with other side characters’ romantic plots on the side. Between Yuki and Kyo, the cat and the rat, the hothead and the icy prince – in other words, natural rivals – Tohru gravitates to Kyo while Yuki learns to grapple with his intense platonic love for Tohru, learning to recognize it as such.” It’s almost funny to me how the series seems to start off with a love triangle premise. Like who’s Tohru going to end up with? Yuki or Kyo? And by the end of roughly the first arc, where you learn about Kyo’s true form, it is pretty clear where it’s headed as far as who’s going to be with Tohru.

Merri
And they just keep keep hitting it home. They just keep hitting it home. It’s not gonna happen. It’s not gonna happen. Not gonna happen.

Missy
Yeah, and while I love Kyo and Tohru together, the romance takes a backseat later in the series, and I really like that. Romance is not necessarily a way out of trauma. And it does get tiring that romance is almost universally the endpoint to a lot of stories like this. Like once you are out of the traumatic situation, the greatest sign of healing is having a partner. I think the series actually did a really good job of showcasing a variety of relationships, with Yuki admitting that his feelings for Tohru are platonic being one I really, really appreciate. We did briefly discuss this in the last episode, but platonic relationships are often undervalued in media, even though they can be just as rich and dramatic as romantic ones.

Merri
Especially between men and women.

Missy
Yeah, it often feels like media like this suggests that friendship is a shallower version of romance. But in reality, that’s not the case. And I think that, despite the emphasis on romance as an ending for most of these characters, there’s also an appreciation for platonic relationships. Not only is Tohru basically everyone’s BFF through sheer force of will, but you also see the profound impact that accepting platonic love has on Yuki not only through Tohru but through his friends on the student council, right? They have such an impact on on Yuki that even Tohru doesn’t have, partly because his feelings for her are confused.

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
Torhu is great for showing him that he’s deserving of love, as all people are, but his friends really push him out of his comfort zone. Especially because they don’t revere him the way that so many people at school do.

Merri
Or his friend –

Missy
Kakeru?

Merri
Yeah, [he] does but in a very, very, very different way.

Missy
Yeah. I wish they would have kissed.

Merri
I’m not – I mean, they probably did.

Missy
We can only hope. It just didn’t make the cut.

Merri
That’s why he moved in with both of them. But it’s a little weird because they’re half siblings, you know,

Missy
You know, it’s not the weirdest thing that happens in Fruits Basket.

Merri
It happens, I guess.

Missy
Yeah. The way that it handles trauma is not perfect, right? But the series, I think, does a very good job of talking about intergenerational trauma, and the effects that it has without necessarily absolving anybody of culpability, nor entirely blaming anybody because Akito is horribly abusive. Akito, to me is unforgivable.

Merri
I agree.

Missy
But also –

Merri
Especially throwing someone out of a fucking window.

Missy
Yeah. Girl! But you can understand why she acts that way. And the fact that in the end, she chooses not to inflict that on anybody else is a sign of growth. I don’t have to forgive her. Rin doesn’t have to forgive her. Kyo doesn’t have to forgive her. But they don’t need her in their life. And she doesn’t need them in her life to grow into a better person. That’s like the best you can hope for for somebody who’s abusive, is – I hope you grow into a better life that does not fucking include me.

Merri
And it’s difficult to make that choice to do betters, especially when you have Akito’s stupid nanny ,who I think – I don’t know if it happened in the anime, but in the manga, she’s like, “How dare you not be awful?”

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
And Akito’s like, “Well, sorry.”

Missy
Yeah, I think that it’s really effective in conveying that. It is not perfect. Again, there, are things about the story that maybe didn’t age super well, or that are too neat and tidy, or that are extremely heteronormative. But I think that the core story about kindness and about the radical capability of compassion, about intergenerational trauma, I think are still very, very effective. Even now like 30 years after the manga started coming out. One last section here, and I think we had so much to say about gender and trauma that I don’t think this got the – like, this is quite a short section comparatively, is how much this series is about choosing to live despite the horrible, horrible, horrible shit that you’re undergoing. Poor Tohru lives in a fucking tent, because her mother died. She lives in a fucking tent in the woods.

Merri
And she has family to live with.

Missy
Yes.

Merri
But they’re so awful that it’s etter to live in the tent.

Missy
Yeah. Kyo literally turns into a monster and is destined to be put into an isolated prison for his entire life.

Merri
And he’s just like, I’ll just appreciate the time I have with Tohru.

Missy
Yeah. Ritsu hates [himself] so much [he] is ready to jump off a building.

Merri
And it’s very clear it’s not the first time

Missy
Yeah, like, there is a lot of, “Why am I even alive?” in this series. Everybody is fucking struggling with a reason to stay alive in this.

Merri
We’ve got lots of awful things.

Missy
Yeah, so there’s a lot going on on Fruits Basket. We’ve talked about things like disentangling femininity and feminine coded traits from misogyny, abuse and healing from trauma, and so on. But one thing we have not really discussed that pops up again and again is the theme of having a reason to live. Many characters throughout the series express, if not a desire to die, a desire to escape their circumstances and end their suffering, right? There’s a lot of fucking suffering. There’s so much suffering in this series.

Merri
Even with the parents. We have one suicide and one attempted suicide. And God knows what else. So it’s not just the zodiac.

Missy
No, it everybody is fucking suffering. And they do suffer a lot. Ritsu goes so far as to climb up on the roof and declare himself a burden that he wants to rid from the world. But Tohru doesn’t let him do that. She says it is okay to find whatever reason you need to keep on living. And it’s enough if that reason is another person. Like that, just that itself, I think is so freeing. The idea that it is okay to find any reason you need to keep living. It doesn’t matter what that reason is it can be spite if you want. It can be that you want to make another person happy.

Merri
Just live.

Missy
Ot can be because you want to see what’s going to happen on the next episode of your TV show. It could be because tomorrow is going to be better, like, literally any reason is a good enough reason. And it’s a theme that comes up repeatedly throughout the story such as the conversation about Kisa needing validation from others and that being okay. There’s that joke, I think it’s the Barefoot Contessa who’s always like, “If you if you don’t have your own homegrown rosemary, storebought is fine.” You know, if you don’t have your own self-love somebody else’s is fine. It’s okay to accept love from other people.

Merri
Especially while you’re trying to find love for yourself, right?

Missy
That’s reaffirmed many times with Torhu caring for Kyo despite his monstrous form and the effect that that has on him. He’s literally never met anybody who a) knows about his monstrous form and is willing to care for him despite it, especially because she’s like literally fighting off nausea –

Merri
Yeah, ’cause he smells bad.

Missy
Yeah, and fear. She chooses to love him despite seeing literally the most horrifying version of him. And she says, you know what, I fucking love you anyway. She would never say “fuck.” “I love you anyway even though you turn into a big smelly monster. I still love you.” And this is why it fucking killed me –

Merri
True love.

Missy
It fucking killed me that she picked up those beads and put them on her shrine. What she’s saying with that gesture is like, “I still love that part of you. I still – that part of you is still important to me, enough that it goes on the shrine with the hat and the picture of my mom.”

Merri
“It’s part of our story.”

Missy
“We’re not free of this monstrous form because that monsterous form is still you and I still love it.” She isn’t willing to throw it in the garbage even though Kyo doesn’t want to see it anymore. She’s like, “I still love that. I still care about that part of you.”

Merri
“Because it made you who you are.”

Missy
Exactly.

Merri
And I think she can realize that while Kyo – and I think he also says this in the manga – while Kyo wants nothing to do with the beads now, there will be a time in which he’ll be appreciative that she kept them.

Missy
Yes, absolutely. Oh, it kills me. I’m gonna cry again. How you keep comes out of his shell because his friends care for the person that he is. And even in the end, how Akito isolates herself from the rest of the Zodiac, but she still has love for Shigure, right? Real uncoerced love replaces the need she had for validation from the zodiac. There’s just like this – the series is really concerned with trauma and the effects that trauma ha,s and how that can strip you of your desire to live. And this series is like, any reason will do. Any of them. It’s fine. Take your pick. Live for live for your friend, live for the person you love, live because it might get better. It doesn’t matter!

Merri
Live for leeks.

Missy
Just keep living. Live for leeks, live to hate leeks. Live out of spite.

Merri
Live to make leeks you hate.

Missy
Live because you might beat up your cousin someday. It doesn’t matter. Whatever the reason is, it’s a good enough reason to keep living. So despite there being a lot of sad things throughout the series, it ends up being quite hopeful because of that. It’s literally like, yeah, the world fucking sucks. You are subject to this cruel God who might shove you out a window. But you know what? Other people love you and you’re deserving of love anyway, so stick around.

Merri
You’ve got Hatsu and he’s hot too and he’s hot.

Missy
Hatsuharu’s here. He’s hot.

Merri
I love a cow.

Missy
Love a cow. There’s reasons to keep living no matter how awful it is. And that is really the core of the series to me. And that I think is what keeps it from, despite the fact that it is quite depressing and quite sad and too real for being a story about people turning into animals, it manages to not be depressing because of that, because it acknowledges the fact that like people have the desire to die because things are so difficult. It says yeah, people have that desire. And you know what, it’s okay to have that desire but choose to live anyway, like, keep going. And that, I think, is what saves it from being saccharine and saves it from being too depressing.

Merri
I would totally agree.

Missy
It manages to really thread that needle for me, even if, in the end it is a bit it is a bit much that Tohru and Akito are best friends. It’s a bit much. I believe it because it’s Torhu.

Merri
Yeah I believe Tohru.

Missy
But Tohru is a little unbelievable, so, you know. It’s okay though. So, Fruits Basket is good.

Merri
It’s good. The only thing that I wish I got more of is Hanajima and Kyo’s master.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
I love them together. I love –

Missy
Another May/December romance.

Merri
Yeah, another one. But also all the jokes that she says, like, “Call me mommy.” I’m just like, “Yeah!” I want to see her get into this relationship and have both somebody she loves but also the absolute joy in torturing Kyo.

Missy
Yeah, it’s very funny.

Merri
It’s so good. I love it. I love them together. I don’t care. I love them together so much.

Missy
I love her friends so much.

Merri
Her friends! Oh, they are just such good friends.

Missy
It’s true.

Merri
Except what was with the change at the end of them not letting –

Missy
I don’t know. In the in the manga, if you haven’t read the manga, Hanajima and Uotani simply will not allow Kyo into the emergency room.

Merri
Because he called her delusional, I think is ultimately what they said.

Missy
Yeah. In the anime he says he’s disappointed in her, which she – yeah, he get over yourself, Kyo.

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
I know you hate yourself but you gotta –

Merri
Well, he was doing it to push her away.

Missy
Yeah. So they simply will not allow him into the hospital room because they are protecting Tohru and I was really sad that they cut that from the anime.

Merri
I feel like – I thought a lot about this part because I wonder if there’s some retconning of wanting to do that part differently. Because I do feel like it would make sense to me that Kyo is so upset about what he’s done that it’s hard to face Tohru, because he knows she’s gonna forgive him, right?

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
But also you have to – he wants her to recognize that what happened was wrong, but it’s also him that was wrong. Like, I’m curious if there was some like, “I wish I would have handled that differently. So let’s change it.”

Missy
Yeah. Yeah, I think that that’s possible. I just wish there was a little like – the friends realize what he did.

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
And I like that they put up that barrier of “No, you haven’t earned the right to see her because you have not made the move to fucking fix yourself so that you stop hurting her.”

Merri
I love her running away, though. That was like one of my favorite parts. It was just so funny, because he’s just like, “Are you kidding me?” He’s like, “I’m faster than her.”

Missy
Yeah. Oh, god. It’s so good. It’s so fun to watch. Especially just watching him fuck up repeatedly. And you’re like, Kyo! You dummy. I love you, dummy. You have anything else to say about Fruits Basket?

Merri
No, it was good. I’m so glad we did it. Even though it was 5 million years long.

Missy
It was so long.

Merri
It was so long and it felt even longer because we took a break.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
And it was just so much but I’m glad we did it because it really was – it’s one of those ones that just masterfully done.

Missy
It’s literally been like 15 years since I started Fruits Basket. So I’m really glad to have finally seen the conclusion.

Merri
So even longer. Yeah, and it was –

Missy
It was worth it. It was very good.

Merri
It made some of the choices made in the original anime really confusing, like when Yuki also runs after Kyo and I’m like, that’s not going to happen. Or like when Tohru does meet Akito and Akito’s like super aggressive in a very different way.

Missy
Yeah.

Merri
But obviously they didn’t know at that point. But yeah, so I really appreciated it.

Missy
Yeah. Yeah.

Merri
I love Kyo and I love Hatsu. I just want to die for them.

Missy
So that’s gonna do it for this episode. You can find us online at fakegeekgirlscast.com, which has all of our previous episodes and also a link to our podcast network, Penwitch Studio, where you can check out the other shows on the network, which you will probably like.

Merri
Yeah.

Missy
If you liked this, consider leaving us a review on whatever your podcast service of choice is. Let other people know that you like it so that they’re like, “Oh, this sounds good.” And then they can come check it out too.

Merri
Have a good time.

Missy
Yeah, join. Join us. Next time, we’re gonna be talking about Eclipse. Womp womp.

Merri
Its the last one, though.

Missy
No, it’s not.

Merri
No?

Missy
No, Breaking Dawn.

Merri
Oh, fuck, I forgot about Breaking Dawn.

Missy
Which is two movies.

Merri
But not two books!

Missy
Not two books. Thank god. I can’t do it anymore. Eclipse. Yeah, the third Twilight book.

Merri
Such good – such good talking points.

Missy
Which, so far, is the best one. And also the worst one in ways that we will discuss. But I didn’t hate the experience of reading Eclipse. I didn’t like it. But I didn’t hate it. So that was an improvement. After that, we’re gonna be doing Saint Maud.

Merri
Yes!

Missy
And after Saint Maud we’ll be doing The Matrix.

Merri
Yes!

Missy
And after The Matrix, we’ll probably be doing Pushing Daisies.

Merri
Yes!

Missy
So just a –

Merri
A whole whiplash.

Missy

– a series of home runs with different moods. Um, yeah, so that’s it.

Merri
All right, catch you on the flipside.


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