Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fruits Basket 19 by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket is a series centered around Tohru Honda, an orphan who discovers that one of her schoolmates, Yuki Sohma, is of a cursed family. The Sohma family is cursed to embody the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, from the Rat to the Boar. These members, when hugged or embraced by a member of the opposite sex, turn into the animal of the Zodiac that they represent. They also attract their animal, and are able to call members of their animal to them and command them, in a limited fashion.

Most of the Sohmas live in their family compound, but Yuki (the rat), his cousin Shigure (the Dog) and another cousin of his, Kyo (the cat) all live together in the same house. Now, normally the cat isn't part of the zodiac, but according to an old legend, the rat tricked the cat into staying home when the Buddha called the animals together for the feast, and so forever afterwards, the family of the cat hated the family of the rat and would hunt them. Also, it didn't get a place in the calendar.

The Sohmas are led by Akhito, who is the Buddha, or God, reborn. However, Akhito is a woman, and her family relationships were extremely twisted. How extremely? Well, her father realized who and what she embodied, and idolized her. But her mother reacted badly to this, and mistreated Akhito every chance she got. After her father died when she was young, her mother blamed her again. In addition, when Akhito and Shigure fell in love, her mother deliberately set out to seduce Shigure and told Akhito that she had stolen Shigure away from her. She also told her daughter that the only reason anyone paid any attention to her is because she embodied the God. If she didn't, nobody would pay any attention to her at all. Akhito believed this was true, and started commanding the family's attention, which didn't go over well at all with them. And the further she pushed the others away with her actions, the more she believed her mother was correct. She is truly miserable, but keeps taking it out on the other members of her family.

Shigure wants the family's curse to be broken. Over the years that the curse has existed, the family's forms became lesser (like Hatori Sohma- he's the dragon, but turns into a seahorse), and has made the family miserable. He believes that this time around, the curse will be broken, because all the members of the Zodiac have been born all together, and one member of the family has already had the curse broken for them, Kureno, the Rooster. Shigure hopes Tohru Honda will be the one to break the curse. She is in love with Kyo (even if she will not admit it to herself), and if she cannot break the curse soon, Kyo will be put away, like all the former cats, imprisoned for his own good.

In this volume, Shigure tells Tohru more about the curse, and why he felt it would be broken in this generation. He also tells her that if she doesn't manage to break it soon, Kyo will be imprisoned by the Sohma family, and that all of them look down on the cat because it makes them feel better about themselves, i.e. We're miserable, but at least we aren't as cursed as the cat is. (without his bracelet, Kyo transforms into the Demon Cat, which is very ugly and apparently smells disgusting.)

Tohru, however, is resisting admitting her love for Kyo, because she believes that if someone beside her mother is first in her heart, she will lose her mother's spirit forever. We also learn that Tohru's extremely polite way of speaking came about after her father died. At his funeral, his relatives commented that she looked nothing like her father, and since her mother was such a rebel, how could they know that Tohru wasn't the bastard child of some other man? Tohru heard them and started speaking like her father to try and make it seems as if she had something of her father's.

When Kyo learns this, he reaches out to Tohru, and she admits it to him, causing him to hold her... and turn into a cat, making a humorous ending to such a depressing subject. We definitely see that Tohru is just as screwed up emotionally as many of the people in the Sohma family, and that her cheerful happiness is simply a mask that she uses to make people think she is okay.

The last part of the book focuses on Yuki, who goes to see his brother, Aya, to discuss women and the girl he has feelings for. On the way to his brother's shop, he encounters a woman from Aya's past, who asks him to remember her to Aya. Aya is very struck by her message, and remembers how he broke her heart unfeelingly in high school. Aya obsesses over how he must have hurt her, but Yuki tells him the woman seemed okay now, and how she must be a strong woman. This gives Yuki the strength to apologize to Machi and give her a present. Another council member remembers that his father was the man who hit and killed Tohru's mother in the car accident, but he was killed as well. He apologizes to her, and invites Yuki to his house to meet his family.

Finally, the long saga is making its way to the ending. The Sohma family has really grown, thanks to Tohru, and now it seems to be her fate to grow as well. I can't get enough of the manga, and I am looking forward to seeing how Tohru Honda breaks the spell on the Sohmas. While they might be suffering from the fallout of the curse for a little while after it is broken, I have high hopes for everyone in the family, Akhito included, to move on.

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