Last week (kinda) we talked about that one person that can show you how worthwhile you really can be. Tohru Honda always made the effort to show people that there is something about them that makes them amazing. It can be something small that nobody can see, or something huge that everybody sees, but she always made sure they knew they had that pickled plum on their back. This time we’re going to continue with Fruits Basket, picking up where the anime left off and proceeding with the manga.
At the end of the anime, Tohru discovered that Kyo, cursed by the spirit of the cat, had another form. This grotesque form is named that Cat’s True Form. Kazuma Sohma, Kyo’s adoptive father, revealed Kyo’s true form as a test for Tohru. He wanted to see if Tohru would accept Kyo, even in his true form. Despite being terrified, Tohru accepted Kyo in his form. She admitted how scared she was of him, but that did not change how much she wanted to stay with him.
All of the Sohmas struggle with creating relationships, whether its with the opposite sex, classmates, and even their own parents. They feared rejection so much that they would shut down any potential friendships before they could even start and close up their hearts. Early on in the series, Momiji (cursed by the rabbit) explained that parents of the zodiac usually have one of two reactions to their children: they either become overly protective of their child and relish in the perks of being in the “inner circle” of the Sohma family, or they completely reject them.
Kyo as a child suffered through the tragedy of his mother’s death, which was deemed a suicide. His father blamed Kyo as the cause of her suicide. It was because she gave birth to the cursed cat that she could no longer live. She kept him inside all day, never letting him come in contact with others, hoping to protect him from the outside world, but then the stress of being the mother of the cat became too much. She decided to take herself out of the world. His mother’s death haunted Kyo. He tried to find ways that he wasn’t his fault and prove to everybody that he had nothing to do with it. Although it hurt him to be blamed, what hurt Kyo more than the suicide was that his mother chose to take herself away from him.
As he became closer to Tohru, he realized what really wanted was his mother to stay with him. He wanted his mother to accept him as the cursed cat, and to still want to be with him. As sad and horrible as his mother’s suicide was, Kyo felt the weight of rejection from his mother and his father in a way that none of the other cursed Sohmas can even fathom. All he wanted was to be with the person that he loved the most, a wish that almost every person on the planet can sympathize with.
All the way through, towards the end of the series, Kyo struggled with the coming to terms with the death of his mother. It wasn’t until the very end he is able to face his biological father after all these years and confront his hate. Kyo accepted his father’s words of hate, but was determined to not be locked up in the isolated room. He wanted to find a way to stay with the most important person in his life: Tohru. He wasn’t able to make his mother stay with him, so he didn’t want history to repeat itself. As long as Tohru also willed it, Kyo was determined to find a way for them to stay together.
There are times in our life where we forget about the people around us. We forget to take care of our bonds and constantly trying to find ways to stay together and connect. Kyo, at no fault of his own since he was only a child, was unable to nurture that relationship with his mother, and his mother no longer had the drive to be with her son. If we ignore the relationship long enough, whether it be from lack of attention and lack of trying to stay together, the bond will die, just as Kyo’s mother did, and we will be left to shoulder the haunting remains.
Once upon a time, in a particular place there lived a person. The person was alone for a long, long time. After leaving the mountain, this person learned that many, many people live below it. But the person was still alone. Even with a thousand powers and a thousand lives and a thousand memories, the person learned that such things were different from what most other people had. And thus developed a fear of other people. A fear of getting hurt. Despite having many powers, the person was afraid of being different from others.
One day a cat came to visit. The person was bewildered by the sudden visitor. The cat bowed his head reverently, “I have humbly watched you for a long time,” it said. “You are a very mysteriously person. I cannot stop being attracted to you. I am merely a stray cat, but please let me be by your side.”
From that time on, the cat kept his promise. He never left God’s side. Not even for a moment. And that made God very, very happy.
Suddenly, God had an idea. “Maybe I can get along with others as long as those others aren’t people. If they know the same feelings that I do, maybe I can have a pleasant banquet with them.” God wrote many, many invitations, and sent them all out.
As a result, twelve animals came to see God. God was thus surrounded by thirteen animals in all. They all hold a banquet every night the moon sparkled. They sang, and danced, and laughed together. And God, too, laughed out loud for the first time. The moon quietly watched over the inhuman banquet.
But one night, the cat collapsed. Nothing could be done. His life had run out. They all cried. It made them realize that someday everyone would die. The banquets would come to an end. No matter how much they enjoyed them, no matter how dazzling and precious they were, someday, they would…
God recited a single chant and drew a circle on a sake cup. God made the cat drink and then spoke to everyone. “Our bond,” said God. “I will now make it eternal. Even if I or all of you die and rot away, we will be tied together by an eternal bond. However many times we die, however many times we are rebound, just as before, we will have our countless banquets. We will all be friends until the end of time. We will be permanent.”
~ Fruits Basket, Volume 22
Akito, the head of the family, had one of the most strained relationship with his mother, to the point where he feared abandonment. Luckily for him, he is God. He is the one to holds the special bond God has with the zodiac and wished for them all to be together forever. He abused Yuki into fearing the outside world so he would stay and never leave Sohma house (which obviously did not work). He struck fear into Hatori and Rin to prove that they cannot be freed from their curse, and that they were destined to stay at Sohma House until they died.
When Kureno’s (the rooster) curse spontaneously broke with no warning, Akito screamed in distress. Ever since he was born, he was promised that he would never be alone. He was meant to be surrounded by people who loved and adored him. He was meant to be surrounded by the zodiac. To see the bond between him and the rooster deteriorate within seconds was a nightmare coming to life. This was the beginning of Akito being abandoned and left alone, despite what he was told as a child. To sooth the young Akito, Kureno promised to never leave him. He promised to always stay by his side no matter what happens, and became Akito’s personal assistant that rarely came in contact with other zodiac members.
This was a forced bond. Akito was forcing everybody to stay with him because he insisted that he was the special one. He used fear of being rejected by the outside as a tool to bind the zodiac to him. He did not know how to continue having these banquets free from alienation and rejection. He was the one everybody was waiting for, so why did everybody want to leave Sohma House? Why did everyone in the zodiac gravitate towards Tohru? Why did they always leave him to go see her? What was it about Tohru that caused his family to abandon him in favour of being with Tohru?
Tohru took the time to get to know every Sohma and become their friend. She was considerate of their feelings and their needs without asking for anything in return, something the Sohmas were so foreign to. When Rin, the stubborn cold horse, was in the hospital, Tohru made little gelatin cups to bring to her since she didn’t like eating any of the hospital food. She didn’t force herself into Rin’s company. She respected her needs as much as she could, but still made the small gesture to show she was thinking of her.
This is a healthy natural bond. A bond that started slow and showed effort given to help and make the other feel comfortable. Tohru isn’t the smartest or the most charismatic of the bunch, but she sure as hell is one of the most thoughtful of them all. Tohru showed the Sohmas how to connect with others and how to risk being vulnerable with people. She showed that they are not defined by this curse, or by what Akito told them. Most of all, Tohru reminded the Sohmas how much they want to be with the people they love and to try to do what they can for that person, whether large or small.
Fruits Basket is about a family people who are a little less than human, and this alienation makes it very difficult to create strong, healthy bonds. The Sohmas are bound together by a promise made a very long time ago, a promise they don’t even remember. Over the years, the bond turned into a curse for the next generations, a curse that loomed over their heads all their lives. When you force a bond and closeness with another person, the bond is tainted with obligation, resentment, and even hate. It can cause a lot of grief and even lead to a tragic end.
Healthy romantic/platonic/familial bonds need to be fed with love, care, and a gentle touch. Tohru was lucky enough to be raised by the kindhearted Kyoko, who showered her daughter with love and affection before her untimely death, a sentiment that Tohru brings to the Sohma family. All of them wish to stay with Tohru, in her loving warm light. She doesn’t hex them, trick them, or bargain with them to stay. She just remains herself and shows compassion and empathy to Kyo, Yuki, Akito, and the rest of the zodiac. And really, even if we’re not cursed by a promise made long ago, this is the kind of bond that everyone needs to survive and find happiness.