Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Ten

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Grief and how one deals with the loss of a close loved one has always been a major theme running in the background of this series, often brought to the foreground as characters are forced to make decisions that put them face to face with their own memories and loss. We see this the most in the characters of Kyo, Tohru, and Akito as all three of them are forced to come to terms with their grief and the guilt and turmoiled emotions that surround it. But I think Fruits Basket is primarily a manga that centers around how life moves on and how people’s feelings, grief especially, change over time as we grow older. I like to think that this is one of the core messages Natsuki Takaya was trying to write about when she made this series. There are so many different stories, threads of overcoming loss, guilt, and the fear of being left behind that all fit so well into this overarching theme of growth and forward progress.

Volume ten continues where we left off with Tohru desperately trying to hide and push aside her feelings for Kyo as graduation gets ever closer and the curse hasn’t been broken yet. Shigure is claiming the curse will break on its own eventually, but eventually isn’t soon enough for Kyo who will be locked away for life after graduation and seems to be resigned to this fact. But has Tohru becomes ever more desperate, she can’t deny her feelings for Kyo any longer and they begin to bubble to the surface despite her best efforts. However, it looks like the death of Kyoko has touched more people than just Tohru, with Kyo and Kakeru both feeling the lingering effects of her passing. Back at the Sohma main house, Akito is having her own battle with grief, a battle between her mother and her for the soul of her deceased father, Akira, as well as the very real possibility that this may be the last zodiac banquet as one by one the curse begins to break.

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It really is surprising to me how far of a reach Kyoko’s death has on the characters in this series. It makes sense that her influence would stretch to Uo and Hana since they’re Tohru’s closest friends, but now we begin to see just how wide her impact was with the reveal that both Kyo and Kakeru were influenced by her death. But I think in this volume we really begin to see just how much Kyo, Tohru, and Kyoko’s lives were intertwined even before Tohru met Kyo and just how much her passing affected them emotionally. Throughout the series Tohru’s always had this lingering grief from her mother’s death hanging around in the back of her mind. You could see it pop up sometimes in the pages no matter how cheerful she tried to be. I mentioned in a past review that I believed there would come a time when she could no longer ignore these emotions and they would all come rushing to the surface. Volume ten, this volume, is that time.

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Tohru’s grief and fear began back when her father died and she witnessed her mother’s spiral into severe depression and suicidal thoughts. She was so scared she would lose her mother too that she grasped at anything and everything to keep her around, eventually adopting her father’s manner of speaking in an effort to keep her mother tied to her. Kyoko was the central figure in Tohru’s life, and I don’t think she was really given the time to grieve properly after her passing with the upheaval of her living situation, school, and the Sohma curse being revealed. That fear of being left alone, of forgetting her mother, of her love for her diminishing over time kept her in this stagnant limbo so to speak, unable to really process or overcome Kyoko’s death. But with Kyo’s arrival and new and more powerful emotions being stirred in her, that fear gets stronger and she’s pushed to finally face her emotions head on instead of locking them away.

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Central in this struggle is the fear of forgetting, that her memories and love she felt for her mother would diminish overtime if she didn’t keep her as number one in her heart for forever. But then Kyo comes along and supplants that position in her heart and she can no longer deny that time moves forward and maybe it’s time to let go. Kyoko will always be a part of her life, but I don’t think she would have wanted to daughter to be held back because of her. In a way, I think Tohru realizes this at the end when she sees the image of her mother smiling back at her in the street right before she’s about to tell Kyo her true feelings. Tohru’s story is really one of overcoming grief, finding the strength to recognize that life moves forward, and that our loved ones wouldn’t want us to be held back by their passing.

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So what of Kyo? I think Kyo is a perfect example of survivor’s guilt. This is most often seen in accident victims and veterans who feel that they either should have died in place of the person who did get killed or should have died along with them and were handed what they see as a fate they don’t deserve: to live while someone else had to die. Kyo has experienced this twice now in his life: once with the death of his mother and again with the death of Kyoko. Both times he feels this sense of responsibility. He feels that his very existence as the cat of the zodiac drove his mother to suicide and that the curse, or subsequently his own selfishness, prevented him from saving Kyoko’s life when he had the chance. He’s driven to extreme depression and self hatred by his guilt, feeling like he doesn’t deserve Tohru’s love because of the guilt he has around his involvement in her mother’s death.

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Both of their emotions during this time create this push and pull effect in their relationship. They both long for each other’s love but simultaneously reject it because of these long-held emotions tied to Kyoko, guilt, and death. Eventually for Tohru, the love she feels for Kyo becomes too powerful to ignore and I think her feelings for him help her overcome her grief in the end. But their tension throughout this volume is really pushed to the limit both emotionally and romantically, and that really makes for a great romance. The history that we’ve seen built up in the past volumes of both of their lives provide a great sense of meaning and weight behind the tension we feel now as everything finally comes to the surface and resolution of their feelings finally begins to happen.

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Akito is a very different story however. Grief and fear are intertwined in her life much the same as Tohru and Kyo, but in a very different way. Akito was filled with both adoration and rejection. She became the center of her father’s affection while being simultaneously rejected by her mother. When Akira dies, the conflict between her and her mother becomes this battle of grief, of who was the most important person in Akira’s eyes. And I think this in large part stemmed from fear and jealousy. Both I think were jealous of how much the other meant to Akira, and it all comes to a head with the box that is supposed to hold Akira’s soul. Much like Tohru, Akito was holding tightly to the past and the memories of her father by keeping that box hidden away. I think, in a way, it represented a more stable point in her life where she was loved unconditionally, before her father died and the bond began to break with the zodiac members.

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Where Tohru has a fear of forgetting, Akito has a fear of being forgotten, and their both related to how deeply people hold each other in their hearts. The bond between the zodiac members and their god is one of unequivocal love. To each member of the zodiac, Akito is first in their hearts, the one thing in their life that means the most to them. In this, Akito is sure of her place in the world, that she will always be loved by someone. But that surety begins to crumble as one by one the zodiac bond begins to break. First with Kureno, next Momiji, then Hiro. The loss of each of them is felt deeply in her heart and she begins to fear that she will be left behind and forgotten, to no longer have the love she so craves. By the end of the volume she’s pushed to the limit as Hiro’s curse breaks and she winds up stabbing Kureno in the back. In a way her actions make sense if we consider that she hasn’t had the chance to mature and now her whole life and future she envisioned for herself has started to come crashing down on her head.

I have to ask though, in the end, was this what Shigure had planned, to push her this far in order to force her to grow up? Could be. I wouldn’t put it past him.

~~Thanks for Reading!~~

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