by Jacob Chapman,
How would you rate episode 29 of
Fruits Basket (TV 2/2019) ?
This foreboding episode opened with three of the scariest words possible: Soma General Hospital. The reveal that Rin (and Yuki, and Kisa, among untold others) was not only being monitored by Soma doctors, but even treated in a hospital owned by the Soma family is enough to send chills down my spine. Given their efforts to quarantine her long after she's become healthy enough to make routine escape attempts, it's unlikely that Rin was injured in some random accident, though the exact details of her hospitalization remain as opaque as her standoffish character.
Things darken further after the Horse pushes Haru away, offering no explanation except that she's tired of him. Their relationship had been kept secret even from the audience before now, but this episode does a terrific job of conveying the intimacy between them, with palpable tenderness in their voices even as Rin demands that Haru leave her alone. Hiro and Kisa's story established that romantic relationships within the Zodiac are forbidden (with the exception of Kyo, who's only allowed to fraternize with the second-to-last spirit Kagura because all his freedoms will be revoked in a couple years anyway), so we can assume that Haru and Rin must have made great sacrifices to see each other in secret. But something about Rin's accident has changed her, and she's decided that she's better off alone—with the exception of Shigure, who has some unknown role to play in her mysterious plans for the family curse. (This makes Haru's remark that Shigure was the only person to figure out that they were dating even more unsettling. Could he have something to do with the accident, the breakup, or both?) With no closure after being dumped by the girl he loves, Haru's gentle heart sinks slowly into chaos, and when he starts seeing red in the middle of class, his Dark side takes over and threatens to reveal the Zodiac secret to the whole school, with no regard for who gets hurt in the process.
Haru's self-destructive meltdown is so unlike him that it almost hurts to watch. I don't just mean that it's unlike the Light Haru we love; this is also a shade of Dark Haru that we've never seen before, a beast who oozes a dangerous compound of depression and anger that reminds me of both Yuki and Kyo at their worst. Haru's anguish consumes his body and mind simultaneously, as he tears the classroom apart and busts the windows out in true Kyo fashion, then channels his emotional acuity into a Yuki-like acid tongue that lashes out and stings his cousins with cruel words. This is the version of Haru that his parents lived in fear of before Yuki first showed him kindness, and it's a sobering reminder that the healing process Tohru has accelerated for the Zodiac may be progressive, but it's not permanent, and the Somas can still be one bad day away from disaster. If Kyo hadn't stepped in to protect Tohru, the Somas' days at Kaibara High would have ended right there. (Good thing Great Teacher Mayuko was on the scene to give these hotheads a cold shower. She's been showing up a lot lately, huh?)
As Dark Haru is quick to point out, Kyo's knightly defense of Tohru is ironic given the Cat's history of endangering her with his own monstrous side, so this forms the backbone of Kyo's own little arc for the rest of the episode. Accepting that he's not just a lonely monster anymore means holding himself accountable to the people who care about him like Kazuma and Tohru. He can't be the same Kyo who would run away from home without telling anyone, dreaming only of fighting fate by brute-forcing his way into the Zodiac somehow. As he continues training deep into the night, Kyo is trying to reach the level of inner strength it will take to secure his own future and protect his loved ones. It's sure to be a hard road ahead as he seeks to better himself on such a tight timeline, but it's inspiring to see how much better Kyo has gotten at listening and learning from others. His slim chances of defeating Akito and his father can only grow along with him.
The rest of the episode focuses on the ineffable relationship between Yuki and Haru. I could watch a whole spinoff about these two and their strange chemistry, not quite brothers, not quite friends, with just a pinch of palpable attraction in the space between. Even when Haru's the one who needs a shoulder to cry on, he thinks of others first, promptly apologizing to Tohru, thanking Kyo, and explaining the whole secret situation to Yuki. I was deeply moved by the hushed pain in Makoto Furukawa's voice whenever Haru talked about Rin. Since we've barely met her character and we've never known the two of them as a couple, the show has to rely entirely on Furukawa's performance to convey the love they shared, and he does an incredible job imbuing Haru's short lines with restrained longing and grief that makes the depth of their bond undeniable. Even when Haru resolves to try and win her back by episode's end, his goal is just to make sure she knows how much he loves her, no matter the outcome. I can't help rooting for both of them.
While this moment of heartbreaking vulnerability makes it much easier for us to forgive Haru's rampage, it frustrates Yuki by reminding him how weak he feels by comparison, since he can't bounce back that fast from his own meltdowns. It takes all of his emotional energy just to take care of himself one day at a time, so when Dark Haru's callous words triggered Yuki to dwell on his own feelings of weakness, he froze up and didn't step in to protect Tohru when it mattered. There's also a deeper conflict going on under the surface of all this, mysterious dark feelings about Tohru and Kyo that Yuki keeps locked away in a box with his traumatic childhood memories. Haru only chips away at the truth by asking Yuki why he still won't call Tohru by her first name, but it's not a question the Rat is ready to answer yet.
So Haru lightens the mood instead by reminding Yuki that his weakness is also a strength, and both of them are selfish or kind in their own ways and their own time. (It's like the main theme of this whole story man, get it through your head!) Even if he feels paralyzed by anxiety most of the time, Yuki's everyday determination to rise above that pervasive weakness has empowered him to compartmentalize his feelings in ways that Haru obviously can't. If the Ox bottles up his feelings, he turns Dark and destroys everything around him, which makes keeping secrets much harder on his system. Everyone has to be selfish in their own way to protect themselves, but accepting and understanding your own kind of weakness will make you strong enough to show kindness to others in ways that only you can. So after Haru gets suspended for bulldozing the classroom, Yuki decides to reach out for once and test himself by returning to the Soma estate for the first time in over a year.
This reluctant homecoming is peppered with fascinating little details, like Rin spying from the shadows or a mysterious woman we'll call the Old Maid catching Yuki to warn him about what will happen if he doesn't return to Akito's side. But mostly, this excursion is rewarding because it's uneventful. Yuki suffers an asthma-inducing flashback before stepping into the compound, but once he commits to keep going through the fear, his adrenaline carries him straight to Haru's house and back safely, renewing his faith in himself and propelling him back to his real home where Tohru is waiting. Even if he's not yet strong enough to open his box of trauma or become Tohru's shining prince, Yuki's already grown more than he gives himself credit for, just like Kyo.
The episode stops abruptly there, which is my only complaint about an otherwise rejuvenating week for the series I love. Episode 29 offered a perfect balance of low-key setups and payoffs, with many lingering threads and mysteries on the sidelines. Summer vacation hasn't even started yet, but Furuba is already prepping us for an arc in fall with the reveal that Tohru's whole class will be headed to Kyoto and Nara. I also liked Haru's line about his mother spending an hour to put on makeup before leaving the house; the series doesn't have room to explore every Soma kid's relationship with their parents, so it's a nice detail that paints a clear picture of a woman who might care too much about appearances. It's strange that four episodes have gone by with so little Tohru in them, but her limited role this week does carry its own foreboding implications. As Yuki and Kyo focus on becoming stronger without her help, they are inadvertently leaving Tohru behind, and you can feel the sadness in her smile as she waits at the dinner table all by herself. While the Somas worry over Rin, they may be forgetting about the other lonely, misunderstood girl in their lives.
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