Fruits Basket’s season 3 villain is caught in an almost-redemption arc
The curse at the center of the animated series Basket of fruits goes beyond the obvious magic that turns Sohma members into animals if they kiss other people. The Sohmas are all tied to the will and whims of the bossy head of household Akito, the “God” of the zodiac, which prevents them from forming other emotionally close bonds. As the main villain of the series, Akito does horrible things including but not limited to verbally berating most of the Zodiac, isolating them from friends and family, beating up a little girl, throwing another girl through the window, locking the same girl in a shack with little food and water without telling anyone where she is, stabbing someone and even blinding a man.
But as the protagonist, the brave orphan Tohru Honda, becomes more and more entangled with the Sohma family, Akito’s hold on them is threatened. And in the final season, it appears Akito is just as much a victim of the curse as the rest of his family, albeit in a different way.
[Ed. note: This post contains end spoilers for the 2019 Fruits Basket series.]
Because the zodiac god is traditionally a man, Akito has been forced to assume the identity of a man all her life. She was told repeatedly that people only stayed around her because they were forced to. Her mother, jealous of Akito’s close bond with her father, was verbally abusive with her. And after the death of his father, Akito isolated himself from the rest of the family.
But the problem with the final season of Basket of fruits doesn’t necessarily learn why she is the way she is, but what happens next.
Throughout the show, as Tohru bond with the members of the Zodiac and imagine a world freed from their curse, everything Akito knows begins to unravel. After meeting Tohru – who is completely and unfailingly kind to her, despite everything – Akito realizes that some people care about others unconditionally, without the obligations of an age-old curse. After an accident nearly kills Tohru, Akito makes the active choice to risk losing the only connections she has ever truly known in order to break the curse and free the members of the Zodiac. It could be the first step on his path to redemption.
Except that the story ends there.
After freeing the zodiac members, which come with great emotional scenes (and plenty of hugs!), She welcomes them as her real self – not the domineering man most of them thought she was, but a woman in a flowing kimono. And then after this very general “You are free!” speech (she can’t even bring herself to apologize – she pauses at “I’m so -“), she just disappears. She doesn’t even apologize properly individually for all the shit she put on the members of the zodiac, which is the bare minimum she could have done. “Hey Rin, sorry I pushed you out the window!” can go very far, for example.
To the show’s credit, many Zodiac members don’t forgive Akito, and there’s no indication the creators are judging them for it. In the last episode, the zodiac horse, Rin, says that she can never forgive Akito, unlike the others have. Akito admits that her family doesn’t have to exonerate her and that not everyone will love her. But the series doesn’t take the time to question this line of thinking or consider the consequences of trauma and abuse.
Most of the Sohmas come together to wish Tohru and her boyfriend Kyo peace, with the exception of Akito, who tells her own partner, Shigure, that she doesn’t feel like she has to interrupt them. festivities. And then they continue their little date, and Akito is happy for the first time in her life. Which is just a little frustrating – yes, she was traumatized as a child, but she stabbed a man, so it’s weird to see her come out of it completely unscathed except for lingering guilt.
Sometimes the bad guys should be the bad guys. (Cough, Cruella de Vil, cough.) Not all wicked need a full-fledged redemption arc. Granted, there are plenty of instances where a villain who stays villain makes the story more rewarding. That’s not to say Akito should have stayed entirely mean; for the context of this story, actively making the choice to end the abusive zodiac cycle fits thematically.
But the problem is that Basket of fruits is caught in a strange in-between, where we’re supposed to feel sympathy for Akito, even though she doesn’t face any repercussions. While it’s implied that she’ll eventually make amends and rectify her actions, she doesn’t even start that process on the show. There’s a lot of build-up to get him to take the first step in the right direction, but the payoff just isn’t there. What could be a fulfilling emotional redemption arc is blurred. Akito stays on the main estate, retains his position as head of the family, and becomes romantically involved with Shigure. She stays away from the farewell party of other family members, but beyond that, there is no emotional closure for her actions.
Fortunately, Basket of fruits isn’t that his story. While the action revolves heavily around the Sohma family, it is always first and foremost the story of how Tohru learns to accept that people love him. In many ways, she’s a foil for Akito, another unloved child who feels like a burden to those around her. But instead of being cruel, Tohru chooses to love people no matter what – not just her romantic interest Kyo, but her close childhood friends and the Sohma family, with whom she connects through deep bonds. and platonic.
Throughout the show, Tohru meets each member of the Zodiac and gets to know and care for them. Each of them attaches to her in a different way, and in the end, she finally accepts that they love her too. Akito to seek out every member of the zodiac and atone for his misdeeds would draw a poignant parallel to Tohru’s bow. But the story ends there. Tohru’s journey ends with emotion, Tohru moving out of town with Kyo, finally accepting the love others have for her and choosing to do things because they make her happy instead of making others happy. Akito’s possible growth is curtailed. It’s a weird cut-off thought that could have bolstered the overall themes of the show, but never got a chance to.
The three seasons of Basket of fruits (2019) are available to stream on Crunchyroll and Funimation.