Fruits Basket – 53 – Let’s Make Footprints Together

Kuragi Machi hates perfection. She hates it wherever it is, such that when presented with a fresh box of chalk, she must dash it on the floor, shattering every piece. Two classmates report her stunt to Yuki at the StuCo office, mentioning a rumor she was kicked out of her home for trying to kill her brother. Machi stops by the office just in time to see her classmates have spread the rumor to Yuki, and runs off with her awful parents’ voices in her head.

Manabe partially corroborates the classmates’ story, but he admits he only knows the story the parents fed him, so it might not be true. What Manabe does know is that he once watched Machi obsessively make footprints in the freshly fallen snow. Manabe takes Yuki to Machi’s apartment, which Yuki charitiably describes as the “Sea of Decay”, while Manabe hands him one of her bras. Manabe then leaves the two alone to take out the trash.

Manabe leaves the two alone to take out the trash, and as Yuki tapes her cracked window, Machi tells him to ask and believe whatever he wants, since she’s given up trying to set the record straight. Yuki rather easily deduces that Machi is bothered by orderly things. It harkens to the fact her awful parents demanded absolute perfection, then dismissed her as boring and lacking in individuality.

When her little brother was born, her parents got the son they wanted, and had no further use for her. Yuki rejects her being something her parents “got wrong”, as she worked hard to be the Machi he knows and he’s glad she’s there. Machi admits she was never jealous of her brother; she was only trying to place a blanket on him when she thought he might get cold.

It was her psycho mom who accused her of trying to kill him, leading to her exile and the rumors. Then Yuki says if the snow piles up, he’ll make footprints in it with her. That hella-smooth line almost leads to a kiss between the two, were it not for the unsilenced phone of an  eavesdropping Manabe.

The next day at the StuCo meeting, Kimi thoughtlessly slides another fresh box of chalk in Machi’s face, but just as Machi is freaking out, Yuki reaches over and snaps one of the pieces without interrupting his announcements.

For the first time, Machi looks forward to the next time it snows, while I look forward to Machi and Yuki growing closer. After the meeting, Yuki makes a quick check-in and is just in time to save Tooru from a ladder off which Kyou falls. Then he heads to an “appointment” with none other than graduating senior Minagawa Motoko.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Motoko despite her often underhanded tactics to get a little closer to Yuki, so I was perfectly fine with her getting a proper sendoff scene here, in which she wants to make clear and plain her feelings to Yuki not so he’ll return them, but just so he knows she loved him, he made her school days happy, and she hopes he’ll find happiness too, or greater happiness if he’s already happy.

We then learn why Nao has been so hostile towards Yuki and even called him his “rival”, when he locates Motoko giving the classroom one last look and tries his best to make his feelings known to her. Like she did with Yuki, it’s more about wishing her well in the future than confessing and expecting an answer, and Motoko’s response seems more than enough for Nao.

The final few minutes are a grab bag, as Hiro meets his baby sister Hinata, Kagura worries about Isuzu’s whereabouts to Hatori and Shigure, and Isuzu emerges from what looks like a building on the Souma compound, donning a white robe and having just cut her hair short. I couldn’t help but notice how closely she resembles Akito from behind, and that might just be intentional on her part. To be continued…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fruits Basket – 49 – Wishing for Change

When Kakeru brings up ranger colors, Yuki surprises Machi by asking her what her favorite color is. No one has ever asked her that, and she doesn’t know anyway. She gets up to leave when Miki organizes a lunch meetup, but Yuki doesn’t let her slip away wordlessly, giving the cell phone-less Machi a written note of the time and place of the lunch.

Nobody ever paid any attention to Kuragi Machi. She passes through people and places as if she is invisible. She has no favorite color or preferred restaurant. She calls herself dull, a void, and a defective doll. Her apartment is a mess, because why bother keeping it clean if no one ever visits? She’s watched Yuki and how he’s changed, but can’t see if or how she can do the same.

Still, she took the simple maple leaf Yuki gave her and made it into a lovely bookmark, and possibly also a talisman; a reminder that change is not just possible, but necessary. Just as she’s wondering if her existence is necessary, Yuki answers that question by flagging her down; in her half-asleep stupor she happened to end up at the meeting spot for an even she had no intention of attending.

I’d been hoping for more Machi material, and this week we get lots. Despite her claims of dullness I find her a fascinating example of a non-Souma with Souma-like baggage, and thus an intriguing potential partner for Yuki, whom we’ve learned never had particularly romantic feelings for Tooru. Her problems are also an opportunity for Yuki to pay forward the progress he himself has made.

New Year’s is here, and there too are changes from last year. Yuki will be attending in addition to Shigure, so Tooru and Kyou will spend the holiday at Kazuma’s house, where Tooru is perhaps overly excited to learn that Isuzu is staying as well as she continues her recovery. Unfortunately Rin isn’t in the mood for Tooru’s exuberance.

Considering the line they independently drew between themselves, I’m not surprised Tooru and Kyou are fine with not spending New Years alone together—even though that delays the inevitable. That said, it’s still a hoot to watch them interact, with Tooru playfully hitting of Kyou with the pompom of her new scarf easily making the list of Top 10 Most Adorable Things Tooru Has Ever Done.

Meanwhile the banquet appears to be going off without a hitch. After Hatori performs a dance we sadly don’t get to see and Ayame entertains the others with his magnetic personality, Akito and Yuki seem on the cusp of a détente, with Akito deigning to forgive Yuki his past insolence now that he’s here.

But Yuki, as bold in front of Akito as we’ve ever seen him, deigns to forgive him as well, then goes on about how he’s done blaming others for his problems, and has resolved to be more aware of his flaws and areas in his life which he can improve. Yuki is essentially talking about change, which is anathema eternal Zodiac god like Akito.

Akito likes Yuki the way he is—or rather the way he thinks he is, which is in reality no longer the way he was. Yuki isn’t back because he was cowed or came to his senses or is admitting he was wrong; he’s back as a simple courtesy, which must feel patronizing to Akito. So Akito breaks a ceramic pot across Yuki’s face, and just like that, Yuki’s past and future absences from the banquet are handily justified.

It’s not a severe laceration—just a small cut on the scalp—but if anyone from Prince Yuki had seen their beloved Yuki’s beautiful face thus marred I’m not certain Akito would have made it out of the room in one piece! To Yuki, it was probably worth it to say something to Akito that in a perfect world all Zodiacs would be able to say to Akito: It is YOU who is a useless piece of shit who should just disappear. Mind you Yuki doesn’t actually say this; but it’s implied!

When Hatori cleans up the cut, Yuki also makes sure to apologize to him for blaming him for erasing the memories of his childhood friends. He now knows better, and that Hatori too was young and had to obey Akito. Hatori tells him, quite rightly, that there’s nothing to apologize for.

Tooru and Kyou actually end up alone together anyway, as Kazuma steps out and Rin has an early night. Hatsu stops by, but to be with Rin. Explaining Shisho’s mention of Kyou and Rin’s propensity to stare each other down as kids, Kyou tells Tooru that he felt like he stole Shisho from him, and so came to not like her.

As for Tooru’s New Year’s wish (which Kyou asks her for before he tells her his), while last year she wished for Kyou and Yuki to get along (and by their standards, they pretty much do now) this year her wish is arguably more ambitious: for the curse to be broken and happiness to come.

Against a Zodiac system that has endured for centuries without change, Tooru is wishing for change…for revolution. And by golly, if anyone can move the gods in the heavens to grant that wish, it’s Tooru. If they don’t, they can expect no quarter in the scarf pompom-thrashing to come!

Want to read more about episode 49? Check out Crow’s review here!

Fruits Basket – 48 – Love is In the Air…and On the Stage

Just like that, it’s the day of the festival and the class play, totally reworked into something “Cinderella-ish”. After Kisa and Hiro arrive to join Momiji and Haruhatsu in the crowd, the first two-thirds of the episode is given over to the play…and it’s wonderful.

The scriptwriter did a masterful job rewriting the script to complement the cast, from making Tooru kind and meek stepsister to letting Saki just be “Sakirella”, regarded by the crowd as “sassy” and “a boss”. The crowd favorite is Yuki, who is resplendent as the Fairy Godmother—Ayame and Mine knocked it out of the park with the costumes.

By the time the big ball scene arrives, Saki is far more interested in Yakiniku than dancing with the prince (her first wish was to burn the castle down, but she settled for Yuki making her dresses for her stepsister and mother). As for Prince Kyou, the actor’s general reluctance to participate is used in the story, making the prince reluctant to find a princess despite his fellow prince (Arisa) helping him out.

Midnight comes, and Black Cinderella must flee, leaving a glass slipper behind and wishing she’d eaten more. At Arisa’s urging, Kyou visits every house in the kingdom until she comes to Cinderella’s house. Saki asks if he’s there to marry her sister (Tooru), which causes Kyou to explode. This works in the context of the play, but is another among many instances of reality seeping into the play.

When Saki launches into a dark monologue about the prince continuing to deceive himself and lock himself away in the castle forever, Tooru is compelled to speak out of turn, yelling “I don’t want….!” Of course, it’s not just her character who doesn’t want the prince to be lonely. This is Tooru expressing her objection to Kyou being locked away by Akito just for being the Cat…as well as her objection to Kyou being okay with it. Their dialogue’s close proximity to their real-life situation isn’t lost on either Tooru or Kyou.

After a deliciously feminist ending to the play (Cinderella doesn’t marry anyone and opens a yakiniku business with Tooru), the play is over, and Kyou couldn’t be happier…only to find that his Shisho is there, but Saki is flirting with him hard, using her sweetest demeanor and most dignified diction while around him.

Tooru meets up with Kisa, Hiro, Haru and Momiji, the last of whom capture the play on his camcorder. Tooru is glad for this, because it means Kureno will get to watch the DVD of Arisa. However, when Hiro lashes out at Haru (despite his efforts not to lose his temper), Kisa gets the wrong impression that Hiro likes Rin (Isuzu).

Released from his acting duties, Yuki checks in on the StuCo and is placed on patrol duty by an angrier-than-usual Nao. He overhears Machi being hassled by members of his fan club for her comments about Yuki not being a prince. He’s about to intervene, but Kanabe wisely restrains him; this is something Machi needs to work out for herself.

Eventually she does speak up for herself, first offering a curt apology when it is demanded, then elaborating on her read on Yuki, which is not only far deeper than the fans’ shallow infatuation, but also resonates with Yuki a great deal. She alone can tell that despite being around so many people, Yuki seems lonely. She can tell because she’s lonely too. Yuki blushes in the way a man blushes over a woman.

Kyou ends up joining Tooru with the others, but before they do, they share a quiet moment with each other, with that scene in the play still vivid in both their memories. But right at the edge of acknowledging their mutual feelings for one another, the two withdraw, neither allowing themselves to think about “it.”

If this were a one or two-cour romance, I’d say they were spinning their wheels, but Fruits Basket will continue for at least an entire third season and I’ve heard it could even extend into a fourth. So it’s so far so good with these two with two episodes left in the second season. I also continue to be intrigued with the Yuki-Machi connection, though I do hope they get to actually interact more down the road.

Check out Crow’s thoughts on the episode here!

Fruits Basket – 47 – Nothing Like a Prince

Yuki continues to open up to Manabe, expounding on the evolution of his relationship to Tooru. First she was a wierd classmate who lived in a tent, then he saw he could use her to rebel against the Souma clan. At some point, he started to realize strong maternal vibes coming off of her as a result of her showering him with unconditional love and kindness.

It started when she told him to become friends with her again even if her memories were taken by Hatori. And Yuki panicked when he felt this way, and immediately tried to deny and suppress those feelings, even trying to interact with her more “like a man does a woman,” creating a love triangle with Kyou even though the two men weren’t seeking the same thing.

It’s the first time Yuki’s able to talk at all about this being about more than competing or not being able to “beat” Kyou for Tooru’s heart, but rather feeling something other than romantic attraction and being okay with her and Kyou as a couple; after all, he’s observed the two together and is pretty confident they love each other.

The one thing Yuki doesn’t want is to waste the kindness and warmth Tooru gave so freely. He wants to use it to move forward and discover his own “special purpose in life.” He’s buoyed by being able to discuss it so candidly with Kakeru—who he notes is also a kind (in his way) person to listen without judgment. However, Yuki wisely doesn’t discuss any of this with Todou Miki!

Yuki sees a day coming that he’ll be able to tell Tooru how he truly feels and about the purpose he’s found thanks to her love and support. Until then, he’ll keep watching over her, as he does right after casually confronting Kyou about the hat, which causes Kyou to withdraw into his room.

Before Yuki came home, Tooru and Kyou were having a flirt-fight in the entryway over his confiscating of her Cinderella script after she let Shigure know about it. Kyou still hasn’t committed to even participating in the play, and he certainly doesn’t want Shisho to know about it.

There’s also the matter of Tooru simply not being able to act like anything resembling an evil stepsister, as expected. She promises to work hard and even go without food in order to master the role, but it seems hopeless. With Ayame and Mine sure to provide some unique takes on Cinderella costumes and both Kyou and Saki also seeming miscast, the scriptwriter decides to scrap what she has and write a script that better fits the actors.

I’m all for that, and it’s great to see Ayame trying to support his brother in any way he can, once again making up for all the neglect Yuki suffered in the past, including from a then-indifferent big bro. It’s also fun watching Yuki’s classmates react to finally meeting his very different brother—while I’m sure Mine probably felt like she just struck gold upon meeting Saki and Arisa!

When Yuki goes off to look for Kyou for Tooru, he finds him sulking on the staircase. Kyou is going over what he said to Yuki when his hat was offered back to him. Remember: Kyou still considers Yuki not only a rival for Tooru’s heart, but the underdog, even if the truth is he’s running more or less unopposed.

As such, Kyou interprets Yuki bringing up the hat and the fact he gave it to Tooru to be another instance of looking down on him. When Yuki dares bring up Tooru (specifically why Kyou is making her worry by ditching rehearsal), all of Kyou’s insecurities come pouring out.

He lists all the ways he sees Yuki as better—having a living mom and dad, being needed and praised by others, surpassing him easily as he desperately struggles, etc. Had they ever deigned to open up to one another, Kyou would know all those things Yuki has “over” him are more curses than blessings. What I’d give for Kyou to watch last week’s episode and the first half of this one!

Instead, Kyou sees Yuki’s expression—one not of anger but of sadness, almost on the brink of tears—and sees it as yet another instance of looking down on him. So he punches a window and storms off. This results in another welcome interaction betweeen Yuki and Machi, as Machi contradicts her classmate saying he’s the least prince-like person she knows—again, because she knows Yuki’s pain.

Kyou finds Tooru sitting in the classroom after everyone else left, and his thoughts stray towards what she was thinking about before he arrived, when she was alone. When she excitedly presents Kyou with the revised script, I was fully prepared for him to dismiss it out of hand, or even slap it out of hers, like the old Kyou; like the Kyou who might’ve resurfaced after his rant to Yuki.

Instead, he draws ever so close to Tooru, and then agrees to do the play, warning her not to laugh at him! The two share blushing looks before heading home together. The now-explicit contrast between Yuki’s and Kyou’s feelings for Tooru paves the way for potential happiness for all three of them in the future. I’m also not discounting the potential for a relationship between Yuki and Machi—stranger things have and will happen!

Fruits Basket – 46 – More than Just Darkness

Technically, things stay still this week, as Yuki takes a deep dive back down memory lane as he sits with Kakeru. But while the vice president gets the Cliff Notes at the end about Yuki’s devotion to Tooru (who goes unnamed), we get the full and devastating play-by-play, starting with Yuki’s first meeting with a younger, less evil Akito and culminating in the full retelling of the “baseball cap” incident.

Yuki was so young when he first met Souma Akito, he didn’t question the fact his parents were basically selling him to the Zodiac god as a goddamn human sacrifice. But in their first meeting, Yuki does suddenly tear up. One of the household women states that other Zodiac members did the same upon meeting Akito and that’s it’s a sign of their powerful, inscrutable “bond.”

In reality, the tears were the response to the “shouting” of two opposing voices in his chest, both wanting and not wanting to meet Akito, both wanting to embrace and escape, beloved and repulsing. It’s a lot for anyone, let alone a sickly little kid who has yet to grasp just how much his life has changed.

Yuki admits that Akito was indeed less sadistic once and his tantrums far more tame. But one day Akito became twisted, without any precise cause of explanation. He just…snapped, and Yuki became a canvas much like the walls and floor Akito covered in pitch-black ink (like the ink he saw in the StuCo storage room). The black ink of constant verbal and emotional abuse, liberally, chaotically thrown about like a supernatural Jackson Pollack.

Akito never let Yuki forget for a single day how useless and hated he was by everyone, and how he what little worth he has is entirely dependent on Akito’s benevolence. Such sentiments were borne out in the rare instances Yuki interacted with other Zodiac members. When he meets Kyou, the first thing he thinks is how pretty his hair is, while Kyou, who blames the Rat for his mother’s suicide, vows never to forgive Yuki and wish he would simply disappear. Those are Kyou’s first words to Yuki, who he’d never met!

Yuki does to a fancier school than the other members, despite Kyou, Haru, Kagura and Momiji all being of similar age. The dissonance between all the household talk of how important and venerable and “close to God” the Rat is, and the way he is universally resented and loathed, causes Yuki’s heart to wither…a person can only take so much!

Yuki actually does make some friends organically at his school, but the first time a girl accidentally hugs him and he transforms into a rat, all of those friends’ memories are deleted by Hatori, and he’s suddenly alone in the dark again.

Akito has no words of comfort for him, only of scolding: this is the result of you deluding yourself. For hoping. For believing there is anything bright in this world. Here I was thinking Rin got the very worst of treatment from Akito, but it was almost a mercy that she was so much less coveted a member of the Zodiac than the Rat, constantly suffering under Akito’s foot.

Yuki and Kyou cross paths once more, and Kyou loses his blue baseball cap—that’s right, that cap—but when Yuki offers to hand it back to him, Kyou runs away, and into the arms of Kazuma. That sight makes Yuki yearn for parents who would embrace rather than discard him, as well as a home to which he wanted to return, where everyone could smile and no one would keep their distance.

Yuki becomes ill (well, more ill), and with an apathetic “poor Yuki” Akito is his only visitor as he’s confined to a chair. Akito decides this is the best time to explain why Kyou hates him so much sight unseen, while asking mockingly if he’s going to die. Yuki gets to the point that he’d rather die and disappear, as he believes it would be the first and last time he’ll ever “be useful”.

But as those suicidal thoughts swirl in his head, the mirror in his hands shatters. Rather than cut himself, Yuki puts the baseball cap on and runs. Runs out of the compound to no destination and for no reason other than to simply run.

And run he does…right past a crying little girl (Tooru) and, a little further on, a young mother (Kyouko) chewing out police for asking her for a more detailed description than “cute in every way”. Yuki backtracks, makes eye contact with the girl, and before he knows it, she’s following his every move. Every time he turns a corner he hesitates a bit until she locks back onto him.

From that point on, the girl was relying on him for everything. He wasn’t just useful…he was absolutely needed. Once the two are in front of her house, he places the cap on her head, says “well done,” and runs off, without even asking for her name.

Despite the brevity of their interaction, Yuki’s hopes were buoyed for quite a long time…until he again descended into the darkness of Akito’s abuse and slow torture. Then he met Tooru again without even realizing she was the girl who saved him the first time, and let her save him all over again. The rest we know!

Even though much of what Yuki recalls isn’t relayed to Kakeru out loud, it is still important that Yuki has found someone in Kakeru—a non-Zodiac—whom he can trust and in whom he can confide. He may still not fully grasp what exactly Tooru is for him, he knows for sure that she is beloved, “like a mother.”

The loving, caring, smiling, nurturing mother Tooru herself had all too brief a time, and whom Yuki never, ever had. Thanks to Tooru, he knows Akito was wrong about the world. It’s not all light, but it’s not all pitch-black either.

Check out Crow’s review here!

Fruits Basket – 45 – It’s Fine to Be Buttoned Up Wrong

We return to Kaibara High as Yuki, Kakeru and the StuCo prepare for the Cultural Festival. Kakeru asks why Yuki has yet to acquire a cell phone, which requires a parent’s sign-off, and Yuki states it’s partly because his family is like shirt “buttoned up wrong”—an expression Kakeru loves.

As the they approach the office, a book flies through the window of the door, shattering the glass. Inside it looks like a tornado went off, and Machi stands alone in there, looking mortified. Kakeru asks the others to leave things to him, and Yuki notes that it’s not the first time.

What is Machi to Kakeru? Well, since he now trusts Yuki, Kakeru confides in him something the other StuCo members don’t know: he and Machi are stepsiblings, with the same father. He brings up a recent heated dispute over succession going on between their mothers, with Kakeru being the older male heir but whose mother was a mistress, and Machi being a younger female but her mother being her father’s wife.

Initially, Kakeru and Machi were caught in the middle at a time when Kakeru took everything his parents and other adults said as gospel. But eventually, he came to see how he was “mixed up in something dumb” and freed himself by acting out, which led his mom to withdraw him from consideration for succession. This means Machi stands alone as the potential successor—or would be, if her gender didn’t complicate matters.

As Kakeru puts it, he may be free, but Machi may not be. Trashing the StuCo office is akin to what he did one night during dinner, only in private; a dry run that lacks the stakes of the real thing. Yuki is able to put his own family troubles into perspective learning that plenty of other families have issues and are similarly “buttoned up wrong,” but also acknowledges that family can’t change, so you just have to live with it. Yuki ends up tossing up the pile of papers they had just reorganized.

It’s a gesture that says it’s okay to accept the things you cant control, and even laugh them off. Yuki then takes the application to his mom, who signs it without complaint. Before Yuki takes his leave, she says perhaps the most “parent-like” thing she’s ever said to him: “D-don’t spend too much time on the phone.” The surprise of hearing those words from her and the awkwardness with which she said them bring a smile and chuckle to Yuki’s face.

The next day, Machi returns to the office to apologize and promise not to trash it ever again (a promise she’s made before), and while Nao continues to fume and scold (he’s really annoying this week), Yuki follows Tooru’s example, asking Machi if instead of simply making such a promise not to do it, to help them understand why she did it.

The other members of StuCo (minus Nao) are impressed with his display of empathy and kindness, but Yuki realizes he’s late for his class meeting to announce the roles for Cinderella, which the class will be performing for the festival. Abstaining from the role of prince due to his workload, a reluctant Kyou is chosen as the prince and Saki(!) as (potentially “Wicked”) Cinderella.

As for Tooru? She’ll be an evil stepsister, and she assures Yuki she’ll work hard to be “more evil than the devil himself!” Uh…yeah. Uh-huh. Members of Prince Yuki hope her role as villainess will hurt her standing with Yuki, but they’re so clueless it’s almost sad. Arisa doesn’t see why they can’t do a more grown-up play, and she has a point: I just got done watching Sakura’s fifth-grade class perform it!

Shortly after returning to the StuCo office, Yuki accidentally ends up trapped in the storage room, the lock for which is broken. He knocks an open can of black paint(?) which splatters on the wall and his uniform, and suddenly memories of when Akito tried to ratttle him at the beach well up inside him, making him anxious.

Leaving aside whether Miki arranged for him to be locked in there (I’m not sure what her motive would be), it’s Machi who ends up busting through the door to rescue Yuki, stating that she didn’t want him to feel anxious, as if she could sense that indeed he was just that. He quietly thanks her and then goes off with Kakeru for some fresh air.

When he’s feeling better, he pays Kakeru back for his openness by bringing up something he hasn’t brought up to anyone yet, due to it seeming “pitiful and pathetic”: regarding what he “yearns for” in Tooru, which he only just learned was something he shared with Rin. While that thing is left unsaid, I’ll be using “familial love” as a placeholder until Yuki says otherwise, but it could just as easily be “the ability to take care of oneself and others, rather than just be cared for”.

While Yuki’s adventures in StuCo lag far behind Tooru’s new connection with Rin and their efforts to break the curse in importance, it was still rewarding to learn more about Machi and Kakeru’s ties, and see Machi and Yuki become a little closer since he gave her that leaf. I wonder if Yuki sees Machi as an opportunity to prove to himself that he can indeed care for and help others, thus paying forward all that Tooru has done for him. We shall see.

Read Crow’s review of the episode here!

Fruits Basket – 42 – Softly Shining Memories

Tooru’s been so busy (justifiably) thinking about “various things” that she forgot about their class trip to Kyoto. When we begin the episode she’s already there, making haiku that aren’t haiku with Saki as the others cringe.

Back when Yuki reminded both Tooru and Kyou that yes, there is a trip, Shigure impresses upon Tooru the importance of living her best youth. A Class trip, after all, is a time for people to confess to the ones they like—unless you’re Prince Yuki and locked in a hands-off stalemate!

Kyou also gets confessed to—by a random classmate I don’t think we know. When Kyou is a bit too rude in his rejection, his two guy friends knock him over and scold him, while the girl assumes that Arisa likes Kyou, which prompts the both of them gang up on her. I wonder if we’ll see her again?

It’s been a while since we’ve had sustained high school character time and the wonderful comedy that comes from their character dynamics. Neither Arisa nor Saki disappoint, proving yet again that the show could consist of just the two of them, their families, and maybe Tooru and I’d watch three-plus seasons of it!

Tooru is temporarily hurt by Kyou telling her to mind her own business when she asks what was troubling him. Of course, Kyou isn’t mad at her, it’s his usual anger leaking out at people who don’t deserve it, because he was no doubt shaken (not just annoyed) by the random girl’s confession.

When she sees Kyou playing with a cat who “came and left on her own”, she wonders if Kyou will someday treat her like that cat. Before he can walk away, she grabs his sleeve, and he takes her hand, smiles his warm smile, and hangs out with her. Tooru notes how “a simple remark” from Kyou can make her unsettled or happy…a pretty good sign you’re in love with someone!

Tooru’s dynamic with Yuki has such a different vibe, despite the chemistry between them being just as good. When asked what souvenirs Yuki is buying, he says he’ll be content just to leave with some nice memories. Tooru assures him he will, and that he’ll “quietly keep those softly shining memories within him”. Meanwhile, Arisa and Saki treating Kyou like one of the shrine’s feral deer…priceless.

Yuki is just happy to get thoses positive vibes from Tooru, having determined that while she is dear to him, he’s not thinking beyond that as she and Kyou seem to be. Like he’s content with school trip memories, he’s content to have Tooru continue to quietly smile for him and encourage him.

This position is borne out when Kanabe mentions his interest in Tooru. Yuki tells Kanabe that he’ll never forgive him if he hurts Tooru, but otherwise he won’t interfere in his pursuit, if he’s serious about it (he’s not; he already has a girlfriend!) Kanabe continues the thought experiment by asking what Yuki would do if he did hurt Tooru. Yuki answers childishly, despite himself: “then we’re not friends!”

Yuki doesn’t think a guy like Kanabe who can so clearly say he likes someone is that bad, nor does he think it’s that bad for him to say childish yet true things at times. It’s all good in the hood! As he waves hi to Tooru and the others joining him by the water, a falling Japanese maple leaf slips into his fingers. He decides to give that leaf to Machi, who seems to really appreciate the souvenir despite not having asked for one.

As for Tooru’s “souvenir for herself”, she procures a set of cute Zodiac figurines, as well as some clay for making the cat that the set doesn’t include. I can just imagine her using them on a battle map of her ongoing Zodiac campaign!

Furuba. Crow. You know where to go.

Fruits Basket – 38 (S2 13) – Council of Troublemakers

It’s a new cour, and a new term for Tooru, Yuki, and Kyou, and while Arisa and Saki make a quick appearance at the beginning (confirming that Arisa has had no further contact with Kureno), this episode is not about the main crew at all. It’s all about Yuki, and his ability to lead the Student Council, which as was hinted at far earlier in the season is packed with some colorful personalities.

First there’s VP Maname Kakeru, who sleeps often, calls the council the “School Defense Force” and does little work. There’s secretary Todou Miki, who looks like Tooru’s twin sister, sounds like cutesy Kagura, but is a first-class stirrer of shit. The high-strung, irritable Sakuragi Naohito and the taciturn treasurer Kuragi Machi round out the crew.

Wrangling these misfits would be a tall task for any president, let alone one who was tortured by a god-child cult leader for years into thinking he’s lower than scum and devoid of hope. Yuki may be committed to a new, more honest and take-charge self, but he still has trouble interacting with people who aren’t family. Heck, he still has trouble with family!

Not only that, Vice President Manabe has a bright, charismatic personality and people are naturally drawn to him, which not only reminds Yuki of his big brother, but also social butterfly Kyou, two people “inner Yuki” has always compared himself to, and found himself wanting. He’s just not sure what to do around a guy like Kakeru, so he withdraws within himself.

When a StuCo session is commandeered by Manabe for the sole purpose of assigning Power Ranger-like colors to each member, Naohito fume, Machi simmers, and Miki eggs everyone on, and Yuki has no idea how to maintain order. The chaos washes around him, even as Manabe names him “Red” simply because he’s the leader, taking the more aloof “Black” for himself. No doubt Yuki sees it the other way.

Things come to a head when, while Yuki carrying seedlings for the gardening club after school, Kakeru confronts him about the nature of his relationship with Tooru. He spotted Kyou walking home with her and judges the guy to look more like Tooru’s boyfriend, and “happier” looking in general. That sets Yuki off, and he unleashes a tirade at Kakeru condeming his apparent hobby of weighing the happiness of others for his own amusement.

Surprisingly, Kakeru kicks the tray of seedlings out of Yuki’s hands. Not one to back down from a confrontation, he calls Yuki out for lecturing him so brazenly. The two bicker, and Yuki eventually admits he was really just lecturing himself, because comparing himself to others is what he always does…or rather did, and wants to stop doing so much.

The StuCo may be full of troublemakers, but Yuki considers himself the biggest of all. Kakeru’s stance softens significantly, and he admits that he’s actually jealous of Yuki for having more empathy and understanding the feelings of others before needlessly hurting them.

Having only just started spending time with Kakeru, it was easy to box him into a caricature, but Yuki learns there’s more to the guy, including a desire to grow and change—even if he naps a bit too much to actually do so! While he was initially weary of the StuCo and his ability to lead, now he looks forward to spending time with Kakeru and the rest of these weirdos.

While I’ve honestly missed Tooru and the rest of the crew these past two weeks, Fruits Basket once again demonstrates it can tell a solid story from anyone’s perspective, and with any combination of main, secondary, and tertiary characters, without breaking a sweat.

Check out Crow’s episode 13 review here!

Fruits Basket – 26 (S2 01) – The Hideous One

First of all, let me say how good it feels to have Fruits Basket back in my life. It’s truly a salve for the heart! Those who haven’t watched the first season probably wouldn’t agree. It should go without saying: make sure you watch those 25 episodes before getting anywhere near this episode. That said, holy crap, what a return to greatness!

A gorgeous new OP, followed by an episode centered squarely on … Minagawa Motoko! In which she recognizes Tooru’s positive effect on Yuki. And stops living in a world of fantasy. And acknowledges her flaws. And commits to pursuing Yuki the right way. In other words, Motoko changes…and in doing so becomes yet another character I love and can’t wait to see again. And lest we forget, she’s brilliantly voiced by MAO!

Tooru shows up to put an iron uncomfortably close to the faces of Kyou and Yuki, but otherwise this is basically The Minagawa Motoko Show from start to finish (with a sprinkling of Yuki). It’s a ballsy move to make Tooru’s arrogant, one-dimensional, self-deluded love “rival” the protagonist-of-the-week, especially as the first episode back.

But Fruits Basket has already demonstrated time and again that none of its cast is really shallow; it’s just a matter of how much we know them, and this was the time to really hunker down and get to know Motoko, beyond the scheming president of Prince Yuki—someone nearly bowled over by Arisa’s eager new delinquent minions (a great potential pairing for a future episode, by the way).

Motoko puts her war with Tooru aside to deal with a more pressing matter: the identity of the new StuCo board members. Specifically, she wants to make sure none of them are hussies that will steal her man (who, let it be said, has already been all but stolen by Tooru!) But former StuCo prez Takei can sense Motoko’s intent and isn’t spilling the beans.

Meanwhile, it’s new StuCo prez Yuki who meets the new board members in question, in a very bizarrely staged scene. When he enters, he hears a girl seemingly weeping in the dark in a giant mess of files. Yet after recoiling from his touch, she adopts a stoic demeanor and goes about cleaning up. This is the new StuCo treasurer, Kuragi Machi.

Then he meets the new veep, the brash and grigarious Manabe Kakeru, who had been napping in the next room and reminds Yuki of his repellent brother Ayamu. He has a particularly weird exchange with Manabe later, leading him to wonder if there’s something Zodiac-y or Zodiac-adjacent about these new members…or if they’re just a bit eccentric.

That night, we end up in Motoko’s very rich-girly room as she waxes poetic about Yuki and curses those who would stand between her and him, only to be rudely interrupted by her no-nonsense mom in curls. Turns out Motoko puts on Kongou Mitsuko rich girl airs at school, but is actually from a working-class family who lives above their shop. I’m already more fascinated with her!

The next day, Motoko decides to bypass Takei entirely, enlisting the aid of third-year and fellow Prince Yuki member Aida Rika, to pick the lock of the StuCo office. Turns out the office unlocked, and Motoko and Rika are in luck: the only person in there is their beloved Yuki. Quietly cheered on by Rika, Motoko gets off to a rough start by asking Yuki…about what he ate for breakfast.

But because Yuki is such a nice guy, he dutifully tells her what he ate, and she discovers they like the same kind of natto. Then, unbidden, Yuki asks Motoko if she normally speaks so formally, commenting that it’s “kind of cute.” Motoko would normally be happy beyond words by being called cute by Yuki, but when she sees his warm easy smile that accompanies the words of praise, she sees a Yuki she doesn’t recognize.

The adoring distance she’s kept from Yuki means the Yuki she saw was rarely the Yuki he really was underneath a much cooler, at times forced smile. She realizes how far that distance remains when Yuki could change so much without her knowing, and with the help of someone else … someone not her by his side. It’s suddenly too much to bear, so she runs off.

As she flips on a faucet to wash her suddenly tear-filled face, Motoko professes her hatred of all women who “dare get near Yuki”, but hates none of them more than herself, the “hideous one” who thinks those kinds of thoughts as she’s reflected in her mirror. It’s the kind of honest self-reflection I was hoping from Motoko after her fateful visit to the Hanajima residence (a veritable bastion of Keeping It Realness).

Motoko shouldn’t just thank Tooru’s influence for giving her a Yuki who can smile, but one who didn’t let things sit where they were. He goes after her to make sure she’s alright, and in doing so, confides in her that despite looking so “unruffled”, he’s barely keeping his cool. Motoko can relate, as she just lost her cool back in the office!

Heartened by Yuki’s smile, Motoko vows not to give up the fight. He may have changed, and Tooru may have changed him, but she still adores him and wants him to be hers. Now that she’s actually exchanged more than just polite pleasantries, but shared a moment of mutual vulnerability, that affection has gained intensity and legitimacy.

As I sat staggered at how well they fleshed out Motoko and made her someone I half want to root for in just an episode, Yuki returns home and washes dishes with Tooru, and mentions the almost Zodiac-like strangeness of his new council-mates. He also confesses that he was happy when Manabe said he was “more interesting than [he] thought.”

Earlier, Kyou called Yuki lame, and privately, Yuki acknowledges that yeah, he is lame. It’s why Kyou’s barb is so painful; he believes it. But Tooru assures him that even if tough times are coming, either in the StuCo (maybe) or the Souma family (most assuredly) there will be fun times to cherish as well. Life is a never-ending string of getting hurt and healed by words and actions big and small.

After Tooru delivers those wise-beyond-her-years words, the episode closes perfectly on its heroine Minagawa Motoko, positively angelic in her frilly nightgown and glorious pink palace above a workaday store, gazing at the stars in quiet, hopeful, healing prayer.