This revived version of Fruits Basket has been a long time coming – the original series came out while the manga was ongoing, and skewed more towards comedy rather than drama, and some of the core themes of the series ended up getting pushed to the side (along with some instances of mischaracterization). At long last, though, we come to the conclusion of the far more faithful adaptation of the manga, and the question becomes whether or not this can stick the landing.
If I was to describe the core theme of the final season of Fruits Basket in a sentence, it would be “Tohru Honda breaks the abusive cycle of the Sohma family.” The first couple of seasons – especially the first season – presented Tohru as a sweet, innocent cinnamon roll. Someone too good and pure for this world, to be protected. This was both in terms of how she’s perceived by her male romantic interests and her friends, with her innate goodness inspiring people to be better by her presence, inspiring people to action, but without taking action on her own.
That shifted towards the second half of season 2, with hints at the end of Season 1 and the first half of Season 2. It shifted to showing how Tohru takes after her mother. Not in the sense of being a delinquent (or former delinquent), but in terms of her having some steel under that sweet exterior. The series gave a much stronger sense than in the first season that as she came to understand the abusive situation that her friends in the Sohma family were in, she would have to fight to get them out of it, but in her own way. She’s not going to be beating the tar out of Akito, but she is willing to use a degree of guile (again, in her own form) to help her friends, and that she’s willing to risk herself to help them.
Season 3 – appropriately titled “The Final” is the season where this all comes to a head. Where she ends the abusive pattern of the Sohma Family Curse in a way that is fitting for her. Not through casting a magic spell, not by getting in someone’s grill and chewing them out. But through her compassion. And it works, not just in the sense of her pulling it off, but in the sense of it thematically fitting with the show and generally feeling earned.
This is not to say the show does not stumble. The writing does make it clear that Akito is both victim and victimizer. That she is responsible for perpetuating this cycle of abuse, but has also experienced abuse as part of the cycle, particularly through the structures built up to support and perpetuate it. But, once Akito recognizes her role in this cycle and starts working to end it, the show operates from the assumption that everything is fine now, and that she should be forgiven. There are characters who don’t forgive her, and who are, thankfully, not depicted as being in the wrong, but even then, she doesn’t acknowledge some of her more egregious abuses (up to and including pushing someone out of a second story window – which would normally be fatal – and stabbing another person and coming to Shigure’s house with intent to stab Tohru).
Still, this has been a very well done 3 seasons of television, and the ending the show gives is absolutely earned. While I’m a little sad to see it end, considering one of the fundamental themes of the show’s climax is letting things end, and letting people move on – I’m satisfied with this conclusion to the show.
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