Fruits Basket’s Zodiac curse sounds pretty silly when you first hear it: if a cursed person is hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they’ll temporarily transform into an animal. It seems like the perfect set-up for a wacky comedy, and the first few arcs of the story treat it that way. But once you think about it on a deeper level, it becomes clear that the curse prevents its members from forming any kind of intimacy with other people—from casual friends to even their own parents. And at the center of it all is the Zodiac’s “God”, Akito, whose iron grip on the Sohma family quashes any attempt at freedom with gaslighting and fits of rage.
Today, we’re going to explore how the Zodiac curse reflects toxic and abusive relationships in real life. How did the relationship start, and what can possibly be done to escape from it? Let’s take a closer look.
The Tale of the Zodiac Banquet
When Tooru first hears the story of the Zodiac banquet from her mother, it goes like this: God invited all of the animals to his house for a banquet, but the foolish cat was tricked and left out of the special party. But eventually, we learned what really happened so many generations ago. God and the cat were close friends, but when the cat was in his final days, God didn’t want their relationship to come to an end. He made a pact with the other animals that they would all be continually reincarnated so that they’d never have to be apart, and forced the cat to participate. The cat wasn’t shunned because he was foolish—it was because he was the only one who understood that you can’t force a relationship to go on forever.
So it goes with the Sohma family, and many abusive relationships that exist in reality. The curse has weakened over the generations, but Akito grooms each member from a young age to prioritize her over anyone else in their lives. She manipulates them into believing that acceptance and understanding can only come from the Sohmas and that Kyo is scum who doesn’t belong in their sacred circle. Her main tactic is emotional abuse, such as confining Yuki to a dark room for years with herself as his only companion, but she has also resorted to physical violence when Hatori and Rin tried to escape at different times. Just like real life, though, Akito wasn’t always this evil. Her circumstances made her this way.
The Abused Becomes the Abuser
Akito’s mother, Ren, was married to the previous God of the Zodiac. She loved him more than anything else in the world, and when Akito came along, Ren feared that her husband would love the baby more than her. So she constantly berated Akito and forced her to dress and act like a boy to reduce the “competition” between them for her husband’s attention. When Akito’s father died, she became the new God and relished in the devotion she received, desperately holding onto her father’s words that she was “a child born to be loved”. Ren mostly kept her distance after that, but still lives at the Sohma estate and holds a nasty grudge against her daughter.
None of this excuses Akito’s repulsive behavior, but it does explain it. She was fed mixed signals of worship and hatred for all of her life, so she clings to the curse because she feels that nobody could ever love her otherwise. An abused person becoming an abuser themselves is sadly very common in reality, but working to understand how it happens can help shed some light on how these people justify the horrific acts they commit.
Tooru’s Positive Influence
Sometimes it takes an outsider to disrupt the cycle of abuse and end it once and for all. Tooru has her own issues of abandonment and low self-esteem, but she had a healthy relationship with her mother and uses those memories to guide herself and others to make good choices. Her unconditional love for Yuki and Kyo makes them realize that their prescribed roles don’t have to define them. And her willingness to accept Akito, flaws and all, gives Akito the strength to let the Zodiac members go in the end. Tooru is just a normal girl, but her fresh perspective allows the trapped Sohmas to move forward on their own.
Most of this deep, personal drama comes into focus later in the manga, so the 2001 anime didn’t get to adapt much of it. We’re so excited to see how the new anime portrays this complex storyline that touches on so many aspects of real-world relationship issues, and we hope a new generation of fans can appreciate it as much as we already do!
What did you think of our analysis? Which relationships in Fruits Basket do you find the most interesting? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!