MMF: Fruits Basket – Shigure

“I want to spoil her rotten. I want to trample her to a pulp.”

When it came time for the Manga Moveable Feast to do Fruits Basket, I pretty much knew I would be writing about Shigure Sohma. He’s the character I keep coming back to even now, the little thorn in the side of the entire storyline, trying to free people from the bonds they have with their God by cutting into their flesh until they squirm free in their agony. He’s a manipulator, and you’d swear he finds people’s emotional pain amusing. The anime, sadly, never got to the point in the story where this really comes out, so we mostly just see him there as the goofy ‘yay, high school girls!’ guy who occasionally gives Tohru sage advice. No one who finishes the manga is left with that impression.

Hatori, who is one of the people who probably understand Shigure best, and he once noted that Shigure needed to be careful in all his manipulations that he didn’t break anyone. Which, in many ways, is what Shigure *is* trying to do. He’s trying to break the curse, even if it’s not directly – trying to get it to snap and crumble away from Akito. And well, if that means breaking other people, then so be it – at least they’ll have someone around to pick up the pieces. Right, Rin? (Chapter 107, which implies Shigure was aware of what Akito did to Rin and let it happen in order to prove a rather sadistic point, is probably his worst moment.)

Speaking of that chapter, Shigure and Rin discuss the curse, and note that it should break within their lifetimes. But that’s not good enough for Tohru, who is painfully aware of what Kyo’s fate is to be – and how easily he seems to accept it. After briefly running off, Shigure goes to get her – and delivers another stunning speech, clearly intended to push all of Tohru’s buttons and weak spots. It’s quite an interesting contrast to earlier volumes, where Shigure can be seen cheering Tohru up or giving her a gentle push in the right direction with a few kind words.

But if Tohru wants to save Kyo, time *is* running out, and Shigure can’t simply sit by and watch her stress out over whether Kyo is pushing her mother’s memory out of her life. He’s mean – talking about how the curse *is* a curse, and not just some cute ‘we turn into animals!’ thing. All the Zodiac feel horrible about it, and Kyo is, as Shigure notes, a reminder that it could be worse – they could be him. Tohru, notably, stops Shigure’s monologue with a hand outraised and her head down – she can’t bear to hear his words anymore. I was reminded of the way she stopped Akito from abusing Yuki very early in the series, when she and Akito first met. It’s probably my favorite Shigure scene in the series.

Of course, it’s not just about Tohru. All of Shigure’s actions, everything we see him set up throughout the book, is designed to drive people away from their God and break the curse – so that he can have Akito all to himself. Shigure is a very possessive lover, and does not take kindly to having to share. It’s quite telling that the only time we really see him filled with hatred for anyone, it’s for Kureno – the man who is currently closest to Akito. And so he pushes at Akito – harder than he does anyone else, really – and watches as she does break. There’s only one moment where I think Shigure wonders if he went too far – he asks, after Tohru falls from the cliff, whether Akito pushed her – but it all works out well in the end.

This is the odd thing about the series. Everything seems to work out well in the end. Shigure never apologizes for anything he does, but I think in his mind he doesn’t *have* to – after all, everyone ended up happy. The curse is broken. Tohru wasn’t seriously crippled and is now with Kyo. Hatori has gotten over his first love and is opening up to Mayuko. Rin has chosen to embrace Haru and stop trying to ‘protect’ him by shoving him away. Same with Hiro and his relationship with Kisa.

In a way, I’m strangely reminded of Usagi from Sailor Moon. I once discussed the Outer Senshi Haruka and Michiru with my friend John, who has mixed feelings about the two of them. In the real world, the two outers would be right – Usagi’s idealism and super purity would be ripe for abuse, and it’s sensible to be pragmatic like the two of them. But they fail to realize that they aren’t in the real world, they’re in Usagi’s manga, and she’s the star. Therefore she is always right, and they are forever proven wrong. Likewise, Shigure’s actions don’t seem wrong to him at all. I’m sure if anyone tried to call him on it, he’d note how happy everyone is after the end of the series.

That said, we do occasionally see stabs of regret. Shigure notes early on that he is ‘the filthiest’ of the Zodiac, and I think knows that his relationship with Akito – even post-curse – is not a healthy one, but doesn’t particularly care enough. He once wondered what would have changed if he’d dreamed about Tohru. Leaving aside the horror that fills me if I imagine Shigure with Tohru, I think that it’s one of those hypothetical questions that will never get a true answer. So much of what Shigure is – everything that drives him – stems from that dream of Akito, and his love of Akito, and his need to possess Akito. Perhaps, now that he has everything he wants, he can find the time to get in touch with the nice young man who gave Tohru advice on how to deal with multiple problems.

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  1. I don’t disagree that Shigure wants to possess Akito and all that, but I think he does want to help her on some level. Maybe it’s only to help her to be free so she can be his, but when Akito is freaking out about Kureno and his kindness—”Saving me halfway… and abandoning me halfway… “kindness,” or whatever it is you call it. It’s been killing me!”—it made me wonder if Shigure’s approach didn’t have some validity. He alone challenges her. He refuses to be nice or coddle her. And maybe that’s really what she needed.

    • Shigure’s not the only one who refuses to coddle her. There’s also her mother Ren. Of course, unlike Shigure (who I also agree is trying to help Akito in his own sadistic little way), Ren’s words and actions are entirely meant to hurt Akito. Doesn’t mean that she still doesn’t have a point, though.

      I think it was Kureno who wondered who was to blame for for Akito’s personality. It seems like the reader is supposed to put most of the blame on mentally disturbed Ren, who was so jealous of her daughter that she demanded Akito be raised as a boy and refused to give her any kind of love — and that most definitely messed Akito up — but I tend to blame Akira and the Sohma servants even more for telling her how special she was and making her believe that she could do anything she wanted with the Zodiacs. Ren might not have loved Akito, but she wasn’t wrong about how unnatural the curse was. If Akira and the servants hadn’t filled Akito’s mind with delusions of godhood and what that meant and actually disciplined her when needed, she might have treated the Zodiacs better, maybe even sympathized with some of them, since she also knew what it felt like to be rejected by her mother.

      • The servants. Oh man, the servants. That one old lady is the WORST. She constantly supports Akito’s delusions, and expects everyone to do so as well. She’s horrid. :(

        In terms of Akira, however…. I think what messed her up more was that Akira always told her she was special, etc, but in the end, he only had eyes for Ren. Leaving Akito with a strange reality that maybe she wasn’t the end all be all. And then Kureno’s curse breaks, and it hits home again, and she completely snaps.

        • Oh man, that lady! The one who gave Akito the box and told her Akira’s soul was inside! When Akito breaks down and says to Kureno (paraphased) “How was I supposed to know? If it was common sense to everyone else (that it was nonsense), why didn’t anyone tell me?” that was the moment where I really began to see how damaged she’s been by the curse and family reactions to her, etc.

          • Yeah, that’s a good part of the story, when she just breaks down and we see that the family really did support and uphold all these delusions for her. Though at the same time, why wasn’t she thinking for herself? Akito is partly to blame herself.
            She even says that she knew there wasn’t really anything in the box, but that she still clung to the idea of it. So yeah, the family (especially that damn old lady!) perpetuated the disaster, but Akito didn’t do a whole lot to fight against it. Because she’s obviously not stupid. She probably doesn’t have common sense, like she said, because she’s been so sheltered and spoiled, so I’ll give her that. Augh, she’s just so complicated! I love it.

  2. I adore Shigure. He was the driver of everything that happened in the story, kind of a ringmaster or the storyteller in Princess Tutu, directing it all to his own ends. It’s appropriate that he’s an author.

    I think he’s kind when he can afford to be, but that’s not often. He wants the curse broken and makes himself be the kind of person who makes it happen. He’s the most interesting character for me, because he’s so hard to read and predict, even though his motive is so clear.

  3. I LOVE SHIGURE. He’s my favorite character in Furuba. He’s so damn interesting.
    His treatment is also the reason I really disliked the anime. At the end of the anime, which ends with the revelation of Kyo’s true form, he runs out to check on them, to help Tohru or whatever. Shigure would NEVER EVER do such a thing. He runs out looking frightened and guilty. It totally killed his character.

    He is definitely a selfish character, but I think he also wants the best for those around him, in a weird way. He wants to see Hatori happy, for example. I truly believe that, at the very least. And I think, at times, that he regrets what he’s doing to Tohru, though of course not enough to stop. He does seem to fret over her well being from time to time, but his own desires outweighs the danger.

    I think one of the most interesting things about him is that he knows he’s filthy and a horrible human being. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and he seems to recognize it’s wrong, but keeps pushing forward anyway. And he doesn’t really do all that much except push people in the right direction. Then he sits back and lets everyone else do the work. I think he tells that to…Rin. He says something like…I’m the worst sort of person, I let everyone else do the work and reap the benefits. That is incredibly telling, I think, and oddly, he seems OK painting himself as a villain. I think it’s a sort of atonement. He knows he’s doing horrible things, so he says things that make people hate him.

    • Luckily, I saw the anime first (or mostly first) so I was able to love goofy, amusing Shigure and then discover the depths of the real Shigure as depicted in the manga.

  4. I love Shigure. He’s complex, unpredictable, funny, lovable, mean and never ever boring.

    It’s been too long since I read the series to comment on detail, but I share many of the opinions of the commenters. He was the driving force behind much of the plot and while he did many nasty things, his aims were mostly good.

  5. My theory on Shigure is that he probably won’t get in touch with his better nature, and that his relationship with Akito is too filled with old pain and jealousies to really improve either of them.

  6. Cheryl Weiser says

    Am I the only one who thinks that that whole dream thing that Shigure had of Akito that made him want her so badly is a major plothole? I mean, think about it! How come he, out of all the Juunishi felt that way about the dream when everyone else felt pain from it? Why did he in particular get attached to the dream? Did he see something different from everyone else?

    Why would he fall in love with Akito just from that dream? Especially given her personality AND after what she did to him. Sorry to say, but that is Furuba’s biggest plothole in my opinion.

    • I agree on that…but I wouldn’t call it a plothole…
      The odd Attachment he felt versus the Doom the others felt is a very important clue in telling who was going to be closest to the problem, so to speak.
      I personally find their pairing very surreal, unsettling, and doomed. Even in the end— what other FB readers call “sweet” I call doomed. If anything, it is because I see Akito growing, improving, and moving on, and Shigure staying the same. That being said, I don’t think Shigure would hurt if they grew apart. He was there to serve a purpose, and fix Akito and help break the Curse, so what’s done is good.

      And I agree with much of the above stated comments—I don’t think he’s an evil sociopath, I just think he sees the bigger picture better than anyone else. He feels things just as deeply as they do, but he has an outsider’s perspective…like an oracle that can’t give away the ending before the next event begins. He is also the only one willing to get his hands dirty to get it done. Maybe that’s downplaying his actions, I don’t excuse him. He’s a charming asshole, but a redeemable one.
      I wonder if he’d be so smug if Rin actually DIED from the push out the window, if Hatori become 100% blind in BOTH eyes, if Kureno and Akito really *did* fall in love, or if *Tohru* was killed, not just concussed? The answers I find in my own logic make me think that Shigure WOULD be sorry. As long as everyone pulls through and survives the next round, he’s fine with his own manipulations. “Are they breathing? Ok! Still good! Keep going…”

      Haru, Hatori, and Yuki all state at different times throughout the series that they “never know if he means anything he says..” Akito admits that Shigure could be with her OR be alone and either way he’d be satisfied. Which…is what scares her the most about him. Those observations alone made me reboot my brain.
      That old love/hate plot device has been used by authors since the beginning of storytelling.

      But what Ms. Takaya does is more truthful…There is no neat, final answer sometimes when it comes to who you are attached to. They are the only couple in the series that does not have a nice, neat reason.

      On a superficial level, the entire series is about Love against all odds, and Love occurs between two people even when the rest of the world tries to force them apart. So maybe that attachment he felt from the dream was just that—love against all odds.

      However, I don’t think that’s why he felt attachment versus the fear everyone else felt. Given the surreal nature of Shigure and Akito’s relationship, I’d also say anything Shigure interprets is going to be *different* from the rest of the Zodiacs.
      MY THEORY is:
      That *different* feeling he felt was a clue that he alone would be divisive to the curse.
      Hatori would be too moral and careful, Ayame would be flippant and disorganized, Kureno would only kill with kindness, and Ritsu….well….you know.
      Shigure alone would be the only one capable of the eldest 5 to carry out all the deeds and ‘filthy’ undertakings to get the job done. Maybe by falling in love with Akito he was able to carry out the job on a more personal level, and stay focused. In fact, by being in love and possessive of Akito, he was able to get closest to the problem.
      I admit I am one of those in the majority that is irritated with pairing, although I like Akito and Shigure separately. My irritation is due to that unhealthy basis for their love.
      Like I said earlier, I see Akito changing for the better, and slowly gaining REAL trust and love from the Sohmas; and in achieving this, Shigure may drift. He gets his meaning in life by fixing her, and if Akito is changed for the better, his ‘job is done.’
      Also, I don’t think she’d excuse his manipulations and behavior for long. I guess that would mean it would be up to Akito to try to fix HIM. Although I see this as a highly unlikely possibility. Shigure is quite cocksure and comfortable with himself. >_>()
      Hope that wasn’t toooo confusing.

      • Cheryl Weiser says

        Hmm I can see what you mean, but honestly that interpretation doesn’t make sense because if that was the reason why Shigure fell in love with her, then why did he keep being in love with her even after the curse was broken and his job “supposedly” done?

        To be honest, it almost feels like Natsuki Takaya was going to explain why he felt that way about the dream, but after she got into that accident that wrecked her arm, she just gave up on it and wanted to quickly end the manga. Why do you think the whole dream thing isn’t exactly a plot-hole?

        Really, I feel that whole dream thing was ripped off of Sailor Moon, as that’s exactly the kind of dream Mamoru had about Usagi and was willing to do anything for her. In fact Shigure reminds me a-lot of Mamoru.

        Are you a fan of Sailor Moon at all?

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