“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.