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Fruits Basket- Bound To My Abuser.

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

Would it be better if God made you do exactly what he wanted? Loved him the way he wanted, served him the way he wanted to be served, or is it better that people have free will? It’s a question that has been asked across every culture since the beginning of time. Do we have free will, or are we predestined to do the things we do? But I digress, because the real topic of this discussion is about what an amazing anime Fruit Baskets is! A story that follows a young girl whose empathy and true love for her friends breaks an ancient curse. The series sheds light on the psychological effects of abuse in its many forms on the victims and perpetrators. It exposes trauma and the human condition brilliantly, making it one of the most relatable anime out there, revealing our deepest most basic need to be loved and how we are bound to the ones that we love, whether it’s healthy or not.

Tohru Honda, the main character, finds herself living with members of the Soma family after she is discovered outside in a tent. She learns certain members of the Soma family are cursed by turning into 1 of the 13 animals of the Chinese zodiac when they physically embrace the opposite sex. Yes, there are only 12 zodiac animals, but in this universe there are 13, adding the cat. As Tohru gets to know them, she learns the dark secret of their abuse from Akito, the head of the Soma family, who is bound to them as their god. Regardless of the complications that the curse causes each zodiac member, Tohru embraces them, listening to their stories, beginning the healing process as each person slowly becomes free.

Akito’s invisible bond with the animals gives her control of them, forcing their devotion, restricting their free will and keeping them from ever finding love and happiness with anyone else. This got me thinking about my opening question, what does it really look like to be controlled by God vs being free to choose? Imagine being forced to love someone you never chose. You find yourself being drawn to them even if they treat you horribly, compelled to come back again and again knowing it will only hurt you in the end.

Now Imagine being that God, like Akito, knowing that no matter how badly you treat others, they have to choose you forever because they were made to love you, with no choice of their own. They will always be there for you, like a dog to its master. It sounds bad, but isn't that what we all want? Unconditional love? Whether you are good, or bad. That is why we get dogs, because dogs seem to always choose us. However for the person on the other side of that relationship, it might mean being trapped in an abusive relationship.

If you had the power to force someone’s love, would you take advantage of that? Or would you prefer to be loved by someone who actually chooses you of their free will - someone who could leave you? That was Akitos' fear. The fear that without a curse forcing them to stay, no one would actually choose her. The bonds were her way to secure love, or at least the illusion of it, in her life. A soul tie. Akito’s fear of being alone created an even more abusive element to the situation in addition to the trauma they already experienced from their other family members.

The zodiac members were a burden to the rest of the family who had to deal with the challenges of raising them and keeping their curse a secret in society. Their families often rejected, mistreated and abused them - leaving them with broken identities, disordered behavior and in constant rivalry. For instance, Kyo and Yuki were at each other’s throats in competition. We find throughout the series that all they really want is to be accepted. Often a reaction to abuse is to live in extremes. Some become too trusting because they are so desperate for love, while others push people away; convinced they will never find it.

Young Kisa immediately clung to Tohru as one would to a mother the moment she felt understood, and Kyo sabotaged his own chance at love, lashing out and rejecting Toru’s effort to form a true friendship. Kyo is right to be guarded. Trust takes time. A person who trusts too quickly can easily fall prey to someone looking to take advantage of them. But never allowing anyone in because of fear will leave you broken, lonely and regretful. Thankfully, Tohru was a safe place for Kisa and very patient with Kyo. Over time, this formed healthy bonds that made up for what they should have naturally had with family.

We all naturally have invisible bonds with the ones we love. Without the right boundaries they could feel like a curse. We first bond with our parents when coming to the world, then with friends. We fall in love, forming a new bond, making a new family, creating new life, forming a bond with our child that stays with us until death. We were made to bond with each other. However, bonding is always risky, and can be dangerous when the person on the other side of that bond holds it like a leash through manipulation. This is what it's like to have a soul tie with an abuser. But some soul ties are our own doing

For instance, Kureno, the rooster’s situation is unique, because unlike the others who are bound by a curse, he is bound by his own guilt. His curse broke early on, yet he remained loyal to Akito, sacrificing his own freedom, forfeiting his one chance at happiness. He saw loving Akito as a noble deed. This is called martyr syndrome; subjecting oneself to pain and difficulty in the name of showing someone they care. The more painful the relationship, the more valid the love in their minds. But the reality is, not requiring the other person to treat us better, enables and encourages further abuse which will ultimately destroy both people involved. This is what happened to Kureno when he insisted on being there for Akito without setting healthy boundaries. It led to her stabbing him, and later violently attacking Toru, whose authentic connection with the other zodiac members threatened Akito’s power over them. Kureno encouraged Akito to become a monster by not requiring her to love him back.

When you really love someone, you will refuse to let them abuse you. Shigure is a good example of how to set healthy boundaries. Shigure is the dog, but ironically, he is the only one who refused to let Akito treat him like one. He cleverly navigated every situation, always seeming 10 steps ahead of everyone else with his own agenda. The curse was not a setback for him, but an obstacle to her heart. He wanted everyone to be free of their bond to Akito, so he could have all to himself. Unlike Kureno who was officially free and yet lived as he was bound, Shigure, still technically bound by the curse like the others, lived as if he was free. He set a standard for himself and refused to stick around and be abused. And although he had compassion on her and empathized with her pain, he did not make excuses for her behavior and set a strong boundary that kept her from treating him the way she treated others. He stood in his own self-worth so powerfully, that it disarmed her of the dominant masculine facade, exposing her as a vulnerable woman with emotional and physical needs.

Shigure demonstrated his own power over Akito in a way that made her question her power over him. He kept his distance whenever she wasn’t healthy to be around, refusing to go along with the narrative that the others so fearfully followed. His true love for her helped him have grace for her, but his love for himself protected him from letting her abuse him. Eventually, as the curse began to break and she lost her hold on the others one by one, she became desperate to hold on to the one person she knew loved her for real. Scared to be alone, she had to make a change. Akito is the image of a god who controls people, and by the end of the series it's revealed how crazy it made her. She became a god of slaves, who could only love without a choice. We see through this narrative, a world with counterfeit love would prove to be unfulfilling, empty, and truly lonely. Can forced love ever be desirable? Even in this world, a god who can only be loved by force is miserable. So what would a god that allows people to choose look like?

When Tohru entered the Soma family space, she wasn’t accepted by everyone. In fact, many perceived her as a threat. But with the purest intentions, she pursued them all in the face of rejection. She loved unconditionally, consistently and sacrificially. Her acceptance of them in spite of their curse is something none of them had ever experienced, and is what eventually led to breaking the curse. Even though in this story, Akito is supposed to be the god, it’s Tohru who gains the most influence among the Soma’s as a faithful friend and humble servant , making her a reasonable rival for the god role. She is the opposite of Akito. She invites people to love her by initiating and demonstrating love first.

Tohru didn’t actually do anything directly to force change. But she loved people into realizing that they wanted more than the bondage they were born into. She proved her love by suffering along with them and sharing their burdens. In this story Tohru is a direct opposite of Akito - reflecting a love that normal ppl can’t provide. She is an ideal that we expect people to live up to, but in reality, no person can operate like this without burning out. This is why this example of Toru’s love can only be classified as godlike. So don’t necessarily look to Tohru for how to navigate relationships. A better example is Shigure who knew his worth enough to love Akito from a distance. Each of the Zodiac members eventually found identity and self-worth through Toru’s consistent demonstration of love for them, which caused the curse to unravel itself. For the first time they got to decide their own destiny and use their free will.

So would it be better if God made us do exactly what he wanted? If a good God took our free will, the world would be better, right? No war, no murder. We would always choose God’s way because we were made to love him. But we see in this story that real love is born from free will, so this version of God would mean loveless existence. It’s been said that God is love. If this is true, then free will and consequence must be allowed - with the possibility of redemption.And even with everything that happened in the Soma family, one example of love redeemed everything.

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