The good news is that Akito doesn’t stab Ren. The bad news is that Akito was only distracted by the Curse breaking some more.
Hiro: Sorry. For some reason, I’m kind of mixed up inside, even though I know this should just be a happy moment…but I’ve got anger, resentment, regret, remorse, and attachment all mixed up inside of me.
Mama: Of course you do. You’ve been living with that “bond” your whole life, Hiro-chan. For so very long. You’ve worried and suffered so much because of it, but still, it’s been with you your whole life. Hiro-chan, it was a part of you. Saying “Goodbye” can be a very lonely thing.
Hiro’s Mama is seriously THE BEST. One thing that Hiro, Momiji, and Kureno seemed to have in common is that they were all more or less accepting of their Zodiac forms – which could very well mean they were just accepting of themselves and their situation.
Meanwhile, Akito herself is falling apart.
It’s over. Already, I can feel it breaking apart, piece by piece. The final “Farewell” is nearly here.
And then the maids start arguing because, y’know, KNIVES.
Head Maid: What do you mean by bringing a knife in here? Do you want the police involved!? Just how far are you willing to go to disgrace the Sohma family –
Maid: Disgrace!? That child was about to stab his own mother…propping up a deranged human being like that as the Head of the Family is what brings shame to the Sohma name! […] On top of that, you came up with that ridiculous box! And to think, the poor, naive Head of the Family believed your lies…
Head Maid: Of course he didn’t believe it! He was bereft at the loss of his father, so I gave him the box as a comfort. It was like a talisman. He didn’t actually believe in it…he knew it was just an empty box! Anyone with common sense would’ve realized that!
Akito: It was somewhere in the middle. That box. I both believed in it, and didn’t believe in it. It looked empty when I opened it, but I told myself, “Maybe he’s there. I just can’t see him.” “Maybe…” “Maybe…” Thinking like that, I couldn’t just let it go. But I was also afraid to confirm it one way or the other. So I just kept it hidden. That’s right. All these years, I’ve just kept clinging to that box. (internally) Because after all, “Maybe…”, right? (aloud) Was that so wrong? That seemed like “common sense” to me…! No one ever taught me otherwise! No one ever gave me a different way to live! How am I supposed to know what I don’t know!? How do they expect me to understand!? If what’s obvious to them, and to you, is “common sense”, why didn’t you tell me!?
That’s the tragedy of Akito’s life: She abuses people because she knows no other way to live and engage with the world. Nobody bothered to teach her or discipline her. The Members of the Zodiac cared, but were essentially unable to bring her any pain or discomfort, and the maids who raised her just wanted to spoil her and manipulate her into doing what they wanted.
There’s really no villain in this story, just an antagonistic force: The toxic culture at the heart of the Sohma family. It’s the culture that taught Akito her only value was within the confines of the Curse, or that Ren was never loved by her husband – or that the Cat should be shunned for being different. But even the maids are still just victims of that culture who ended up victimizing others.
Kureno: What you don’t know, what you don’t understand…you can learn those things starting now. So let’s change, okay? Akito. This is what I wanted to talk to you about before. If you continue to stay in this environment, the “bond” and the “Sohma family” will consume you. You’ll feel empty inside forever. You’ll never be satisfied. You’ve realized it too, haven’t you? So that’s why –
Akito: After all this time…Kureno, you tell me that after all this time? “Change”…? It’s too late. Why didn’t you tell me that in the beginning…? Why didn’t you forsake me from the start? Why didn’t you just abandon me…!? Now you tell me, after all this time…after everything, you dare lecture me!?
Saving me in a half-assed way…or abandoning me in a half-assed way…that “kindness” or whatever it’s supposed to be…has been killing me! All this time…all this time! You think you can fix this…? A simple “I was wrong” doesn’t cut it! This is your fault! I demand you make it up to me! Pay me back with your life!
You can’t just flip a switch and change somebody’s behavior. Akito’s always looking for someone else to blame.
And yes, Kureno was just literally stabbed in the back. And he’s still more concerned about finding Akito when she runs off than getting help for himself. If that doesn’t utterly destroy your heart, there’s this:
Arisa: Maybe it was just exhausted…?
But instead of finding out what’s to become of Kureno, we follow Akito in her little breakdown (still carrying a knife!).
Akito: Don’t blame me. This is all Kureno’s fault. He’s the bad one. He’s responsible. It’s because Kureno was here…
“If I keep blaming other people, I’ll never…”
Akito: So what, then!? So this is my fault…!? Everything is always my fault!? The Zodiac breaking apart…and everyone leaving me behind…is that all my fault too!? And then…where are they all going to?
Tohru: Kyo-kun….um…there’s something I want to tell you.
Next time: Confessions…
4 thoughts on “Chapter 118: Somewhere in the Middle”
While you’re right that the curse and toxic nature of the Sohma family is the really true villain, I always saw Ren (along with that old maid) as being the main “human” villain of the manga. Akito herself was sort of set up as a red herring villain and once her big gender secret is finally revealed Takaya goes and does a “surprise villain” reveal akin to this gen’s latest Disney movies. I was always disappointed that this chapter is the last we ever see of Ren (well till the sequel Another anyways) I always thought she had amazing potential as a villain and she was genuinely terrifying in the few scenes she does appear in but unfortunately she comes into the story too little too late and doesn’t get nearly as much screentime as she should imo. (ngl I’m a sucker for sucker for well-developed, amazing and memorable villains) I wish the old maid got a name and had more of a presence as well.
I’m guessing you’re also of the opinion that other than time a key factor in the curse breaking is those cursed learning to accept and feel comfortable with their curse? That theory makes sense but what about Shigure then? He’s also one of the few Zodiac members whose curse never bothered him (he states outright) Why is his one of the last to break and not one of the first then? I think your other theory fits better, the curse breaks when either God or a Zodiac member is filled with love/thinking about someone outside the bond. (But then that doesn’t explain why Hatori and Ayame were the last to break free too… Hmm perhaps its a combination of both that AND time? Or BOTH that Zodiac member and God have to be thinking of someone outside of the bond at the exact same time?)
Honestly, I like that there’s no real villain! It’s part of what makes this series so unique. I feel like that’s also one of the main points of the series – there’s no “good guys” and “bad guys”, just people with different motives and perspectives. There’s no point in seeing the “villains” get their comeuppance or wallowing in their evilness. I feel like Ren could have been handled much better (I do actually like the way Takaya handled the Maid, though).
As for the Curse breaking…first of all, I see a huge difference between the first three members released and the others, because Akito was clearly still trying to hold the Curse together at that point – it had to be the result of something unconscious on Akito’s part. The ones at “The End” were a result of Akito’s conscious decisions, so I think those are more about her own personal likes.
Also, I take everything Shigure says with a grain of salt. The whole “the curse doesn’t bother me” thing reeks of humblebrag, and he specifically told Tohru at one point that “we” still have a lot of issues just living in a world of normal people. He loves the Curse, but he also hates it. The difference between him and, say, Momiji, is that he still defines himself by the Curse, while Momiji had simply accepted that it’s something he’d have to live with and didn’t let it control his actions.
That is very true and part of what makes Furuba so special, its a very layered and “human” story. Every character is multi-dimensional and can’t neatly be sorted into the categories of either “good” or “bad” (Well, except for maybe Kyo’s father whom I refer to as “the sperm donor” who I feel is meant to be an example of your archetypical abusive husband) I still say that both Ren and that old maid are the closest thing to a main “human antagonist” that the manga gets. Now that I think about it you’re right that the maid was actually handled pretty well at the end there, Ren on the other hand… By the way what do you think of her continued presence in Another? (If you’ve read it yet)
Ahh yes very true, that IS a big difference between the two of them and actually gives a lot of credence to your theory thank you for pointing that out to me! Momiji I would say is definitely the most emotionally healthy (and mature) member of the Zodiac. He’s as kind, generous and forgiving as an angel yet is still firm on his boundaries and doesn’t let himself be a doormat or taken advantage of like Kureno and Tohru would. Hiro is also pretty healthy emotionally, while he’s definitely a brat and not mature at all in the beginning, that’s a pretty typical kid mentality and you can tell he was able to HAVE that “typicalness” precisely BECAUSE of the loving and accepting family he grew up in. Hiro’s story was more your traditional coming of age compared to the others who were all moreso just healing from abuse, (Or Shigure who was trying to find meaning, purpose and identity in his life) he’s fine the way he is just needed to learn to grow up and start taking responsibility for his actions. As for Kureno, while I’d definitely say he’s the least emotionally healthy of the 3 (the guy really needs to learn some proper boundaries) I suppose out of the older ones he DID seem to be the least emotionally “attached” to the curse. (I mean besides Ayame but I guess you could make the argument that the curse affected Aya and was fueling his narcissism thanks to making his parents place unreasonable expectations on him but then ignoring and treating him as worthless once something better and more socially acceptable i.e. Yuki comes along?”)
Nope, haven’t gotten my hands on Another yet xD
I actually don’t see Momiji as the most emotionally stable exactly – he still has plenty of issues to work out regarding his self-worth and such, even if he is much more self-aware and assertive than Kureno was. He was forced to grow up way too fast, making him really perceptive about other people’s needs, but he’s only just starting to recognize his own needs.