Tohru visits the Soma estate as Hatori requested. Unsettled by the doctor’s cold demeanor, she listens as Momiji recalls what happened to Hatori’s fiance, the last outsider that became close with the family, and the tragedy that befell her. Despite Hatori’s hostility, Hatori sees the care and kindness he’s hidden away, and begins to wonder what this supposed “curse” surrounding the Somas might be.
Episode 7 continues the general trend of zeroing in on one of the Soma’s for a deeper exploration, and this time around, it’s Hatori we’ve got in our sights. After his chilling invitation, there was no way Tohru wasn’t going to visit him at the Soma house…
I mean, estate…
I mean, cult compound, holy heck! Seriously, with over 100 live-in vassals and a fortified medieval village to hide their magical secret, the Soma clan looks less like a sad, quirky family and more like the villains in a ninja drama. Still, the grey, empty streets and bleak winter atmosphere do a great job of contrasting with the bright, exuberant life Tohru leads with Yuki, Kyo and Shigure. It’s little wonder that they left the oppressive halls of the estate for a relatively normal adolescence.
Once we meet up with Hatori, he lets on that there is more to the Soma family’s condition than just their transformations. When they’re alone, Momiji unveils Hatori’s Tragic Backstory™ to Tohru, revealing that the doctor had been engaged to one of the family servants, and asked Akito for his blessing. When Akito flew into a rage, Hatori tried to protect his fiance, Kana, and was almost blinded in one eye during the struggle. The guilt was so great that it drove Kana into a deep depression and eventual breakdown, forcing Hatori to wipe her memories to spare her further suffering.
That’s a pretty dark backstory, and very in keeping with the twisted details each of the people carrying the zodiac curse have in their pasts. However, it’s also much more blatant, compared to the scorn Kyo received, or the isolation Yuki endured. Hatori’s inner demon is self-loathing, and a sense of despair over his failure to protect his lover. It’s not a bad motivation by any stretch, but having it dumped on us second-hand after only meeting the dude once before means it doesn’t land with as much impact as one would expect.
This is made more questionable when we see the same events Momiji explained recalled by Hatori himself as a flashback, adding more details and fleshing out why he’s developed a soft spot for Tohru in place of Kana. However, it still doesn’t add much depth to the background, as Hatori barely emotes even under the most painful of circumstances, and Kana doesn’t have enough time to demonstrate much personality.
On the plus side, the flashbacks do tie nicely into the seasonal imagery of the episode, as grey winter turns to pastel spring, and back to winter at the bleakest moments. It also reinforces Akito’s reputation as a selfish, angry manipulator, which up until now has mostly been an informed trait. With the first eye contact between him and Tohru, the setup for their eventual meeting is laid out clearly.
I’ve been enjoying Fruits Basket so far, though this episode didn’t really do much for me. The redundant nature of the storytelling didn’t add much, and with so little exposure to Hatori before now, trying to paint him so sympathetically when we know next to nothing about him feels like a rush to get us on his side. That said, the episode is well-presented, and if you’re OK with the shoujo-logic it works on, you’re still in for a good time. For my part, I’ll be looking forward to more of Tohru’s friends elbowing their way into her sitcom living situation.