When Rin is unable to learn anything new about the Soma curse at the family estate, she returns to Shigure’s home to question him, but breaks down from exhaustion and strain as Tohru arrives. She recalls the pain of her childhood, what drew her to Hatsuharu, and the trauma that drove her to run away from him.
After the heartwarming softness of the last episode, the oppressive darkness of this one marks an intense shift in tone. It also ties in nicely to the last episode I reviewed, because it also focuses on Rin’s relationship with Haru, while illuminating her backstory. It’s a tough watch, and highlights physical and mental child abuse more intensely than any of the previous flashbacks we’ve seen. Considering how absurdly tragic the backgrounds of most of the zodiac members are, that’s saying something.
Rin experienced awful abuse at the hands of her parents before they threw her out, and even living with Kagura and her much more supportive family only served to drive her deeper into depression. The series of flashbacks is executed sharply, with some excellent framing that highlights both her fear of and longing for her parents.
Unlike most other parents of the zodiac children, Rin’s parents have their faces obscured, and it seems likely that they’re not her biological family. They are also the first I recall to have physically abused their child instead of doting, neglecting or outright abandoning them like the rest. With the breadth of awfulness on display across the Soma household though, I may well be mistaken. Either way, they’re easily the most monstrous people we’ve seen outside of Akito.
This brings us to how Rin’s relationship with Haru grew over time, as he was one of the few who stood up for her when her parents cast her out, and continued to stay by her over the years. It also seems like the two started dressing in similar fashions, adopting cuffs and chokers that none-too-subtly hint at their situation within the Soma household.
Their relationship makes sense and feels like it grew organically over time, which leads to the one scene that just does not work for me in this episode. Haru has finally asked Rin to date him, and she’s hesitant because of what Akito might do. When Haru expresses his feelings, I just couldn’t buy it, because he’s acted with all the emotion of beige drywall. What’s worse, we SAW him become outright emotional in an earlier scene, even without his “dark” side coming through. For a scene that represents the start of Rin’s last period of happiness, it just feels weird.
By the end, we reach the moment where Rin receives her the large scar on her back, and resolves to find a way to break the curse and free herself and Haru from Akito. It’s another powerful scene, and further reinforces Akito’s utter disdain for the zodiac children. However, it raises a question I don’t think has been answered to my satisfaction – we know why the members of the zodiac can’t go against Akito, but what the ever-loving hell is Kazuma doing about this?!
I get that it’s complicated, and going to outside authorities is all but impossible because of the magical nature of the zodiac, but he’s allowed some unbelievable abuse to happen uncontested for years. He was the one who brought Rin to a hospital after her parents’ abuse and neglect left her unconscious, so he’s completely aware of what’s happened to her, not to mention Kyo and the others. He knows what Akito has done to Hatori, so why would he stand by without taking SOME action to fix this?
I’m sure some of this will be addressed in the future, but for now it makes me damn angry. So, credit to the writing and animation staff for making it so emotionally effective. While I definitely want some follow-up to this in the next episode, I hope we can return to some of the softer stuff in the near future, because it’s going to be hard going once all of this gets laid on the table.
This is one of the strongest, darkest episodes to date, even if the shift in tone may feel jarring alongside more lighthearted episodes. It made me reconsider my feelings on a character I’d come close to writing off, and reinvigorated my desire to see this all brought to conclusion, which I must admit had been waning a little. Hopefully the remainder of season two can hold up to this level of delivery.
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