As Yuki searches for Kyo, Akito attacks Tohru for her imagined role in leading the zodiac to abandon her. Tohru reaches out to Akito, offering compassion instead of forced adoration or resentment, and it seems like there may be a way forward. However, a tragic accident leaves Tohru in danger as the boys rush back to help her.
At last we’re getting to it, folks – Akito’s lowest point and her path towards destruction or some form of redemption opening up. Considering how she literally stabbed Kureno in the back on top of all the other abuse she has dealt out to the zodiac and others, that is a thorny path to walk. Things don’t start off well when she lashes out at Tohru, projecting all of her insecurities and traumas onto this girl who is still coming to terms with her own pain and loss. As ever, Akito needs someone to hurt, and from her perspective, Tohru’s perfect friendship with the zodiac children who are supposed to love Akito alone is the excuse she needs.
Unsurprisingly, Tohru responds to this attack with empathy, connecting with the loneliness that has consumed Akito. Both of them are suffering from the loss of people close to them, but where Tohru pushes her grief down only for it to eat away at her from within, Akito has always struck outward, taking out her fear of abandonment on others until the bonds that held them together finally began to break. These are two traumatized people responding in opposing, destructive ways, and the contrast between their response is on full display here.
After awhile, Akito’s anger begins to fade, and Tohru tries to reintroduce herself, hoping that they can start out in a place of understanding. As this happens, an accident leaves her injured at the bottom of the same cliff that collapsed on her tent in the beginning of the show, so long ago. Drawn by Akito’s shouts for help, Yuki and Kyo arrive, and we see Tohru’s thoughts as she faces her own inner struggle.
Tohru has been bottling up her grief for so long, and has only recently been able to express it, largely thanks to Kyo seeing through her eager-to-please disposition. She’s constantly taken on the burden of others’ feelings and struggles, weighing herself down and taking joy in helping them solve their problems rather than facing her own. Part of this was due to survivor’s guilt, and the sense that if she allowed herself to carry on and find new happiness after her mother’s passing, it would mean abandoning her memory. At last, it becomes clear that Tohru is ready to truly begin allowing herself to be happy and want things for herself.
Wrapping up an episode jam-packed with emotional actualization, we eventually come back to Akito, who is finally expressing a measure of remorse for the harm she’s caused. It’s finally acknowledged that the unconditional kindness shown by Kureno and others played a part in Akito becoming so dependent on their attention and isolated from the others. She never had to temper herself or change her behavior, because they would always absolve her of the responsibility.
I’m glad we’re finally approaching things from this standpoint, because I have a serious bone to pick with the older members of the zodiac and those around them. Kureno in particular was the one person who had both the desire to help Akito and the ability to stand up to her, and yet he failed to guide her away from her worst impulses. While Akito bears the final responsibility for what she did, Kureno’s naivete let her keep hurting others, and it’s refreshing to see that even Akito seems to realize that.
This entire climax, and this episode in particular, have been masterfully handled so far. The worries I’ve had are being addressed, and the emotions are running high. It’s 100% bare-your-feelings shoujo, and it absolutely works. Considering the number of episodes left in the season and the depth of suffering everyone went through, my only concern at this point is whether we’ll have enough time to cover how the rest of the zodiac responds to the changes that are underway. With luck, we’ll find out very soon.
Episode 9 is a great climax to the emotional arc of the show, beautifully acted and visually rich. We’re seeing the self-reflection and poignancy that has been building up for three whole seasons, and the creators are definitely nailing the landing so far. Here’s hoping they continue to do so as we explore what comes next.