Like a Sohma sushi bar, Fruits Basket is keeping those introductions coming one after the other, as if by conveyor belt. Following Kisa’s introduction during last week’s episode, this week we’re introduced to the monkey of the zodiac: Ritsu. After Kagura, Ritsu is probably my second least favourite Sohma. It will come as no surprise to you, then, that I didn’t particularly like this episode. Despite that, I still have plenty to say about it!
Disclaimer: my dislike of Ritsu isn’t over his attire. He should wear whatever makes him feel most comfortable, and if that’s a kimono, more power to him! He looks stunning and it’s understandable that he’d feel more at peace in women’s clothing when he possesses qualities more typical of a woman: shy, demure, and deeply concerned over the opinion of other people.
No, my dislike of Ritsu stems from the way in which he’s handled. His shame and low self-esteem are almost always played off as a joke, with much Munch-esque screaming and cartoonish flailing. All that’s missing is a laughter track to tell you to laugh, laugh at this poor, anxiety-riddled monkey man!!! As with Mitchan’s suicidality and Kagura’s abusiveness towards Kyo, it kind of feels in poor taste, to joke about something so serious that so many people struggle with. Feel free to accuse me of having no sense of humour, but that’s how I feel! Ritsu’s case isn’t helped by the fact that, of all the Sohmas, he’s the one to make the fewest appearances and receive the least character development, meaning that you’re never really given the chance to warm up to him…
After accidentally destroying Shigure’s manuscript, Ritsu is overcome with a shame so great that he climbs up onto the roof, with plans to throw himself off of it. Tohru clambers up after him and manages to talk him down, promising that if Ritsu just keeps living, he will eventually find something or somebody to live for. Her speech is very touching, but I felt that much of its emotional impact was lost. That’s because, up until that point, Ritsu’s debasement of himself was played for laughs, but, all of a sudden, everybody’s crying and making these big emotional speeches. It was very jarring. It’s not the first time that the show has pulled an emotional 180. During episode 17, we were shown a scene where Tohru and Uo enjoyed some freshly baked muffins together. During the very next scene, Uo is brutally beaten by her fellow gang members. But where that episode benefitted from the contrast between the two, wildly different, scenes, this one did not. Maybe it’s that the humour of this episode fell flat or that it laid on the drama just a little too thickly… I’m not sure, but I’d love to hear what you think!
For those of you who haven’t read the Fruits Basket manga, it might surprise you to learn that there are a number of differences between Ritsu’s introduction in the manga and in the anime. The first is that, in the manga, Ritsu’s introduction actually happens much later on. Ritsu’s introduced after the sheep and after Kyo experiences a huge, life-changing event. I like this reordering of events for a couple of reasons. The first is that Ritsu’s story vaguely resembles Kisa’s. What we learned from Kisa is that you can only start to love and accept yourself once somebody else does. Ritsu embodies this. Ritsu’s shame stems from how readily his parents would apologise for his behaviour. Were they to have, instead, defended their son or shown that they were proud of him, once in a while, he may have turned out a little differently. Given this, it seems fitting that Ritsu’s introduction should follow after Kisa’s. The second reason is that this will also let the show’s first season end with a bang, by focusing on Kyo’s big life event.
A second difference is that, in the manga, when Tohru discovers that Ritsu is actually a man, Ritsu changes into men’s clothing. It’s such a small change, easy to miss, but I liked it. After all, his preference for women’s clothing isn’t anything to be ashamed about, so why need he change?
A third difference is that, in the manga, Tohru never follows Ritsu up onto the roof. Instead, Ritsu’s suicide attempt is foiled when he slips and, in keeping with his monkey nature, reflexively grabs onto the guttering and clambers up. The anticlimactic end to this scene is most amusing, so I’m kind of sad to see it cut in favour of drama that’s laid on just a little too thick. I think that if you’re gonna play Ritsu off as comic relief (and I still wish that they wouldn’t), you should at least be consistent about it!
Finally, in the manga, Ritsu doesn’t meet Mitchan until much later on. That Fruits Basket has already eluded to Ritsu finding the person who he can live for makes me think that he’s already received the bulk of his screen time. Who knows. But with many, more likable, Sohmas to devote screen time to, that may not be such a bad thing…
As always, thanks for joining me again this week. Tell me, what did you think of Ritsu? Are you more partial to him than I am? Look forward to hearing from you!
I think, given more to do, Ritsu might have been interesting. But this episode with Ritsu and Mitchan just crying and screaming fairly continuously it just wasn’t that interesting. It wouldn’t really bother me if that was the last we saw of Ritsu.
I kind of feel bad, putting down Ritsu, since part of the reason he is the way he is is because of how often other people would put him down, but, yeah, I wouldn’t be devastated if that were the last we saw of him.
Wow I didn’t know about those differences in the show compared to the manga. I agree, I like the small changes the show made.
I’ve always enjoyed picking out those little changes, thinking about what they add/take away from the overall story, and why they may have been made in the first place.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post!