In some ways this is not a good set of three volumes to review together, because they contain bits of several story arcs - vol. 11 continues the story of the summer vacation by the sea, whereas the other two are about the fall term at school. But vol. 10 really did end on a rather momentous note, so it seemed OK to break off blogging there. And really, there are unifying themes among these three volumes: Kyo and Tohru are becoming aware of their feelings for each other, while Yuki is exploring his new-found strength.
As the vacation draws to a close, Akito decides to confront first Kyo and then Tohru. The deeply sad and dark scenes that follow reveal the heart of the ties that bind the dysfunctional family together, and it seems as though nothing will ever be normal - or what passes for normal with the Sohmas - again. But when Shigure's household arrives back home - to find Ayame waiting for them, as flamboyant as ever - things quickly slip into schooltime routine. Nevertheless, Tohru, inspired to action by her experiences over the summer, can't leave the subject of the Sohma curse alone, and her investigations put her into some uncomfortable situations. Meanwhile, teacher-parent conferences are in store for her, Kyo, and Yuki: as the equivalent of rising high school seniors in the U.S., they need to consider whether they're going to university or not. Their teacher, Mayu, has her hands full as an assorted succession of Sohma adults show up in turn to talk to her about the kids. Volume 13 culminates with the senior class trip.
Well, if anyone need additional excuses for hating Akito, they'd have them here. The steaming, malodorous hypocrisy and smug cruelty of the scene where Akito tells Kyo that as a monster, he has no right to love - and then coos about loving him - and then is seen washing his hands: "I feel sick after touching him so much" - just takes my breath away, I'm so angry. The scene with Tohru is more shocking, but less repulsive - because Akito loses it, and I think the reason is the whole interaction with Momiji. The idea that one of the Zodiac Sohmas could defy Akito - and that Tohru dared to step in to defend him - clearly pushed him over the edge. And I am going to give up saying "him" for Akito at this point: the whole business of deliberately and viciously scratching Tohru on the cheek, rather than punching or striking her, screams "woman!!!" to me, and once I'd got to that point, it was hard to ignore little spoilerish bits I couldn't help seeing while searching for icon art online.
That whole business - where Momiji is the only one who can stand up to Akito, possibly because she hasn't yet singled him out for "special treatment" as she has with the other teens (like the readers, she probably forgets how old he actually is), and then where we see all the other kids hiding behind the curtains, cringing, relieved that Hatori and Shigure have been summoned, ashamed that they couldn't make themselves do it - clearly shows the nature of the head of the family's connection to the Zodiac members, more than any of Akito's boastful, jealous ravings to Tohru.
After that, the softness of the fireworks scene - the desperate attempts to lose themselves in a last bit of summer joy, even while Tohru's and Momiji's bandages are constant reminders of what has happened - is especially poignant. And there's an odd power in Tohru's last words in vol. 11: "I want to protect the path that everyone is walking with all the power I can muster" - simply because it's coming from this painfully naive girl with a bandage on her face.
The scene with Kyo and Kagura, where Kagura confesses that her motives for "loving" Kyo were always less than pure, and then he basically tells her that although he's grateful for her support, he doesn't really like her that much, doesn't affect me as much as I think it was meant to. Part of it is that I've always been shocked at and impatient with Kagura ever since I found out how old she is.
The situation with Rin and Hatsuharu is much more interesting to me. Rin is also a couple of years older than her cousin, but that never seems to have meant much to either of them. It's becoming more and more obvious that Rin cares about her cousins - and their new outsider friend - much more than she will let on, and in fact, much more than she can stand. And Hatsuharu's scene with her, when he comes upon her berating Yuki - is powerfully emotional and quite sexy. Yes, on the face of it, Hatsuharu deserves to be slapped for kissing her against her will - but he's suffering too, and he's not, in general, taking it out on others. Then there's his conversation with Shigure, which - in combination with Shigure's antics at Tohru's teacher-parent conference - have given me a lot of thoughts about Shigure that I think are going to end up being a bit of fanfic, because so much of it is speculation and projection on my part.
I'm noting once again that a lot of the characters' moods in these types of scenes are expressed mostly by means of really effective body language. The faces are really very simplistic, but somehow Takaya manages to combine them with body posture, lighting, etc. to be very expressive.
Mayu has a lot to think about with her Sohma (and Sohma-allied) students, doesn't she? The invisible 5,000-lb gorilla during Kyo's conference - "Sensei, there's no point in discussing my future, because next year my family's planning to lock me up in a dark room for the rest of my life" - is horrific and comic at the same time. And then there's Aya's showing up at Yuki's conference: God bless the queen! I really wanted to kiss him! I don't think we've ever seen him with that serious a face before, when he basically tells their mother, ever so politely, to shut the hell up. And then he blushes when Yuki says he's reliable, and not a good-for-nothing. Awww! And Mayu ends up on the phone (Aya's phone - I love the marginal notes!) with Hatori, commiserating with him - just as Shigure would have wanted.
And ... Momiji breaks me down again. I get emotionally affected by this series over and over again, but Momiji is the only one who makes me actually tear up. I think it's precisely because he's so damn perky that I find him annoying a good deal of the time, so when he's actually sad, it really knocks me for a loop. This time it was mainly the scene where Tohru, having encountered Momo and slipped into the Sohma estate, talks to him about his little sister, and he reveals how he's had to stop taking violin lessons. He's so cheerfully bratty about it at first - sticking out his tongue, brazening it out: "I've been slacking on it since I started high school ... ." And then when Tohru tells him about how Momo wants to see him, wants him to be her brother ... and he gets all red, and says he's happy, so happy .... and he's crying. > sniff! <
(And then when I was re-reading before writing this, I suddenly noticed that after the Tohru vs. Akito scene, when Momiji's brought Shigure and Hatori, and Tohru runs to him asking if he's OK, and he's looking helpless and miserable in the rain, and he starts crying ... she grabs him, and of course, he bunny-fies. And then Shigure - of all people - smiles and says, fondly, "Don't let him catch cold!" as she cuddles him ... . Aaakh! Momiji, you're going to kill me at this rate!)
Another scene that really got me - just with a hard punch to the heart, no tears - was after Tohru's Sohma estate adventure, when she's sitting on the roof, and Kyo comes to sit by her and starts worrying about whether she's fallen in love with someone - else. And he says that when she does - not if - he'll "cooperate." Oh Kyo, you sweet dumb lunk.
I feel like I've gone on forever about this at this point ... I'll just wrap up the class trip quickly. Most of it is, as the Mr. put it when I was wibbling to him about it, "texture." But there was one really cute bit - the poor kittycat, hopelessly attracted to Kyo and offended when he pays attention to Tohru instead - and a couple of important bits. One was the degree to which the trip was torture for Kyo because of the constant crowding - he's not used to it, and there's the constant danger of his transforming. The other was that Tohru finally starts to get a clue about her feelings for him: when he stalks off after she's scolded him for being cold to the cat, and she runs after him anxiously and catches his hand, and he turns, and - smiles. And she just stands there, gob-smacked. And then he volunteers to take her shopping - "You wanna kill some time ... with me?" And she just glows. And as he picks up the wallet she's dropped, she thinks "It's a mystery. Because of a single sentence .... I get shaken ... or I get happy." Well, yes, Tohru, you silly goose ...!
Anyway, the series continues to turn me into a heap of goopy mush. I'm not real girly, but I sure as hell am sentimental.