Fruits Basket is a heartwarming, dramatic, and sometimes funny story. It hits you right in the feels by showing you the struggles of a family from the point of view of a teenage girl who feels as though she has none. It is an endearing tale about relationships and how both the good and bad ones can effect how you are as a person. It is the story about how someone can change your life with love and patience, so long as you allow them to.
Tohru Honda has lost both of her parents, her father when she was little and her mother in the past year. Her mother’s family does not claim responsibility for her and so independent Tohru finds herself living in a tent on a piece of property belonging to the well to do Sohma family. When the young Yuki Sohma, a shy young man who is very feminine in appearance, finds Toru on the property of his Uncle and guardian Shigure Sohma he invites her to come live with them.
After moving in with Shigure, Yuki and Kyo Sohma, the latter two being the main characters along with Tohru, it isn’t long before she discovers the ancient curse of the Sohma family. Twelve members of the family are cursed to change into one of the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac whenever they are hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Chained together by this strange bond like curse, the family struggles against it and Tohru takes it upon herself to find a way to break it.
If you read my first impression post where I talked about this series you will know that it didn’t immediately grow on me. Fortunately I felt obligated to read the first 12 or more volumes since I ordered the special collected edition version. Each book contains a lot more then a single volumes worth each one being the size of a 500 page novel.
I am so thankful for this accident as Fruits Basket only broke through the barrier of my heart sometime near the end of these first six books, when the true horrible nature of Kyo’s curse as the cat is fully revealed. Incidentally this reveal is the cap on the anime, which makes me super glad I read the manga first instead of watching the incomplete series from 2001.
What were some of the reasons that I didn’t care for the series as much before this point and what was it that finally won me over? I thought the story was initially cute, but I didn’t find myself personally invested in finding out what happened at the beginning. There were times I felt like I was missing little parts of the story, due to things lost in translation, something I experienced while reading Full Moon a couple years ago. Lastly was the art, which wasn’t bad to look at, but my best description of it was that it was cute as well. If I hadn’t ordered the collected editions I probably would still be working my way through this series.
When I reached the first big reveal in the series, I definitely began to become emotionally invested in the story. Kyo who I thought was immature and impulsively angry for no good reason, suddenly had a very good reason for acting like he did. At the same time though, he grew as a character after this part of the story and afterwards Kyo became one of my favorite members of the Sohma family.
I also feel as though both the story and the art began to flow better here. The story was still fun, but it also became an emotional ride filled with angst and dark secrets, along with happy moments and laughter that carried me forward even as it made the lives of the characters better. The art improved immensely, which I find to be incredible, as the Mangaka was plagued by a disabling illness in her drawing hand, forcing her to relearn how to draw midway through the series.
Each and every character gets their moment in the spot light. Something that isn’t always easy to do, when one wants a coherent and understandable story. There are so many characters in this story when one focuses on the main plot alone, due to the fact that there are 12 cursed Sohmas as well as the head of the family Akito, who takes on the role of their god in the story. Rather then simply just letting the side characters, like Tohru’s school friends, appear in the story to act as a believable background, they get their own mini arcs and we see them have their own development. Tohru’s own parents even get a multichapter back story. Despite this the story never felt overly cluttered to me. These side arcs and backstories are placed just right in the story, so that I never felt like they were disrupting or usurping the main plot, but rather just adding more color to the overall world in Fruits Basket.
Torhu’s best friends Uo and Hana, the rough and tough former gangster and creepy psychic respectively, actually became my favorite characters in the story. They act as motherly figures to Tohru and protect her from the possible advances of Kyo. They were each touched by Tohru and her selfless kindness, which helped them to accept who they are.
Like I mentioned in the beginning of this review, the main message of the story is about how the relationships in your life effect who you are as a person. A familiar saying is that you have to love yourself before you can love other people, but here its shown that before you can love yourself you have to be loved by someone else first. It makes sense, because if your told your worthless your entire life and never given a reason to believe otherwise, then why should you love yourself.
Akito is the main example of this, desiring the love of others, but unable to gain it through the harsh means used. Since Akito is unable to accept who he is, he doesn’t allow anyone else in his life to do this either and makes all their lives miserable. The entire Sohma family is a broken mess of parents and children that don’t know how to love each other anymore, due both to the curse and how the family is run. Only through Tohru and the love she shows people is this vicious cycle broken.
I highly recommend Fruits Basket, for a story that starts out like a reverse harem and with a main character that might appear a bit bland and kind of like a Mary Sue, it really has a great story and wonderful overall message. It starts out a bit slow in my opinion and definitely won’t appeal to everyone, but in the end I found it to be very satisfying and definitely worth a reread someday. Its hard to believe that I had a hard time starting this story and imagining that if circumstances had been different I may not have even finished it yet.
So, does this mean I’m going to watch the 2001 anime now, before the new 2019 anime comes out? I don’t think so. I kind of want to go about this backwards from how I experienced Fullmetal Alchemist, which was starting with the old series followed by Brotherhood and then reading the manga. I’m really excited to watch a brand new and complete version of this story, and if that colors my enjoyment of the first series, when I eventually watch it, then so be it. I think it will be an interesting pov that I hope you, my readers will enjoy reading.
Until Next Time, Always Make Your Heart Rainbow!