The Legacy of Fruits Basket


The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

If you are an anime fan, it is likely that you have heard of Fruits Basket, a cult classic that is affectionately termed as Furuba. The manga was first published in 1998 and an anime series aired in 2001. I was too young then to experience the peak of the series’ popularity. However, thanks to the love and support of fans everywhere, it was rebooted after almost 20 years. Intrigued, I decided to give the reboot a watch.

At first, it seemed like just another fantasy romance anime that was fun and lighthearted. The main protagonist, Tohru Honda, meets the Sohma family that have been cursed to turn into cute Zodiac animals whenever they are hugged by the opposite sex. However, this silly set-up could very well be the first sign that there is more than what meets the eye. Natsuki Takaya, Furuba’s author, shifts our attention away from physical to emotional intimacy. With every episode, the characters reveal more and more of their backstories filled with pain and regrets.

It is said that for generations, certain members of the Sohma clan have inherited the Zodiac curse. When a Zodiac member dies, another from the next generation takes his or her place. In the series, all twelve members of the Zodiac are alive in the current generation. Tohru develops a relationship with Kyo Sohma, the Cat and the unofficial thirteenth member, who is outcast by the Zodiac. They live in a strict social hierarchy, controlled by the narcissistic and abusive family head who plays the role of God. However, unlike other fantasy stories with rich and layered worldbuilding, Takaya doesn’t elaborate much on the lore behind this relationship. What continues to tie them together is not at all supernatural but really, toxic emotional attachment that is very much human. The real curse is revealed to be intergenerational trauma where each of them must learn to heal their wounds, break the cycle and prevent repeating the mistakes of the past.

With that, it is no surprise that Furuba is well-known for writing fully fleshed out characters that are incredibly deep and complex. There is no stone left unturned, even with the side characters. One major plotline out of many is certainly Tohru and Kyo’s romance. Tohru is a typical Mary Sue who seems perfect and flawless. As a kind and docile female lead who is seen as desirable, she plays into a common character trope in Shoujo manga. However, we learn that Tohru has suffered much grief and anguish after the loss of her parents at a young age. Along with other traumatic and distressing incidents that have occurred in her life, she has adopted people-pleasing tendencies with a poor sense of boundaries. However, with the help of Kyo who helps her express her feelings, she overcomes her reckless abandonment of herself. Similarly, Kyo, with Tohru’s unconditional love and acceptance, learns to put aside his anger and insecurity. He lets go of his fears and accepts Tohru’s affections. Just as writer Petrana Radulovic puts it, Kyo submits to the “mortifying ordeal of being known” and enjoys the “rewards of being loved”.

Many fans who have resonated with Furuba can agree on its relevance and significance, and why it has enjoyed such longevity and success. Although it deals with challenging topics, the world of Furuba remains warm and comforting, showing how love and forgiveness prevail in spite of hatred and resentment. If you are looking for a heartwarming series with impactful messages, going beyond the one-dimensional stereotypes that are often seen in manga and anime, you might want to consider adding Furuba to your Netflix watchlist.

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