The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 55 – Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket

Some people may notice that the title of this week’s anime has what could be seen as some grammatical problems. Do not worry, there is a reason for this. It is named after a child’s game in Japan in which the players are each given the name of the fruit and they have to move when their fruit is called out. This series features someone who is left out of this game.

Fruits Basket began as a manga that ran from 1998 to 2006, with an anime version made in 2001. As a result, the anime only covers part of the original manga, and the manga was published in English by a company that is no longer operating. However, it is still a nice entertaining anime. It mixtures comedy, romance and fantasy, as well as fitting into one of the anime-centric genres of harem – where one character, usually male, is surrounded by characters of the opposite gender. However, in Fruits Basket the central character is female, making this a “reverse harem”, like the later and more comedic Ouran High School Host Club (see No. 3).

The story begins with schoolgirl Tohru Honda, a girl who when younger was left out of a game of fruits basket by being given the name of something that was not a fruit. Tohru’s father died when she was young and her mother was killed in a car crash a few months prior to the story. Tohru decides to move in with her grandfather, but because his house is under renovation she has nowhere else to stay, so she does the obvious thing – she camps in a forest. After living like this for some time, she comes across a lone house near the wood while she walks on her way to school. She discovers that it is the residence of a family called the Shomas, one of whose residents, Yuki, is the most popular guy in school. They decide walking to school together, to the annoyance of Yuki’s many fans, but Tohru is protected by her two best friends, ex-biker Uotani and psychic Hanajima.

The Shoma family later discover that Tohru is camping and invite her into their house, which she accepts. Tohru gets along with Yuki, his older relative and novelist Shigure, and later short-tempered Kyo who cannot stand Yuki. However, Tohru discovers a terrible secret. The Shoma family is cursed. Under certain circumstances, usually when someone of the opposite gender hugs them, they transform into an animal, normally one in the Chinese zodiac. Yuki is the rat, Shigure is the dog, and Kyo is non-zodiac animal the cat, which according to the legend of the zodiac was left out after being tricked by the rat, hence his hatred of Yuki.

After the curse is revealed, the head of the family, the somewhat antagonistic Akito, allows Tohru to stay with the family provided she does not reveal the curse to anyone else. As the series progresses Tohru meets other members of the family and seems to become romantically involved with some characters, both with charming Yuki, and Kyo due to them both experiencing being left out of groups.

Fruits Basket is a very gentle tale for the most part. The music is quiet and peaceful, plus the animation is rather soft on the eye. However, there is action too. Kyo and Yuki are both trained in martial arts, with Kyo constantly wanting to beat Yuki in a fight. Akito is also very violent with certain members of the family, despite being physically frail himself.

The series is also entertaining as more members of the Shoma family are revealed. For example there is Momiji (the rabbit) who is very cute and somewhat androgynous – he wears a male version of a female school uniform for example; Kagura (the boar), a female member of the family who is madly in love with Kyo and insists she is engaged to him; Haru (the ox) who has a Ying/Yang personality, with his calm “white” form and his violent “black” form; Kisa (the tiger), another female member who is very shy and who Tohru helps to make more open; and Yuki’s older brother Ayame (the snake), a flamboyant costume maker who constantly annoys his younger sibling.

If you have seen Ouran High School Host Club you can recognise certain aspects of Fruits Basket that could be said to have been parodied by Ouran. Particular characters could be seen as distantly related. Momiji from Fruits Basket is very similar to Honey from Ouran for example in terms of personality and cuteness. They are even both voiced by the same actor in the original Japanese version (Ayaka Saito, who is a woman).

Some people might find the series a bit too fluffy for their liking, but others will find it fun, warm and charming, with the odd bit of excitement thrown in. The only major issue is that as the anime only covers part of the manga, with the manga revealing a lot more detail into the series. Some characters even end up a different gender than they do in the anime.

Fruits Basket is released on DVD by MVM Films.