Plot: Tohru Honda is an incredibly polite and kind girl. She’d never want to bother anybody or impose. That is why, when her mother died, she decided to live in a tent in the woods instead of bothering anybody for a place to stay. That is until a boy named Yuki Sohma and his cousin Shigure found her in the woods.
They decide to take her in after she falls ill and she accidentally discovers the Sohma family secret; they have been cursed with the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Whenever they get hugged by a member of the opposite sex or if they fall under a good deal of stress, they transform into an animal of the Chinese Zodiac. Only 13 members of the family have this curse. Yes, 13. 12 of the regular zodiac plus the cat from the stories. Usually they have a person’s memory erased when they discover the secret, but the family leader Akito has decided to leave her be as long as she promises to keep their secret. Now living with Shigure, Yuki and the cat Kyo under the condition that she be their housekeeper, Tohru does everything she can to help them while learning of the darker side of the curse.
Breakdown: If you want a feel-good anime with tons of comedy and touching moments, watch this show. It’s hilarious, it’s emotional, it has plenty of good life lessons and advice and if you’re into it, it’s technically a reverse harem. Hooray!
I love this anime with all my heart. It’s definitely one of my absolute favorites. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s without its flaws, most notably with the ending. The last two or three episodes take a really drastic turn in mood. Kinda like how Angelic Layer was really bright and happy-go-lucky until the final two episodes. Fruits Basket has plenty of drama, some of it stemming from the Sohma family curse and some from other sources, but, for the most part, it’s a really light-hearted comedy show. The final three episodes, however, are much darker compared to the rest of the show.
I won’t spoil anything, but let’s just say there’s a bigger secret beyond Kyo’s chosen zodiac animal that changes the entire game.
The actual show ends on a light note, but not before a ton of very heavy scenes.
Now, if the change in tone doesn’t bother you, the actual ending might.
We end with Akito confronting Tohru and he actually starts assaulting her until she talks him down. She’s allowed to stay with the Sohmas despite now knowing all of their secrets and accepting Kyo for who he is.
The problems are thus: 1) We never get a resolution to the curse. The curse never gets lifted from the family. Thus it kinda ends on a cliffhanger. 2) We never get to meet the other members of the zodiac that are as of now manga exclusive. We never meet Rin (Hatsuharu’s girlfriend. She’s the horse of the zodiac) or Kureno (The rooster of the zodiac. However, some have speculated that the little bird that’s always around Akito is actually Kureno, but that’s debatable. Why would Kureno be transformed all the time? What would trigger the transformation anyway? And, even if it was, we still never get to meet the actual character.)
I’m really not one to harp on differences between manga and anime. Even if I prefer one medium’s version over another, I realize that some stuff has to be changed because of the shift in medium. However, completely cutting two major characters and leaving us hanging, even if there is a slight resolution with hope for the future, just seems like a bit of a rip off.
Another issue that might be brought up is the fact that Akito got a gender change for the anime. In the manga, Akito’s a woman who is forced to grow up and act like a man so that she can be the head of the family. In the anime, Akito’s a guy.
I’d really like to see a season two of the show where we get to continue on alongside the manga, maybe a semi-short OVA, but I doubt that’d ever happen….Well, Inuyasha eventually continued so maybe there is hope.
END OF SPOILERS
Despite those issues, I still really enjoyed the anime. Let me go through the characters for completion sake.
Tohru Honda: Tohru is an incredibly nice and caring girl who never does anything in her own interests (Even to the point of making herself so stressed that she makes herself sick several times). However, this makes her a tiny bit annoying as she’s pretty much a doormat. She never sticks up for herself and never gets angry. Ever. This is why I dislike her pairing with Kyo. Kyo may get nicer as he goes along with Tohru, but he still yells around and at her constantly and he’s even physically hurt her on occasion. Not on purpose, of course, but still. She never sticks up for herself, so it really seems like a slightly abusive relationship.
Yuki Sohma: The rat of the zodiac, Yuki is incredibly smart, kind and gentle. Because of this, he is loved by all of the student body at his school and is even hailed as “Prince Yuki.” He even has his own fanclub called the Prince Yuki Fanclub. I really like Yuki even if he seems somewhat blunt sometimes. I much prefer pairing him with Tohru over Kyo, but in the manga he gets his own girlfriend so there’s that.
Shigure Sohma: The dog of the zodiac, Shigure is a published writer who’s as goofy as he is perverted. I adore Shigure. He’s just such a fun character, and he’s really one of those characters that you think you’d love to know if they actually existed.
Kyo Sohma: The cat of the zodiac, Kyo gets treated like crap in the family (but at least better than the previous cat who was basically imprisoned) because the cat is seen as the outcast in the zodiac and not even an official member. Because of this, Kyo’s a bit of a defensive jerk. He’s loud, mean and rude, but can be nice when he actually tries. He has a long standing rivalry against Yuki. It seems like he hates him, but he’s actually fairly jealous of him and vice versa.
Kagura Sohma: The boar of the zodiac, Kagura is deeply in love with Kyo and wants nothing more than to marry him as he ‘promised’ when they were younger. She seems to have two sides to her. One that is incredibly shy and kind and another that is basically like a rampaging boar. I really liked Kagura and would prefer her with Kyo over Tohru. At least Kagura would be able to deal with him if he went off the handle.
Momiji Sohma: The rabbit of the zodiac, Momiji is an energetic and spirited boy who gets excited over practically anything. Despite his child-like appearance, he’s actually 15 years old. Momiji actually has one of the sadder pasts in the series, but that doesn’t stop him from making the most out of his life. I really love Momiji even if he doesn’t get to be a little too much sometimes.
Hatori Sohma: The dragon of the zodiac, Hatori actually turns into a seahorse when he transforms (this is because a seahorse is called the dragon of the sea) Hatori is actually seen as evidence that the curse is slowly fading because he doesn’t turn into an actual dragon (I guess that means that the dragons before him were actual dragons. That must’ve been a lot more awkward…) Hatori is the family doctor and also possesses the ability to erase the minds of anybody that learns of their secret. Hatori also has a pretty sad backstory and is a really likable character. Poor guy, though.
Ayame Sohma: The snake of the zodiac, Ayame is a flamboyant man with long silver hair and bright yellow eyes. He’s actually Yuki’s older brother, but Yuki doesn’t really like him much. Ayame was best friends with Hatori and Shigure in high school and they still very much hold their dynamic. Ayame’s a fun character, but I don’t much care for his loud background music.
Hatsuharu Sohma: The cow of the zodiac, Hatsuharu also has a bit of a dual personality problem, only much worse than Kagura. He has two sides to him, white and black. When he’s white Haru he’s very mild mannered and kind. When he’s black Haru he’s very loud, rough and blunt. Haru’s my favorite character. His character design is really cool, his character’s awesome and Justin Cook plays him so well it’s amazing. I can’t watch that scene where he turns black in episode 13 enough.
Kisa Sohma: The tiger of the zodiac, Kisa is an incredibly quiet girl who is SO ADURRRRABLLLLLLLL. ❤ Not much to say about her but she’s SO KYUUUTTT….*cough*
Hiro Sohma: The ram/sheep of the zodiac, Hiro’s a brat. He’s even more annoying than Kyo. Hiro’s only at his nicest when he’s around Kisa, whom he has a crush on, but even that’s not really nice. Again, this seems like an abusive relationship waiting to happen. Hiro’s even more of a jerk than Kyo and Kisa’s more quiet and reserved than Tohru…
Ritsu Sohma: The monkey of the zodiac and the final zodiac member we ever meet, Ritsu is a crossdresser that has no self-confidence. No matter what he does, if something bad happens at all, he flails around the room going crazy asking for forgiveness and saying he’s sorry. Ritsu’s okay, but he gets annoying after a while. I guess it’s a good thing he’s only in one episode.
Uo: Uo is one of Tohru’s best friends. She really looked up to Tohru’s mom and even sometimes takes the guise of her mom’s old gang uniform mask. Uo is very much a tomboy who keeps the bullies, such as the Prince Yuki Fanclub away from Tohru. However, she’s still incredibly kind and a great friend to Tohru.
Hana: Hana is Tohru’s other best friend. She’s a monotone psychic who is also incredibly protective of Tohru and will send out her psychic energy to any that threaten her. Hana’s actually very funny because she keeps bringing this creepy deadpan monotone humor to this otherwise lighthearted show. Despite seeming creepy to many, she’s actually very kind and loving.
Akito Sohma: The ‘god’ of the zodiac and the head of the Sohma family, Akito has caused more than his fair share of despair across the family. He’s an incredibly skinny and frail person who likes keeping his family under his thumb. Akito’s a bit of a psycho, bit of a jerk and pretty scary, but that’s his purpose.
Art: The art is great and pretty unique. Both the character designs and the backgrounds are wonderful to look at. The animation is also fluid and lovely.
Music: The music, for the most part, is lighthearted and cheerful, but there are some upbeat tracks to it. The soundtrack is great and yet another CD I’d gladly own.
Voice acting: Dub wise, I’m not much of a fan of Aya’s or Ritsu’s voices, but that might just be me. Everyone else is spot on and perfect for their roles. Sub wise, Yuki’s voice always seemed way too girly and high pitched for me. I get that he’s a gentle boy, but he has gone through puberty, people.
Bottomline: Most of the characters are really likable in some way and many are so likable I wish I could know them in real life. The story is engaging and entertaining. This is one of those anime that I could watch over and over again and never get tired of it. I recommend everyone to give it a shot, but don’t get your hopes up too high about the ending.
Additional Information and Notes:
Fruits Basket is based off of a manga by Natsuki Takaya. The anime adaptation was directed by Akitaro Daichi who also directed Kodomo no Omacha and Animation Runner Kuromi. It was written by Higuchi Tachibana and produced by Studio Deen.
Funimation currently holds the licensing rights to the English Dub in the US.
Recommended Audience: There are some hints of nudity because the zodiac members don’t transform back to humans with their clothes on. However, you honestly can’t see anything. Kyo swears a bit and the ending is pretty heavy in tone. 10+