Fruits Basket is an anime series based on the shojo manga written and illustrated by Natsuki Takaya. The anime series only covers the first eight volumes of the manga, since the manga was still ongoing during the production of the anime. The title for the series comes from a popular children’s game that’s played in Japan.
The anime was produced by Studio Deen and was directed by Akitaro Daichi. It aired on Japanese television from July 5-December 27, 2001. As of this writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American distribution license for Fruits Basket.
Tohru Honda is the main character of Fruits Basket; she’s a high school girl who was orphaned after her mother died in a car accident. Tohru lived with her grandfather until remodeling needed to be done on his house. Tohru ends up living in a tent in the woods, with her clothes and a picture of her mother being her main possessions.
While heading to school one day, Tohru discovers that her classmate Yuki Sohma, lives in a house near her tent. When Yuki and his cousin Shigure discover that Tohru is living in a tent that’s on Sohma property, they are surprised by her inner strength. They feel sorry for Tohru and offer her a place to stay in exchange for cooking and housework. After Tohru’s tent is buried by a landslide, and the Sohma cousins retrieve her belongings, Tohru has no choice but to accept their offer.
Tohru comes to discover that the Sohma family has a secret, and why Yuki is so secretive at school. 13 members of the Sohma family are possessed by the 12 animal spirits of the Chinese Zodiac, as well as the spirit of the cat that was left out of the Zodiac. The members of the Sohma family that are possessed by the curse transform into animals when they are hugged by a member of the opposite gender, are under a great amount of stress, or are weak in any way. Tohru promises to keep the family’s secret, and she can keep her memories instead of having them hypnotically erased.
During the 26 episodes of the series, most of the Sohma family members who have the curse are introduced: Yuki (the rat), Shigure (the dog), Kyo (the cat), Kagura (the pig), Momiji (the rabbit), Hatori (the dragon), Hatsuharu (the ox), Ayame (the snake), Kisa (the tiger), Hiro (the goat), and Ritsu (the monkey). Because the anime only covers the first eight volumes of the manga, the characters who represent the horse and the rooster do not appear in the anime series. Akito, the head of the Sohma clan, also makes appearances in the anime series.
Tohru has two friends: former gang member Arisa Uotani and psychic girl Saki Hanajima. They are very loyal to Tohru, but neither of them know the Sohma family’s secret. In the anime version of the story, there’s an episode that features several instances where Arisa and Saki almost find out.
Even though Yuki is secretive at school, he has attracted the attention of many of the girls at school. A group of girls has dubbed themselves “The Prince Yuki Fan Club,” and they’re none too pleased to see Tohru and Yuki around each other at school.
I have had the opportunity to see all the entire Fruits Basket anime series and to read all the Fruits Basket manga series, although I saw the anime before reading the manga. Overall, the anime was well done, considering that the manga was still ongoing when the anime was being produced.
However, since reading the manga, I have come to feel that the “fake ending” given to the anime isn’t a very good ending. There are also story elements that appeared in the first eight volumes of the Fruits Basket manga that were either changed or removed completely from the anime.
Even with that, I still think that overall, the Fruits Basket anime series is good for what it is. I especially appreciated how both the anime and the manga touched on themes such as rejection and acceptance, gender stereotypes and identity, and suppression. The characters in the world of Fruits Basket are also very endearing to the viewer, and keep viewers engaged in the story. This endearment and engagement make viewers want to continue watching the series to find out what happens to them next.
Fruits Basket is one of the best shojo anime series that I have personally seen. However, I would recommend that if you watch the Fruits Basket anime series, that you should also read the Fruits Basket manga series in order to get the full impact of the story. For me, reading the manga series added to my appreciation of the story of Fruits Basket.
Now word has come out that there will be a Fruits Basket reboot anime series coming in 2019 that will cover the story of the entire manga. From the teaser images, it looks like that stylistically, the reboot will be rather faithful to the design of the characters, although the designs have obviously been modernized. I can’t wait to watch this reboot and see how it compares with the original Fruits Basket anime.