Kindness, Understanding, and an Unbreakable Spirit
- Episodes: Ongoing
- Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Fantasy, Shoujo
- Airing Date: April 2019 – September 2019
- Studio: TMS Entertainment
Fruits Basket Preview (No Spoilers)
Tohru is a girl on her own. A tragedy befalling her mother had her sent to live with her grandfather. The old house needs to be renovated so she is forced to move. The always courteous Tohru doesn’t want to be an imposition on her other relatives so she tells her grandfather that she found another place to stay. She did not tell him, or any of her friends, that the new place to live was a tent in the woods. Tohru drags herself home from her work as a cleaning woman one night when she realizes that there is a home on the property. The home is that of the respected members of the Souma family, Shigure and Yuki the “Prince” of her class. She explains that she just happens to live nearby. The Soumas, however, are a little suspicious since there are nothing but acres and acres of woods nearby, acres they own. Tohru is eventually discovered and Shigure offers her a roof over her head for as long as she needs it. The real fun begins when their hot-tempered cousin Kyou arrives and picks a fight with Yuki. The chaos of the fight leads to her discovering the secret of the Souma family. When some of its members are embraced by the opposite sex, they transform in the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. The Soumas quickly learn that life doesn’t have to be one of guarded secrets as Tohru opens their hearts with acceptance and love.
Tohru Honda Highlights (Spoilers Beyond This Point)
1. Tohru the Empathetic
The idea of empathy isn’t necessarily en vogue in our self-centered society but Tohru is a wonderful example of that deep understanding of the human condition. The best example of this understanding is how she feels for the cat in the zodiac story. She felt personally slighted with the way the cat was treated by the rat. Tohru vowed that she wanted to change her birth year, as illogical as that sounds, to the year of the cat as a show of support to the maligned animal. She is also one of the first people to pick up on the feelings of others. The high school girl puts herself in the shoes of her zodiac friends like Yuki and Kyou who live with what they consider to be a curse and understands the isolation they must feel by literally keeping people at arm’s length to keep such a secret. She never for a moment lets it phase her that her friends and housemates can magically transform upon the embrace of a member of the opposite sex.
2. Tohru the Independent and Self-Reliant
We first meet Tohru standing beside her tent as she says goodbye to a picture of her mother, zipping up the flap, and running off to school with the same cheer and energy of any normal girl not living in a tent. She pays her own tuition which could be a minimum $600 per semester if she is going to a public school. If she is going to a private school it could cost $8,000 or more. She is even paying her living expenses and has a savings plan so she can live on her own after graduation (we imagine that she means in an apartment and not a tent) so she won’t be a burden on her grandfather. She is admirable. Tohru has the strength most of us wish we had.
3. Tohru the Overwhelmed
You’d imagine that someone living on their own and facing all the adversity that Tohru faces would be unflappable. Well, you’d be wrong. Tohru is quickly overwhelmed to the point of steam coming out of her ears and getting worry lines in the animation. We see examples of that in multiple episodes, like when her best friends get close to realizing she is living in a tent and not with relatives, or when she sees Yuki, Kyou and Shigure transform for the first time (though that is understandable). After she gets over the initial shock, she is able to recover and think rationally about the situation even if it involves shape shifting.
4. Tohru the Self Sacrificing
She is always worried about inconveniencing someone. We see that right from the beginning as she is living out of a tent instead of with relatives. Once discovered by the Soumas, she offers to pay them for the right to continue camping on their land. She even takes into account the family situations of her two best friends and decides against explaining her living situation so they won’t offer her a place to stay, even though they both would without a second thought. We think one of the most beautiful ways her self-sacrificing nature is illustrated is when Yuki explains to her that she may have her memories of their time together suppressed by the clan leaders in order to safeguard the secret. She says, “The way I see it, you might have no choice if the secret I found out is that important. So please do whatever will make you and your family feel the safest. The idea of forgetting does make me feel sad, but I will grin and bear it! If my memories do get erased please make friends with me again, okay?”
We aren’t supposed to insert too much of our own opinions in these articles, but a key part of this plot bothers me. Tohru is a child, a teenager, but a child. Her mother died. She has a family. We just don’t understand how any member of her family can refuse to take her in. I know in my family if anyone was down on their luck the rest of us would step up to shelter and take care of them; it’s just what family is supposed to do. She has never done anything to gather the ire of her relatives. Her mother may have had a falling out but that was her and Tohru is Tohru. We know that families have problems but what makes a family a family isn’t simply genetics, it’s whether we treat each other with compassion and understanding and stand as a pillar of support for a family member when they need it. The story of Fruits Baskets might be a parable using Tohru’s and the Soumas journey as a way to explain what it means to be a real family.