The 2001 adaptation of Fruits Basket really brought on a cheery disposition and made us forget how deep the story really goes until the final chapter of the anime that shows Akito’s meeting with Tohru. However, the 2019 anime adaptation of Fruits Basket more closely follows the manga, which we know goes much deeper than just a simple meeting and Tohru’s wish for the Sohma family to be released from the curse.
As the 2019 anime adaptation of Fruits Basket is currently airing, we have followed its progress and are reminded of many minor nuances in the manga that many of us have had the privilege to read on multiple occasions (it’s a definite favorite of this writer). As such, we are often reminded of the idea of happiness in Fruits Basket due to the oppressive nature of the Sohma main house. Through the manga and anime, we’ve seen each character as they live these stifling lives, but have we really put much thought into it beyond what we are shown? Today, we will be as we explore the idea of pursuing your happiness and self-preservation as seen in Fruits Basket.
Be warned, this article will dive into both the anime and the manga so if you haven’t read the manga yet, there will be spoilers.
Looking for an Outlet
For many of the characters, they start off with feelings of loneliness, inferiority, and abandonment, which is something that is typical with members of the zodiac who are usually treated terribly by people who know their secret or even abandoned by their loved ones. This leaves many of the Sohma family in search of an outlet for their emotions. Yuki cannot express his hatred for Akito directly and hates everything about his own existence, so he channels his hatred towards Kyo because Kyo has the freedom that he lacks. Kyo wants nothing more than to be accepted, something that the cat must deal with in every cycle, so he channels his hatred towards Yuki as Yuki is the mouse, the reason why the cat missed the banquet with God. Then there’s Hatsuharu who was shown as hating Yuki as a child for the misconception why everyone thinks Hatsuharu is stupid as the ox, so as a child, Hatsuharu spent his time hating Yuki.
Everyone had all of this anger and hatred that emanated from their mere existence as members of the Chinese zodiac that they sought to channel their feelings into something else. They found purpose somewhere else that kept them going. Sure, it wasn’t healthy, but it was their way of staying sane in the circumstances that they were given.
Living with Guilt
Next, we explore the idea of guilt. There are some characters of Fruits Basket who have lived a significant portion of their lives with guilt. Part of Kyo’s existence is related to guilt. Guilt over his existence. Guilt over the death of Tohru’s mother and feeling responsible for letting her down. Guilt over not admitting this to Tohru. Guilt over rejecting Tohru. Kyo is a character with many layers of guilt that erode away at his every being.
Then there’s Kagura, whose backstory is really brief, even in the manga, but it’s built up of guilt. Kagura began her friendship with Kyo as a way of making herself feel superior because Kyo’s existence was more wretched than her own. However, Kyo was aware of this and merely appreciated that someone would play with him, even if it was Kagura who consistently pushed him around. Then, one day, Kagura forced Kyo’s bracelet off and in turn, rejected Kyo’s true form. Since then, Kagura lived her life by forcing her feelings on Kyo in order to make up for her previous rejection of him. She lives her life with that guilt.
There are also characters like Kisa who feel guilty and ashamed of their own existence. Kisa is even bullied, which is where we meet her in the series, and she feels guilty and ashamed for it, so she rejects everyone in hopes of coping with her troubles herself, although this leads her to be unable to talk to others.
This character is not really seen in the original Fruits Basket anime that premiered in 2001, but if you’ve read the manga, you know him. Kureno is the one character in Fruits Basket whose curse was broken well before everyone else, and this occurred before the series even began. However, due to the great importance that Akito’s existence has in the Sohma house, Kureno could not bear to leave her side. As a result, Kureno ended up living the next decade in seclusion, only privy to brief moments of freedom and most of his interactions are with Akito. Kureno spends a good portion of his life suppressing his own happiness in favor of Akito, even if Akito is extremely volatile and violent. He chooses to protect Akito’s happiness instead of his own.
On the other end of suppressing happiness, Akito lives her life suppressing everyone else’s happiness, believing in the idea that her father fed her that she is all important and that no one can break into the circle of the zodiacs within the Sohma household. This leads Akito into really destroying many aspects of people’s happiness in order to protect this “haven” within the Sohma family. People whose mental health were nearly destroyed by Akito include Kana (Hatori’s fiance and a member of the Sohma family), Yuki, and Kyo. Let’s not forget that Akito has a rather nasty temper when it comes to other women as she has physically abused characters like Rin, whom she pushed out of a window. Akito rules with fear in the Sohma household in order to keep everyone chained to her, but that’s how she is able to really survive.
Seeking Someone Else’s Salvation
Shigure is actually a character who really tries his best at finding his own happiness without dealing harm to others for the most part. He lives his life throughout most of Fruits Basket seeking a way to break the curse and actually break the chains that bind the one he actually loves, Akira. However, Shigure appears as a bad guy in certain portions of the plot due to the cruel nature he presents when his goal may not go along with everyone else’s. He’s constantly pushing people one way or another in order for them to grow. This is similar to Rin who can be quite antagonistic throughout the manga, but she is striving to break the curse in order to free Hatsuharu, the man she loves most. These two characters aren’t looking for just their own happiness, though it may be a consequence of their actions; Rin and Shigure are striving to find a better future for the ones that they love, even if it means a lot of hardship on their end.
A Positive Light
One of the best ways to find happiness is shown by Momiji, the bouncing bunny boy of the Sohma family. Momiji lives his entire life making the best of out the situation that life has handed him, even if it means he may not get the best end of the deal. Momiji’s mother rejected his existence and so, her memory was erased so that she could live, but Momiji still watches over his mother and little sister from far away, dreaming of what could have been. Momiji wonders from time to time what might happen if his mother just tried a little harder, but that doesn’t stop him from relishes in life’s experiences like going to an onsen with everyone. He even loves the fact that Tohru accepts the curse and jubilantly jumps into her arms and cuddles with her. Out of all of the characters in the Sohma house, Momiji may have the healthiest way of life and coping with what cards life has dealt him.
It’s pretty important to mention Tohru in this section as she does a great job of living in spite of all the terrible things she’s had to deal with over the course of her life (parents dying individually, being homeless, falling off a cliff, etc). Tohru is usually quite positive and becomes a ray of light for many of the members of the Sohma household.
Life is pretty complicated throughout Fruits Basket for many of the characters, but they each find a way to live, even if it may not be the healthiest or the best way to live. However, each method of self-preservation keeps each individual moving forward. We could keep going on and on about many of the characters including Kyouko, Hana, or Machi, but it’s time to chat about your ideas. Do you identify with any of the characters of Fruits Basket? How do you feel about how each character and method of self-preservation is laid out in the series? Do you believe Takaya Natsuki does a good job at showing real life at its finest within the pages of Fruits Basket? Share all of your thoughts below!