Accessing and watching anime has gotten a whole lot easier thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and many others. When the mood struck to watch anime one evening, I browsed the selection of anime on Hulu and found all episodes of Fruits Basket available for streaming. This was the perfect opportunity to watch a shojo anime I only caught a few episodes of many years ago, but only now got to watch from start to finish.
Fruits Basket, based on the shojo manga by Natsuki Takaya, is about an orphan girl named Tohru Honda who recently lost her mother in a car accident. When the house she’s staying at has to undergo some renovations, Tohru tells her grandfather she has friends she can stay over with during this time period. Unbeknownst to Tohru’s family and friends, she pitches a tent in the middle of the woods and resides there instead. What Tohru believes is an uninhabited piece of the great outdoors is actually private property belonging to the Sohma family and not too far from a house her classmate Yuki Sohma lives in with eccentric novelist Shigure Sohma.
At the insistence of Yuki and Shigure, they offer their place for Tohru to stay in until the renovations at her grandfather’s place is complete. Simple enough until Tohru accidentally stumbles upon a Sohma family secret––each member of the Sohma family are possessed by an animal spirit belonging to the Chinese zodiac. When a Sohma family member is hugged by the opposite sex, they instantly transform into the animal they’re possessed by. This naturally leads to a whole lot of funny moments and overall cuteness occurring between the Sohmas and Tohru.
Much of the anime is spent introducing nearly all of the Sohma family members possessed by the zodiac to Tohru and learning their unique personality traits and individual backstories. The story mainly focuses on Tohru’s interactions and friendships between Yuki, who is posessed by the spirit of the rat and Kyo, who is possessed by the spirit of the cat. Capping out at 26 episodes, most of the anime remains fun and lighthearted. Any somber or serious tones this anime takes rarely hovers over an episode for too long before it switches gears to become much more positive or happy again. The only time the anime stays in slightly darker territory is in the last three episodes when the terrible side effect of being possessed by the cat is revealed to Tohru, and Kyo wrestles with the deep seated trauma of having to carry it around since childhood.
Revisiting the anime and actually having a chance to finish it has been a nostalgia trip. I only ever got a chance to watch the first two episodes of the anime around my college days because I bought the DVD a long time ago, which only had a few episodes on it. Before streaming services existed, the only way I was able to watch any of the anime I was interested in meant I had to buy them. This can be a little problematic because you’re gambling with the possibility of either spending your money on a really great series or later being disappointed by an anime if the viewing experience is only average at best. I’m truly grateful for almost always finding an anime I want to watch on Netflix or Hulu. It saves me money and additional shelf space when I can just stream it over the Internet. Hooray for modern technology!
Fruits Basket is exactly what I’d expect from most shojo animes––sweet, fun, and a mostly feel good viewing experience. I remember reading on the Internet a long time ago people expressing their irritation over main heroine Tohru. At times she comes off as a naive, passive, and people pleaser simpleton which is true to a certain extent. Even Kyo often calls Tohru out for being too accommodating and not being assertive enough when some people may push her around, like in the episode where they introduced another member of the Sohma family, Hiro. Hiro is a bratty kid who upon meeting Tohru demands and bullies her relentlessly. Throughout much of the abuse Tohru takes from a young kid, she barely talks back or chastises Hiro for disrespecting her. The episode does eventually explain why Hiro treats Tohru the way he does, but it is beyond frustrating to watch Tohru take that from a mere rugrat. As submissive and weak Tohru appears to be, to her credit, I think what she does have is emotional strength.
Losing her mother and putting up with an aunt, uncle, and cousin who constantly see her as an inconvenience when she lives with them and their grandfather you’d think there isn’t much to smile about. But for Tohru, she doesn’t let any of the sadness or negativity get to her. She’s willing to see the brighter side of life, is open to seeing the good in people, and she does it with a smile on her face. Someone like Tohru has to be emotionally strong to shake off whatever bad attitude or ill will they throw at her. She doesn’t succumb to any of it even when she’s faced with Kyo’s deep dark secret at the end of the anime. This is why watching each episode always leaves me in a better mood and with a smile on my face. It’s a reminder that no matter how rough life can get, life isn’t so bad that you can’t find something good or to be happy about. The only minor issue I have with Fruits Basket is the anime sort of ends kind of abruptly.
At the time the anime was made, the manga itself was still ongoing. I’m not entirely sure why there was never another season made for Fruits Basket, but it just sort of ends without any real resolution. The final episode does end on a positive note, a sense of hope suspended in the air for all the characters, but it really doesn’t answer some questions raised by the anime. Being a shojo anime, there is a love triangle between Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki. Again, not much is resolved with this either but it does hint at who Tohru will end up with. I did collect the manga for Fruits Basket at one point, but never really got all the volumes. As much as I enjoyed reading the manga then, it may be harder for me to find the rest of the volumes now because the series is kind of old and has long since published the final volume. Doing a quick search on the web did confirm for me who Tohru ends up with in the manga, which is what the anime sort of clues the viewer on based on how Tohru interacted with Kyo and Yuki.
I would have liked to have seen maybe one more season of Fruits Basket to have the story and characters tied up a little bit better, but the abrupt ending of the anime wasn’t so bad to leave me dissatisfied with where it ended. If I ever get the chance to find the rest of the volumes of the manga, I can always read it. If you’re ever interested in an anime that’s cute, funny, and leaves you on a positive note then give Fruits Basket a shot.
Reviewer Rating: 8.5/10