Fruit Basket article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 5, No. 5, April 2002
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
Natsuki Takaya's Fruits Basket is a silly, serious, supernatural, high school situation comedy with just the right amount of action and romance. It's Ranma ½ done shojo style.
Tôru is a chipper girl who secretly lives alone in tent because her widowed mom passed away. On her way to school, she discovers a house nearby and is attracted to a display of Chinese zodiac* figures on the porch. A young man comes out, surprised to see her. They discuss the figures, sharing the old story about why there's no cat in the zodiac. Tôru's mom used to tell her the tale...God told all the animals to come to a party the next day, but the trickster rat told his neighbor, the cat, that the party was the day after next. So everyone had a good time, except the cat.
Since then, Tôru's always wanted to be a cat, instead of a dog. The man asks, since she was born in the year of the dog, does he seems familiar? He's a dog, too. This gains the man a whap on the head with a bookbag. Thus enters Yuki Sôma, Tôru's classmate who is very popular. He's so popular, just walking to school with him gets Tôru in trouble with Sôma's fans. Tôru is rescued by her unusual friends. Between Uotani's biker gang aura and Hanajima's creepiness, Sôma's fans scatter.
After school, Tôru runs into Sôma, who mentions overhearing something about wanting to be a cat. He declares cats are stupid and ill-natured, then explains the real zodiac was just a measure of time, having nothing to do with animals or personal traits. When asked if he hates cats, he smiles enigmatically then notices how pale she seems. With an odd intensity, he asks her to take care.
At work, Tôru reflects on her situation. Her mom's hard work to care for her instilled a strong sense of responsibility and self-reliance in Tôru. When her mother died, Tôru moved in with her grandfather, but soon, he decided to renovate the house. He asked her to stay with friends, but with one in a one-room apartment and the other in a family of five, Tôru couldn't bring herself to burden them. So she lives in the tent.
While Sôma and his cousin Shigure are on a walk, discussing their messy, bachelor life, they spot Tôru and follow her to her tent. She's mortified to discover she's on their land and offers to pay rent, but nearly passes out --she's ill from over-exertion. Then there's a landslide which takes out Tôru's tent! Between her fever and buried home, the guys insist she stay. The next day, after mysteriously managing to retrieve her stuff, they offer her a room in exchange for cooking and cleaning. What can she do but agree?
Suddenly, a boy bursts through the ceiling, threatening Sôma. Tôru tries to stop him, slips, smacks into him, and POOF! the boy becomes a cat. Then a piece of debris hits Tôru on the head, sending her into Sôma and Shigure, who turn into a rat and a dog. So begins Tôru's crazy involvement with the cursed Sôma clan.
Currently at eight volumes, Fruits Basket was first published in the manga anthology Hana to Yume in 1998 and has been hitting the top of sales charts ever since. FUNimation (of Dragon Ball fame) has picked up the U.S. rights to the animated series, which is just as good as the manga. Fast-paced, fun, and full of oddball characters, Fruits Basket can appeal to most readers, regardless of their sign.
*The Chinese zodiac has a sixty year cycle divided into five sets of twelve. The twelve years are represented by twelve animals: rat/mouse, ox/cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram/sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig/boar. 2002 is the year of the horse.