How to sum Fruits Basket up? Let's see. It follows one girl, Tohru Honda, who stumbles into the life of a very large, extended family, the Sohmas. The Sohmas, it turns out, have a hereditary curse: twelve of them are possessed by the members of the Chinese Zodiac and turn into their respective animals on being hugged by a person of the opposite gender who is not also a member of the Zodiac. (I know, it doesn't make much sense to me, either. Apparently, the objective was to keep them from forming relationships with anyone outside the Zodiac. O.o)
Anyway, I found the most dominating theme of the manga to be forgiveness. Without giving away the ending, let's just say that Tohru is willing to extend friendship to someone whom I was hoping to see get beat up by several other characters (Hatsuharu and Rin, primarily). Despite a lot of problems, the characters work through them and there are happy endings. I am not ashamed to admit that, during the last volume, I cried.
Since I notice the details in artwork, I have to say that the artwork for Fruits Basket wasn't my favorite ever. It got better as it went along, but let's just say it was typical shojo artwork. (I.e., everyone was insanely skinny, and their faces mostly composed of huge eyes and pointy chins.) Also, there was a lot of wasted space - big blank panels, random shots of sky, people's faces for no reason. A sentence could also be spread over one whole page.
It could be just me - I'm used to FullMetal Alchemist and Shingeki no Kyojin/Attack on Titan, where no space is wasted and dialogue and action are everything. But, hey, it was still a great series, and I loved almost all of the characters.
This is Tohru Honda. Reading the manga, you'd never know she has brown hair. (Everyone looked a lot alike in the manga, too... Sometimes I had to play, "Guess this character!") She is an orphan who is obsessed with taking care of everyone around her, to her own detriment sometimes. She gets better.
This is Yuki Sohma, the rat of the Zodiac. (A bit bemusingly, the rat is seen as a very positive animal.) I still say that if Yuki really wanted to stop being taken for a girl he should try to look less girly. Later on in the manga, though, especially as becomes friends with Kakeru, he starts wearing more normal clothes and actually looks like a guy.
Also, I hate his hair. It's uneven. The Death the Kid (yes, a Soul Eater reference) in me longs to grab a pair of scissors and chop the left side of his hair until it's even with the right. Gah.
This is Kyo Sohma, the cat. Due to various circumstances, the cat isn't accepted by the other members of the Zodiac and is hated by them. And, yes, they do comment on his orange hair. (Although you'd never know it in the manga, because there it looks like he has brown hair. Gah.)
Suffice it to say that, yes, Kyo was my favorite character and that the farther into the manga I go, the more adorkable he became. (It didn't hurt that he actually looked like a guy. Stupid shojo art.) Also, the fact that Tohru's favorite animal of the Zodiac even before she met the Sohmas was the cat sort of gave away the ultimate pairing...
I also subscribe to the fan theory that the cat is the catalyst for the Sohma curse breaking. Reading the manga with that in mind really helped, I think.
This is Shigure Sohma, the dog of the Zodiac. Any mention of the song, "He's a Tramp," from Disney's Lady and the Tramp would be highly appropriate here. Sigh... I tried to hate Shigure, well aware of his manipulative ways. But... I couldn't. He was simply too funny. Funny characters can be forgiven a lot of things - have you noticed?
It didn't hurt that he occasionally dropped the Obfuscating Stupidity act to dispense pretty good life advice and took the antics of the younger Sohmas in stride. Case in point: just how many times did Yuki and Kyo destroy (as in, literally break wooden beams) his house, and he was just nonchalant about the whole thing?
Also, he seems to be anime's answer to Sirius Black, and I find that so incredibly awesome and hilarious that I can't help but like him.
Shigure: "Good morning!"
Yuki: "Um... Shigure... it's night. Why don't you get on a normal sleep pattern?"
Shigure: "I became an author so I wouldn't have to!"
This is Kagura Sohma, the boar of the Zodiac. Ehh... Kagura. What to say. Well, for starters she certainly doesn't look like she's old enough to be in college. Also, even if Kyo forgives her for only playing with him as a child to feel better about herself (the cat exists for the other Zodiacs to feel better about themselves, pretty much), I'm less forgiving.
Also, she threatened him with physical harm to make him promise to marry her when they grew up and routinely beats him up whenever she visits. Of course, she doesn't seem to be aware she's hurting him until she snaps out of it and is all like, "My poor Kyo... who hurt you like that?" but even so.
This is Momiji Sohma, the rabbit of the Zodiac. He's half-German, half-Japanese and spouts off German phrases in the manga (I noted a spelling error once or twice). No, I don't know why he's wearing that huge bow, either. Anyway, he does act cute a lot of the time to get more attention but is in general a good, cheerful friend for Tohru.
Later in the manga, he undergoes a growth spurt and starts wondering that, if he can get Kyo out of the way, maybe Tohru will like him. The shipper in me pretty much wanted to grab Thor's hammer and smash Momiji into the carpet at that. Even Yuki knows that Kyo and Tohru belong together. Sheesh.
This is Hatori Sohma, the dragon of the Zodiac. Actually, since the Sohma curse is weakening, he doesn't turn into an actual dragon but a seahorse, which is called a 'dragon's baby' in Japanese. At one point, Shigure is about to mention this to Tohru, leading to one of Hatori's best lines: "One more word, Shigure, and the entire publishing company will know every embarrassing thing you've done since you were four years old."
Also, I simply adored Hatori. If you don't like Hatori, I'm judging you. It's just... the poor guy. After all he's been through, he really needs a hug... which can't happen. Even if he is the only sane man in comparison to Shigure and Ayame and seems to have spent a lot of time dealing with their chaos (okay, primarily chaos caused by Ayame), you still can't help but cheer on Shigure in the manga when he starts orchestrating things to get Hatori and Mayuko together.
This is Hatsuharu Sohma, usually called Haru, the ox of the Zodiac. Yes, he is a guy. (When I first saw this picture, I thought he was a girl.) And, yes, his hair is naturally black and white. To go with it, he has split personalities, White Haru and Black Haru. White Haru is calm, kind, and a bit... spacey, while Black Haru is... well... angry and destructive. He spends most of his time as White Haru, though.
I didn't expect to like Haru at all, and he turned out to be one of my favorite characters, right up there with Kyo and Hatori. I'm not sure when it happened... Maybe it was the way he looked out for Kisa and Yuki. Maybe it was the way he always seemed spaced out and none of the crazy shenanigans around him ever seemed to phase him. Maybe it was his off-the-wall responses to said shenanigans. (Towards the end of the manga, while Kyo and Yuki are having their epic confrontation about how they've always envied each other, Shigure is downstairs listening to the destruction and going, "Oh, look, they're destroying my house again," while Haru is just like, "I think I'm going to order a pizza... and chicken nuggets.")
However, I had definitely come to like Haru by the time his relationship with Rin had come to the foreground. Rin may think gentle people like him deserves a world of their own where they won't get hurt, but you should have seen what Haru did when he found out Akito threw Rin out a window when Rin tried to protect Haru when Akito found out about their relationship. An epic chewing-out from Haru ensued. I was really hoping Haru would punch Akito for it, but he hit the wall instead. Darn that Sohma curse and the Zodiac members' inability to go against their god...
When I finished the manga, I had the urge to re-read the whole thing just focusing on Haru's expressions in the background. He could just be standing there and it would be hilarious. Everyone else would be reacting to something and he would just be... standing there. Unfazed.
This is Ayame Sohma, the snake of the Zodiac and Yuki's big brother. Yes, brother. No, I don't know what happened to his pupils, either. (Everyone has weird pupils. Kyo has slitted pupils and Hatori's look like horseshoes. ???) Ayame is pretty... um... flamboyant. He ignored Yuki when they were younger, but now he regrets that and is trying to establish some sort of brotherly rapport. Eventually, they are able to hold a civil conversation.
Ayame did also have a Crowning Moment of Awesome when he crashed their mother's attempt to run Yuki's academic life for him. It was pretty hilarious. Come to think of it, anything Ayame does is hilarious.
This is Kisa Sohma, the tiger of the Zodiac. When she is first introduced, she won't speak because she's been bullied by her classmates for her unusual appearance. (Not that any of the Sohmas have a usual appearance...) With some encouragement from Tohru, she starts speaking again. She looks up to Tohru a lot and refers to her as 'big sister'.
This is Hiro Sohma, the sheep of the Zodiac. He's one of the few Zodiac members without abusive parents; when he was placed in his mother's arms as a newborn and turned into a sheep, she only said, "I love sheep!" Despite this, he's pretty mean and angry for a little guy (mostly because he likes Kisa), although he does cool down a bit. For goodness's sake, he even gets upset when Haru picks up Kisa so she won't get knocked over in a crowd. Come on...
This is Ritsu Sohma, the ape of the Zodiac. And yes... he's a guy. He has terrible self-confidence and for some reason dressing as a girl makes him feel better. (Cross-dressing is rather rampant in the Sohma family, although, all things considered, it's a lesser issue for them.) He mostly shows up to introduce the ape, apologize frantically for anything and everything, and that's it.
This is Isuzu Sohma, usually called Rin, the horse of the Zodiac. Poor girl. One of the first things that happens to her in the manga is getting tossed out a window by Akito, and it doesn't get much better from there. She's desperate to break the Sohma curse in order to protect Haru, but isn't having much luck there, either.
Despite despising herself for being drawn by Tohru's kindness, she becomes quite protective of her (take that, Kagura). In generally, Rin seems to be pretty protective about those she cares for. In the end, after all she's been through, she understandably still doesn't forgive Akito. A part of me still wishes that the other Sohmas would just let Rin deal with Akito...
This is Kureno Sohma, the rooster of the Zodiac. He's the last member to be introduced, and I don't think he showed up in the anime at all. On that account, beware of SPOILERS!!!! Anyway, he doesn't turn into a rooster but a sparrow - or, more correctly, he used to turn into a sparrow. At this point of the story, his curse has been broken. Nevertheless, Akito forces him to stay with him, in order to keep the Zodiac from leaving.
Oh, yes, and this is Akito Sohma, the head of the family and the 'god' of the Zodiac. As such, the Zodiac members cannot oppose or blame Akito for anything... until their curse breaks. Then they're free to do whatever they want. Akito is terrified of being left by the Zodiac and so uses violence and emotional blackmail to ensure they are too broken to leave.
If you can't tell if Akito is a boy or a girl... that's sort of the point. I'm trying to avoid spoilers here, people.
This is Saki Hanajima, one of Tohru's friends. I ended up liking her a lot, especially in the 'Sort-of Cinderella' play the school put on. (She was Cinderella. She wore all black, tried to make the Fairy Godmother - played by Yuki - explode the ballroom, and refused to marry the prince - played by Kyo - in order to open a meat shop with her not-so-evil stepsister - played by Tohru. It was hilarious.)
Saki also has mysterious psychic powers, manifested as 'denpa' or electric poison waves, which she can use to read minds and nearly kill people. (Her little brother can apparently curse people. This is never demonstrated.) Because of this, she had few friends before Arisa and Tohru met her. She may have known about the Sohma curse all along, and at the end she seems to be in a relationship with Kyo's adoptive father. Kyo freaks out at the thought of her being his 'mother'.
This is Arisa Uotani, Tohru's other friend. She used to be a former gang member before meeting Tohru and her mother and changing her ways. She still threatens violence on Tohru's would-be bullies, though. A subplot involves her meeting Kureno and Tohru trying to get them together - in vain, at least at first.
She also gets into a lot of shouting matches with Kyo. Partway through the manga, Saki and Arisa decide to crash Tohru's first date. They follow up on this later by antagonizing Kyo all the way through it - and this is after they got on to him in an epic fashion when he denied his feelings for Tohru at first. Yes, he kinda need a kick to the butt... but methinks they went a little above and beyond the call of duty. They insist they have to take a parental interest in Tohru's dating life.
This is Kakeru Manabe, whom I couldn't pass up because he is so freakin' hilarious. He becomes Yuki's friend later in the manga, and somehow with his wackiness makes Yuki (whom he calls Yun-Yun) act in a less than dignified manner. For instance, in one panel they try choking each other after some comment Kakeru's made but a few panels later walk off arm-in-arm. Also, after Yuki explains about his terrible childhood, Kakeru attempts to cheer him up... by hitting him in the face with a ball.
Also, Kakeru tells his girlfriend that Yuki is really a girl who has to dress as a guy for various reasons. She actually believes him until she's introduced to Yuki, who corrects her. They proceed to smack Kakeru.
Special mention to Kazuma Sohma, usually called Shishou, who is Kyo's adoptive father. He's done an amazing job with Kyo; you can just tell by the way Kyo goes from grumpy to happy around him. Also, Kazuma can't cook to save his life, despite the best intentions. It made for a pretty funny incident when Kyo tossed him out of the kitchen, saying something like, "You know you can't cook; why did you even try?" and Kazuma was just like, "But I had a good feeling that I could cook today..."
And, yes, Saki Hanajima appears to like him. Not sure why, but yeah. Kyo freaked out.
So... yes, that was a long summary of characters. But you should go read it!
In Pace Christi,