Fruits Basket (2001): Subtle Romances and Fake Love Triangles

This piece has actually been sitting on my tumblr for a while now, but with the Fruits Basket reboot coming in March (yay!!) I thought why not post it on here?


Fruits Basket really surprised me with what it offered. I went into the show with a preconceived notion that it was going to be some average, flowery shoujo that gained its popularity out of nothing more than good timing.

Man

I was so wrong.

I mean, Fruits Basket isn’t even all that much of a romance in my eyes. There are romantic overtones, sure, but the show focused a lot more on the friendship that Tohru made with Kyo and Yuki than her possible romantic dynamic with them. To me, Fruits Basket is a lot more about finding good friends, trauma, and how those friends can help you heal from or move on from those traumas.

Fruits Basket is a lot of things.

A lot of things that make it so much more than any ole romance or shoujo.

The heart of the show is in the dynamic between Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki.

Fruits basket did a good job of getting me to like both, Kyo and Yuki, equally. I remember thinking around the tenth episode mark how I would be happy with Tohru ending up with either of them. As more episodes went on, however, the more I realized that Fruits Basket wasn’t about which guy she would pick and end up with. It wasn’t about her romantic feelings for them. It was about how all three of them shared similar struggles and how they could help each other through them and I wasn’t expecting that before getting into Fruits Basket at all. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but this is really crazy to me because I really thought Fruits Basket was going to be a regular romance shoujo with a love triangle. In the end, who was supposed to end up with who romantically wasn’t even important. What was important is that Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki needed each other. All three of them. I think in a way they were made for each other. The three of them were platonic soulmates if you will.

This is something that really frustrates me because I put off Fruits Basket for the longest time because I thought this was a going to just be a romance with a shitty love triangle. But the “love triangle” isn’t really even a love triangle, because Tohru never “picked” between the two, and I don’t think there would have been a point for her to pick between them. All I really wanted was for Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki to be happy. And I don’t think this could’ve been achieved without all three of them being together.  At least not in the anime (I haven’t read the manga, but I’m working on it. I am also aware that most people say the manga is way better than anime. Again, I’m working on it).

However, as I said, I ended up liking Yuki and Kyo equally. I would’ve been happy to see Tohru end up with either of them until I finished the show and actually realized it would’ve been a bad idea for her to pick sides (and wouldn’t have made much sense considering her character). When I was still looking at the three of them as a love triangle (this would be somewhere around the halfway mark), something that I really admired about it was how instead of the girl (Tohru) causing the two guys (Kyo and Yuki) to dislike each other, it’s actually the other way around. Kyo and Yuki have always disliked each other but it’s Tohru who builds a sort of bridge between the two. She’s the reason they get closer rather than the reason they’re relationship worsens.

So even when I look at Fruits Basket as a romance, and the relationship between Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki as a love triangle, it’s still really well done. Except for the fact that there’s no romantic endgame, that’s kind of a no-no in romances.

The three of them needing each other makes a lot of sense too. The dynamics of these three is amazing.

All three of them struggle with feeling alone, not belonging and you see the different ways they cope with those feelings. They have the same insecurities, just for different reasons.

I just…really love these three. Their characters work well off each other. They’re all already likable on their own, but together they have this charm that’s kind of hard to describe.

I think this might explain why it took me a while to watch Fruits Basket as well.

Outside of me avoiding it because I didn’t think it would be anything special, there were two times I tried watching Fruits Basket before in which I only made it halfway through the first episode. I was close to doing it again the third time I picked up Fruits Basket, but I kept watching and when Kyo showed up the way his energy contrasted with all the other character’s immediately gained my interest and then Tohru ends up falling on them and poof, Kyo and Yuki turn into animals and the first episode ends and by that point I’m actually invested and want to get to the next episode as soon as possible. Then I continued to watch and fell in love with our three main characters as well as being surprised with just how sad this show could get. The whole thing makes me feel silly now.

So if there’s one thing I’m trying to say in this it’s that Yuki, Tohru, and Kyo are a pretty good unit. (And also that Fruits Basket is more than seems)

However, this brings me to probably the one real problem I had with the show. There was too much time spent on side characters. It’s a fault of its time in all honesty. A lot of early 2000’s anime fell into that episodic trap of focusing on different side characters every episode. In Fruits Basket’s defense, the same side characters went back and forth through the episodes and they all had the same insecurities of not belonging as Kyo, Tohru, and Yuki and a lot of the times they would help reveal something new about the main three characters. While the only side characters I ended up genuinely liking were Tohru’s best friends, they all suffered from the same things Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo.

Everyone in Fruits Basket was an outcast. In one way or another.

And I think that might be why I and so many others love this series. We all know what it’s like to feel like you don’t belong somewhere, or that you don’t fit in, or that there’s no way you could be accepted for who you really are.

Some of us are like Tohru, who avoid bothering/annoying those around them at the price of their own wellbeing.

Some are like Kyo and lash out at everyone around them as an attempt to voice their frustration and emotions while avoiding being too vulnerable.

Some of us are like Yuki and constantly monitor our emotions to keep ourselves from feeling too strongly, just trying come off as a pleasant person while keeping in the fear that they might never make intimate friends.

I think everyone can relate to all three of these to some degree.

So yeah.

I cracked the code to why Fruits Basket is so beloved. And I’m a little annoyed about it. I’m annoyed it wasn’t marketed for the emotional and moving series that it was.

In the whole eight years that I’ve been watching anime, I’ve always thought Fruits Basket was widely liked because it’s a cute romance! And the boys are cute! Or drama! (because I thought the love triangle was going to be a big thing).

Now, this isn’t to say being a romance show or having romance in a show is a bad thing. I mean, what is this blog if that’s the case. There are even shows I can think of that would’ve been better off as romances than the genre they were. I’m not trying to say that Fruits Basket can’t be all these amazing things and a romance as well, either. Or that it can’t become a romance, or that there will never be a time in the story where Tohru could become romantically involved with one of the boys in a way that would make sense (I’m assuming there is an endgame in the manga). This post has to do a lot more with how I personally didn’t see it as a romance after finishing it when I had spent such a long time assuming this would be an average romance. I don’t want this to sound like I’m bashing romances. And the whole issue of calling something “just a romance” is a whole other issue that I don’t think I could cover in this blog post.

I just find Fruits Basket’s marketing strange. It’s not (just) a flowery shoujo. There isn’t that much flowery about the show. It deals with trauma from family and friends, and insecurities around being an outcast, and the extent to which Tohru tried not to burden others would actually scare me sometimes. Sure, it’s light-hearted at times, but I always felt this lingering feeling of sadness even during those scenes.

I could go on about all the other things I liked about Fruits Basket, but this is getting long. So, I’ll just leave by saying that I love Fruits Basket and if you haven’t watched it, I would seriously recommend it

Is this something that anyone else questions? I haven’t really looked at other reviews or other opinions people have on this show. There isn’t exactly a lively fanbase to fall on either. I can’t be the only one to come to this consensus, right?

I would love to hear what other people think of Fruits Basket. I’ve heard that the manga is a lot more depressing (as they usually are). To what degree would you consider Fruits Basket a romance? Do you think Tohru not ending up with Kyo or Yuki at the end was a pro or a con? Honestly, I’m really interested in people’s thoughts on this show.