Fruits Basket and the Possibilities of Change
This is my post for volumes 19 to 23 of Fruits Basket–AKA the rest of the series! Overall it was a great manga, and I highly suggest it to anyone who is a fan of shoujo. And of course, anyone who enjoyed the Fruits Basket anime will love to get the full story. Things definitely get more serious as the story moves along and some plot points become more emphasized than others (eg the whole animal-transforming and fighting elements essentially disappear by the halfway point), but in general the series maintains its recognizable atmosphere. I’d say the heart of the series is not in its premise, but in its cast of characters–and one thing I particularly liked about the series was the focus on the characters’ efforts to change themselves in various ways.
When looking for themes in Fruits Basket, perhaps the thing that stood out to me most was how so many characters wanted to change some aspect of his or her personality. You really can pick nearly any character in this series and notice this. It’s perhaps easiest to see for all the Sohma family members, but many of the other side characters have issues (many of which are both externally and internally-driven in various ways) that persuade them to try changing the way they think and act. Interestingly, a lot of the characters we’re meant to sympathize with–even those who are generally more comical when they appear–turn out to have done some pretty bad things in the past. The series really drives home the concept that everyone is imperfect, everyone makes mistakes, and everyone will let themselves down in some way at some point in their lives. So often we wish we could be better people, but we tend to fall short of the lofty ideal we set for ourselves.
Amidst all the drama of the series, most of the characters in Fruits Basket really struggle to push themselves to become better people. They have negative attributes, and their actions have hurt others around them. But instead of just letting this settle for their status quo, the majority of the characters–with the help of their peers (e.g. Tohru, as is often [but not always] the case)–manage to recognize their faults, decide what they need to change about themselves, and take those difficult first steps in becoming better people.
If I recall correctly, early on in the series Tohru’s mother (in flashback) said people start out naturally selfish, and must learn over time to become selfless. On one hand it seems like a bit of a bleak statement (in that human nature tends to learn in a negative direction), but Fruits Basket turns this around and gives off a really hopeful message: People can change. Most all of the characters at the end of the series are rather different from how they were at the start. Fruits Basket puts good use to its 23 volumes of manga, developing its large cast of characters in many surprising ways. All in all I was quite pleased with the outcome, and the last couple volumes especially were quite powerful in its messages as the most significant character relationships reached their long-drawn conclusions. It was a satisfying ending, enough to get me teary-eyed on a couple occasions, at least. Fruits Basket is a very sweet manga and a classic of its genre, so I definitely recommend giving it a read.