*Fruits Basket — Recommended Series

Tokyopop promoted Fruits Basket as its “most eagerly-awaited manga series”, and sales figures and top rankings have borne that out. With its blend of comedy, romance, fantasy, and drama, all expressed in an attractively mainstream art style, there’s something here for everyone.

An eternal optimist, Tohru Honda is proud of taking care of herself, even though she’s been living in a tent after her mother’s death. She’s on the property of the Sohma family, a rather unusual group whose members are possessed by the spirits of the Chinese Zodiac. When they’re hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they turn into their corresponding animal.

Fruits Basket Book 2 cover
Fruits Basket Book 2
Buy this book
Fruits Basket Book 1 cover
Fruits Basket Book 1
Buy this book

She knows Yuki, a mysteriously aloof charmer, from school; he’s the Rat. He and Kyo, the Cat, fight constantly because of a legend about the Rat tricking the Cat out of his place in the zodiac. Kyo’s determined to beat Yuki and regain his place in the family, but his anger often gets in the way of his desires. Combined with cousin Shigure, the Dog, it’s almost cartoony.

The guys feel sorry for Tohru, who’s trying so hard to be the daughter her mother wanted. They also need someone to take care of them and do the cooking and cleaning. (The situation is vaguely reminiscent of Wendy and the Lost Boys.) In return, she gets a place to stay and a family who cares about her. She also gives them a new appreciation for their relatives, even with the burden of their curse.

Not every Sohma is male; Kagura (the Boar) is female. She’s got a crush on Kyo, which she acts out rather violently, while reminding him that family members can hug each other without transforming. (At this point, the reader may justifiably begin wondering if “hug” is code for something else.) Other family members represent the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Ox, the Snake, the Tiger (Cub), the Ram, the Horse, and the Monkey. Over the course of the series, we meet them all.

Fruits Basket Book 4 cover
Fruits Basket Book 4
Buy this book
Fruits Basket Book 3 cover
Fruits Basket Book 3
Buy this book

The second book sets up a cultural festival where Tohru’s class decides to make onigiri (rice balls) to sell. More relatives, the half-German Momiji and the doctor Hatori, make appearances, challenging Tohru’s knowledge of the family secret. Hatori’s ill-fated past romance makes him a tragic figure and explains his resistance to Tohru’s presence, even though she’s having a good effect on the younger family members. Then New Year’s for some of the characters means deciding which family to spend the holiday with, the one they were born into or the one they’ve made for themselves.

In the third book, a school race is the setting for Hatsuharu, another relative, to battle Kyo, but their fight is interrupted by Yuki’s sickness. Valentine’s Day means a double date for Kyo, Kagura, Yuki, and Tohru, followed by a trip to a hot spring resort.

Book four opens with Momiji and Hatsuharu starting at the school Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki attend. The class president is a bit put off by their unapologetic individuality, but the real threat is head of the family Akito. He appears to be their age, but he’s more maturely devious, frightening all the others into obeying his dictates. We also meet Yuki’s older brother Ayame, whose flamboyance disturbs many of the others. He runs a costume shop and often behaves outrageously in comparison to Yuki’s reticence.

Fruits Basket Book 6 cover
Fruits Basket Book 6
Buy this book
Fruits Basket Book 5 cover
Fruits Basket Book 5
Buy this book

The group spends a week at the family’s lake house in book five. When they return, Tohru meets another relative, Kisa, a middle schooler who doesn’t speak due to teasing. Tohru can identify, and she winds up acting as Kisa’s temporary mom. Yuki also helps overcome Kisa’s silence, revealing more of his internal struggles as he does so.

Book six, in contrast, focuses more on Kyo. His curse sometimes manifests in an unpleasant way, and Tohru is challenged by the results. Kyo’s sensei, almost an adoptive father, is also present for the encounter. Interestingly, Tohru thinks the way she cares for Kyo is selfish, because it’s based on her wanting to continue sharing experiences with him, when it’s really just what he needs.

The book ends with a visit to Ayame’s shop, a tailoring establishment specializing in outfits for men’s fantasies (such as maid and nurse outfits). While Ayame explains to Yuki that he’d rather they fight than feel nothing for each other, Tohru models a darling outfit.

Fruits Basket Book 8 cover
Fruits Basket Book 8
Buy this book
Fruits Basket Book 7 cover
Fruits Basket Book 7
Buy this book

Hiro, introduced in book seven, is a selfish, obnoxious, conceited kid with the ability to twist anything anyone says into a failing on their part. He’s always on the attack, always ordering people around, and always complaining. He also has a crush on Kisa. He’s a complex personality, quickly established through his twisty dialogue, and humanized through his jealousy.

Tohru’s friend Arisa gets a lengthy flashback as well. She was a gangster-type, a near-criminal troublemaker, until Tohru’s mom took her under her wing. Now, she still looks and sounds tough, but she and Tohru have an unbreakable bond.

With only a few more animals to go, book eight introduces the compulsive apologizer (and Monkey) Ritsu. Emotional exaggeration is the theme, with Hatsuharu sinking into depression (alternating with fury) after a breakup and Ritsu’s panicked self-effacement at the slightest hint of potential offense becoming a twisted way to gain attention. Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo are asked to write about their future plans for school, which sends them into reflective moods of self-examination, especially when it comes to wondering about the possibility of relationships. It’s a subtle reminder that the past affects the future. Often, the chapters are heart-warming stories of encouragement, with Tohru providing moral lessons of determination or patience or endurance.

Fruits Basket Book 10 cover
Fruits Basket Book 10
Buy this book
Fruits Basket Book 9 cover
Fruits Basket Book 9
Buy this book

Summer vacation starts in book nine. Tohru’s concerned about homework, Yuki’s preparing to be the next student body president, and Shigure is bemoaning that his adult status means no summer off for him. There’s a flashback to Tohru’s other friend Saki, focusing on her unusual ability to sense the emotions of other people. Her psychic abilities and goth-like appearance make her an outcast, another oddball like her friends. It’s a surprisingly deep portrayal of what it’s like to be left out and to think that you deserve it. Kyo’s sensei also returns in a chapter exploring how much Kyo has been growing up.

Book ten opens with seaside enjoyment as the family vacations at their summer home. Even while goofing around, the characters’ feelings for each other reveal themselves through the way they tease and who they play with. More family members, including Hiro and Kisa, join the group for vacation, while Shigure, back in town, visits a former girlfriend who also has connections to Hatori.

Her story provides a more mature, melancholy contrast to the lighter summer fun, and when the story returns to the larger group, the tone carries over. Hiro finds out that his mother is pregnant and he’ll soon have a sibling, which leads to meditations on the nature of family. Tohru realizes that not everyone might have had the close, loving relationship she had with her mother. Other people deal in more complex ways with their parents and family members, especially once Akito arrives for a visit.

Fruits Basket Book 12 cover
Fruits Basket Book 12
Buy this book
Fruits Basket Book 11 cover
Fruits Basket Book 11
Buy this book

In book eleven, Akito joins the family at the summer home, instantly forcing himself into the center of attention. He’s playing jealous games, demanding the others spend time with him instead of Tohru. Although she barely knows of him, he sees her as a threat and a monster. He’s not above using guilt and threats to manipulate the other family members, fighting a competition she’s not even aware of, although she’s too good to be hurt by his schemes. When he tries to arrange for her to be left alone, she barely notices, as she’s happy that the other family members can be together. Caring wins out over fear, and Yuki demonstrates a growing maturity as he begins to understand Akito’s games and motives.

As summer vacation ends, the characters return home in book twelve. The family feels that they’re fated to do what’s in their blood, but Tohru is determined to fight against their fate, if necessary. These are key questions of Japanese culture. How much does the past influence the present? What are one’s responsibilities to the family when their desires conflict with those of the individual?

That’s even more apparent as book thirteen begins. Yuki’s absent mother attends a parent-teacher conference geared towards planning Yuki’s future. His mother, cool and remote, takes it for granted that he will do as he’s told, going on to college and preparing to take leadership of the family, regardless of his wishes. His silent personality is a result of her refusing to hear him and ignoring anything he says that she doesn’t agree with. Her treatment has warped him, affecting how he’s able to interact with others, including both Tohru and Yuki’s older brother.

Fruits Basket Book 14 cover
Fruits Basket Book 14
Buy this book
Fruits Basket Book 13 cover
Fruits Basket Book 13
Buy this book

Book fourteen is a focus on Rin, another of the Sohma family members, and her quest to remove their curse because of her love for Haru. It’s a very emotional tale, revolving around her emotional isolation and the reasons for it. Her motives are unstandable, but the reader wants to somehow find a way to soothe her pain.

The fundamental conflict of the book is between Tohru, and her optimistic belief in the future and improving change, and Akito, consumed by his power and determined to keep things as they always have been. He hates her because he recognizes her disruptive force for good. She loves the family, even in the face of their eventual separation. The variety of types of love displayed are complex: unspoken, until both partners are ready to accept it; destructive, aimed only at controlling the emotional object; protective, even if it appears to be desertion at first; resolute, determined to help.

The distinction between Tohru and Akito is foregrounded in book fifteen, as Yuki tells the story of his childhood. It’s a complex and affecting story, contrasting Yuki’s loneliness with his supposedly favored status. Others considered Akito’s personal attention to Yuki to be a sign of Yuki’s specialness, but they didn’t realize how Akito tormented Yuki. It’s a powerful exploration of how deeply children can feel and the long-standing effects certain encounters can have.

We also learn more about Kyo and Yuki’s competition from a young age. All Yuki wanted was a friend, someone who was happy to be in his presence. That’s what Tohru provides for him, almost a mother figure with her loving acceptance of him no matter what he is or how he behaves. That’s why he’s jealous of the different kind of relationship Kyo and Tohru have; he doesn’t necessarily want Tohru as his girlfriend, but he doesn’t want to lose the time and attention she gives him.

Fruits Basket Book 16 cover
Fruits Basket Book 16
Buy this book
Fruits Basket Book 15 cover
Fruits Basket Book 15
Buy this book

The second half of the book takes a lighter turn as the focus turns to preparations for a school play. It’s Cinderella, and Kyo is playing Prince Charming, with Tohru miscast as the wicked stepsister, goth Saki as the lead, and Yuki as the fairy godmother. Yuki’s brother Ayame is providing costumes, and given the personalities of those in the roles, they have to rewrite the story somewhat to gain willing participation.

Book sixteen opens with an exploration of Tohru’s mother’s past. As so often happens, she was able to give her daughter what she never had as a kid — the feeling of acceptance and love that could be relied on, no matter what. The mother’s own childhood was one of acting out due to neglect, with a near-criminal past, until one person finally had faith in her.

Over half of this book tells her love story, leading to her marriage and the birth of Tohru. Two outsiders built their own kind of family together, able to overcome their individual uncertainties together. That tells the reader more about where Tohru gets her strength and her belief in the power of love to make impressive changes.

Fruits Basket Book 18 cover
Fruits Basket Book 18
Buy this book
Fruits Basket Book 17 cover
Fruits Basket Book 17
Buy this book

Tohru and her friends are preparing to graduate in book seventeen, but first, they think back to the New Year and the changes that came with it. Yuki finally stood up to Akito, disturbing the family dynamic, and Akito’s secret was revealed to Tohru. Or rather, secrets — like many of the Zodiac members, Akito’s toxic family relationships stand in sharp contrast to the love Tohru was raised with.

The person who tells her is Kureno, a zodiac member whose curse has been broken but whose unquestioning loyalty to Akito is misplaced. It’s all the result of those who feel hurt or betrayed trying to force others to provide the love they miss.

Underneath the fantasy transformations of this series, the emotions feel real and varied: jealousy, a longing for acceptance, friendship, dealing with a legacy, facing one’s fears, learning to care for others unselfishly. There’s an underlying theme of memory and loss, pondering when, if ever, it’s ok to forget, and whether memories are valuable even if painful. The themes are deep and meaningful, providing much material for thought underneath the entertainment.

The art is typical for manga, huge eyes dominating pointy-chinned faces under spiky hair. The emphasis is on faces and figures with minimal patterned backgrounds, but the animals are simply shaped, emphasizing their oddness, and cute. Tohru and the kid characters are cute like baby pets, and the boys are cute like teen idols.

The title comes from a game Tohru played as a child. We called it “Fruit Basket Upset”, where every kid was given a fruit name, and when their fruit was called, they changed places. When her class played, Tohru was named “Onigiri”, or “rice ball”, instead of a fruit, symbolizing how she doesn’t fit in with the family she was born into.

The large cast can be a lot to keep up with, so the introductory pages listing names, signs, and basic characteristics are much appreciated. Some books also have extras, which may include background on the zodiac signs, creator interviews, game rules, or fan art.

I gave up reading the series after book seventeen, because I just wasn’t that interested anymore. There were too many characters to keep track of and the resolutions for main plotlines were too drawn out. Here are the remaining volumes:

Similar Posts: Fruits Basket at NYC Macy’s § Remember Fruits Basket? § This Week’s Manga Moveable Feast: Fruits Basket § Fruits Basket Followups: Banquet, Songs to Make You Smile § Manga Updates

138 Comments

  1. I love this series, and it’s proved to be one of the most popular introductions to manga I’ve come across (the other is Iron Wok Jan).

  2. A nice write-up. I have one nit to pick: you wrote “as the series begins to draw towards its end…” It’s true that there are rumors that the series will end with vol. 22 or 23 (nothing official, though, afaik). There are 18 volumes out so far in Japan, with enough uncollected material to fill two more, so for Japanese readers the series may be drawing to a close. But for English-speaking readers, even if the rumors are true it’s only a little more than half over.

  3. Thanks very much for the information — I’ve removed that line. I had the mistaken impression that the series was only 14 books.

  4. Precious Smith

    I like your summary of the series. It hit all the top points. Impressive. I was wondering if you knew of any websites that tell the number of books in an anime series.

  5. Thank you. I think Anime on DVD has the kind of list you’re looking for.

  6. Precious Smith

    I appreciate the suggestion. I found exactly what I was looking for. Thanks.

  7. Do you know of any other good manga besides the stuff you’ve reviewed already?

  8. I love Fruits Basket and all, but I haven’t found any manga as good as this series yet. I’m on the look out though. Anything that might interest me I try to check it out.

  9. Currently on book 15. was wondering if the last book is out? and what no. book it ends ^^

  10. It’s going to be at least 19 volumes, I’m told.

  11. where would you find book 14 and 15? because my friend dez got me in to fruits basket, and we just bought book 12 and 13. plus, it has to be in english ^_^borders doesnt have book 14 or 15 yet so ideas will be appriciated!

  12. Books 14 and 15 will be released later this year, so I’m afraid you’ll have to be patient until then.

  13. I LOVE this series!!!!!!!!!!!!! this has incredible characters and a plot so eloquent and lively, that the book is comparable to real life. Everyone should read FB! I’m so glad there should be at least 22 books! They are addicting!

  14. OMG I LOVE this series!!! :) I have to get all the books. The characters r so amazing and the boys are really cute! Also the situation in the books are like what happens in life. they definatly should make more Fruit Basket I LUV THEM :)

  15. FrUit BaSkEt is really well written! I love how you made the book in order in life it’s sooooooo GREAT. The characters are really kOol! All the details in them are awsome. I wish I was in the books to sometimes! I’m curently on book12 and going onto book13 soon I can’t wait til then i hope u make at least 22-24 books are even more but that maybe too much to ask! OOO i luv wat i just read:) hehehe! Well I’m out I LOVE………………………..
    F R U I T B AS KE T & F R U I T B A S K ET !!!!!!!!!!! I’m seriously in love wit FRUIT BASKET YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL :)

  16. I hope everyone has seen this link. The author gives some clear info on when Furuba will end. The story is getting ever stronger, to my mind.
    Time magazine interview with Fruits Basket manga-ka Natsuki Takaya

  17. it is very good

  18. U The Best……..I love this Series…….
    ……….(^_^)………………

  19. I love Fruits Basket! It was my starter series in manga because some people on the internet encouraged to read the manga since I saw the anime and loved that too. I picked up the first volume and became a big fan.

    I just love the emotions and real to life situations Tohru and the Jyuunishi (did I spell that right?) go through. The cast is large enough that there is someone in the Furuba world that every reader can relate to.

  20. Great point! The characters are diverse, and there are a wide range of them.

  21. You need to read fruits basket!! its my favorite along with inuyasha and bleach!I love it so much! Even if doubting it try it!now!

    my favorite guy is kyo…*sighhhh*

    suchh a good manga! the first one i ever read and by far on of the bests!

  22. I love it all but i got the books from the liabary and i’m stuck on book 10 at the end when Yuri tells Tohru that he LOVES HER *grrrrr*

  23. If your library doesn’t have book 11 as part of their collection, see if they can get it for you through Inter-Library Loan. (That’s where they borrow it from another library.)

  24. OMG! First i was like wow manga is so weird. but then at borders i was looking for something and grabed FB cause it caught my eye! now I LOVE MANGA! i read two other manga series Kagetora (its really good) and Dramacon (awesome). if any one has an awsome manga series PLEASE tell me!
    FB rocks and is the BEST manga EVER!

  25. i love the books keep making more they rock

  26. If you want a good ROMANCE series to start with, a suggestion for that would be SENSUAL PHRASE. I think that its really good!

  27. hatori-san01

    I think furuba rocks!

  28. i love Fruits Basket it is my fav manga i have all of the dvd’s but i still need to get the manga but i have read up to book 13 and i love it! i like InuYasha too but only the anime not the manga the manga pictures are too weird!

    Fruits Basket is the best #1 manga ever!

  29. I LOVE KYO!!!! He’s the best in the world I would do ANYTHING for him (you know if he was real). OH WHY IS HE NOT REAL?????? why arn’t real guys as cool as anime ones? Furuba rox out loud its like my bible!!!!1

  30. kyo is hot whenever i watch the movies my sis and i will be like there’s your hottie and there is mine! she likes Yuki though but i think that kyo is the coolest and Hatsuharu comes in second!! but i think that Hero is an anoying jerk.

  31. I have been told several times that Tohru ends up with Kyo in the manga and that they kiss and run away together. Is there any truth to this rumour?

  32. Izzi Turner

    I only got into reading ‘Fruits basket’ last year and I already have 10 books and all of the DVDs. I LOVE THEM. I have a question, though. . . is there some way that I can write to Ms Takaya??? I’ve combed the internet but I can’t find an address.

  33. Izzi Turner

    Thank you. P.S. Fruits Basket also inspired me to write my own graphic novel. It’s called ‘Herrakaun High’ which should be out later this year. Keep you eyes open.

  34. Most authors can be reached via their publishers, who often forward mail. Try writing her via Tokyopop.

  35. My friend got me into this when she showed me the anime. I went home with the borrowed dvds and watched them all straight away. I then found a site which had translated all the manga into Japanses for those who speak English, I have downloaded and read up to chapter 118, but they haven’t done any more! I really want to know what happens and am now waiting very unpatiently for it to be either uploaded or (in the far off future) to be released over here!

    And I’ve taken quite a liking to Kyo. I’m currently trying to get hold of a ginger kitten to adopted (and then name Kyo…)
    :D

  36. Jeezleeann (haha)

    I LOVE fruits basket!!! I just got introduced to it, lets see, two weeks ago? anyways I can already tell that it is going to be one of my favorite mangas!!! (momiji is mine though ^.^ I call him!!) Though may I make a slight suggestion to you and the others who make comments on this site? Try not to spoil it for us readers who are just getting started!!!! Thanks!!! My other fav is Rurouni Kenshin, it and fruits basket are tied with Bleach for first!!!

  37. I was never a big Manga Fan before…My friend told me she had been reading it, and my honest initial reaction was “What?! Backwards books…How Peculiar…” While browsing the manga section I saw Fruits Basket, and I was like “Hmm…Seems like a good one to start with.” My friend told me it was ‘Corny’ looking. But, after reading the back, I was thinking ‘It does sound odd…what is this curse thing…?’ And then I started reading it and got compeltely hooked! It’s the first, and best Manga I’ve heard of! I didn’t know it was the top selling and most demanded Manga! I’m glad there are more fans out there like me. Any Furuba fan, is a friend of mine! :D

  38. I love reading fruits BAsket!
    Ive read all the way to book thirteen
    it makes me sad to thik that soon the series will be over in english just 8 mmore books and its done!!!!!

  39. Fruits BAsket Is the best series in the world!!!!! I already finished the whole sereis. Ive seen all the episodes and I LUV KYO!!!!!!!!

  40. william king

    I love this series. nothing will ever be better.
    xoxoxoxoxo

  41. i love fruits basket its one of my favorite series

  42. my friend loves the series and gave me the first book and as soon as i started reading it i got hooked it is such a good series now i read 1 or 2 a day and love them i wish the series wouldnt end though

  43. I LOVE FRUITS BASKET!!!!!!!!! & Kyo!

  44. MY KYO NOT YOURS!!! *hisses*

  45. hehehe i agree kyo kiks ass XD i reeli want the comics th :( its my birthday so i guess i can buy a few of em lol but where can i buy the 1st one?
    i never used to be into manga but now i know wat my frends on about! ive caught the manga flu XD

  46. you can go to Borders to buy the first book or all of them!

  47. OMG WHERERERRERERRE!!!!???? plz tell me XD

  48. i told you, you can go to BORDERS to buy manga it’s a book, cd, and Cafe` store. you can buy all kinds of manga there.

  49. i just lovr this show funny, sad and happy i will that touri woudl like yuky it will so cute and the make a great couple.

  50. what? your comment makes no sense at all, can you right it again but in a way i can understand?

Leave a Reply