After the death of her mother, young Tohru Honda has been secretly living on her own in a tent. Her life changes forever when she stumbles upon the secret of the Sohma family, whose land she has been living on. They are afflicted by a Hereditary Curse that changes some members of the family into animals of the Eastern Zodiac when they are hugged by someone of the opposite sex that is not also a Zodiac member.Now living with three of the Sohma family, every day is an adventure for sweet Tohru, as she gets to know all of the very different family members better, in both common and bizarre situations. But, the Sohma family curse is certainly no laughing matter...it also holds horrible cruelty and heartbreak. Despite this, the members of the Sohma family find a new peace thanks to the presence of Tohru.Hailed as one of the best shojo series out there, during its seven years in-print (1999-2006) it was the best-selling shojo manga series in America, and often the second best-selling manga series in the US period, beat only by a certain ninja. The company publishing it in English has gone under, but because of its popularity, copies of it are cheap and readily available in shops and sites such as Ebay. It was/is the 'gateway' story of many people new to manga, beautifully combining comedy, drama, and heartwarming into one long, deceptively complex story.The Mangaka is Natsuki Takaya whose name is a pseudonym. She's also left-handed, but due to a hand injury necessitating a leave of absence from the series, the anime would have Overtook the Manga, had it continued any longer than it did.Also see this page for tropes that can be applied directly to the characters.Watch it on Huluhere.
This show provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: Be thankful you weren't raised in this series. If your parents AREN'T abusive, they'll be dead in five minutes. The only characters who don't have abusive parents grow up to hate themselves.
Partially justified, once most abusive parents are from the same clan. It would make sense for a family who has been cursed and locked in abuse cycles for generations to have next to no parental material
Yes, but that's ignoring the fact that even Arisa Uotani and Tohru's mom have had abusive parents, not to mention Tohru's paternal side of the family are all jerks, aside from her grandpa.
If you want a full list, we've got:
Yuki and Ayame, whose parents kicked Ayame out at a very young age and used Yuki's existence purely for the fact that cursed Sohma family members equal a hefty government income for some reason.
Kyo, whose mom was emotionally (and possibly phyiscally) abused by her husband for giving birth to the cat, to the point that she committed suicide, and whose dad blames him despite having left the two themselves.
Momiji, whose mother went insane over the fact that her son could turn into a rabbit, and went so far as to have Hatori adopt Momiji, erase all her memories of him, and keep him from ever coming into contact with his little sister.
Rin, whose parents were actually fun and nurturing until she asked them a simple question, then they flipped out and mentally abused her so badly that she eventually began to suffer Panic Disorder, and eventually abandoned her after their mental abuse left her hospitalized.
Kyoko Honda, whose parents focused more on what neighbors thought than what their daughter wanted and kicked her out.
Arisa Uotani, whose father was an alcoholic and whose mother left him for another man. Though a quick scene in the present shows that her relationship with her father is better now.
Kakeru Manabe and Machi Kuragi, whose father is filthy rich and as a result, their respective mothers forced them to be the best (at least until Kakeru finally told his mom to shut the fuck up).
Hatori and Haru's parents are all never shown, but we're literally to assume that they were abused as well.
Haru's mother appears very briefly in a later chapter, telling Haru that he's got a call about Rin being in the hospital and seeming pretty concerned about him. He also mentions that he isn't sure if she'll yell at him or laugh over how he went Black and trashed a classroom. On the other hand, it was mentioned that he suffered emotional abuse from other (unnamed) relatives, mainly because he was the spirit of the Ox and the myth portrays the Ox as being a dumb animal that was manipulated by the rat. This is the cause of his anger issues, which his parents enrolled him in karate classes to help him deal with.
In a refreshing change, Shigure's parents are briefly shown, and he seems to have a slightly disinterested but relatively stable relationship with them - he chats to them at a party in Volume 17 without too much fuss.
Kagura's mother actually does approve briefly, and she seems quite nice. Her family was also kind enough to take in Rin, so it's doubtful they were truly abusive to Kagura.
While Kagura isn't hit with as much abuse as the others, her parents are always fighting. They fought so much that she spent a large portion of her childhood hating herself, believing that they fought because she was one of the zodiac
Kisa's dad, Ritsu's dad, and Yuki and Ayame's dad are never shown. We never know what to assume with them.
And finally, we have Hiro, the brat who's lucky enough to NOT have any abusive parents or ANY abuse past. Lucky him. Also, ironically, Saki Hanajima's parents aren't abusive either, and are actually quite loving, despite Saki having frightening psychic powers.
Adaptation Dye-Job: Tohru's eyes are changed from brown to blue and Kyo's bracelet is no longer red and white (which changes its origins). There are other hair and eye variations too, however Tohru's the most prominent.
Kazuma Sohma, aka Shishou, has his hair changed from brown to silver.
Adaptation Induced Plot Hole: The anime made the wrong call on Akito's gender. To be fair, this wasn't revealed until a much later point in the manga than the anime ended on.
Invoked in a flashback. Tohru's mother Kyouko comes from an abusive household where her parents heavily neglected her and kicked her out of home right before her then-counselor and later-husband Katsuya came to ask them for marriage approval, so once she finds out she's carrying a baby, she has a Heroic BSOD due to being terrified that her relationship with Tohru would go the way of hers with her own mother.
For a double-hitter, while Kyoko is a good mother to Tohru, she dies not long before the series starts. Her last thoughts, as she lies bleeding to death in the road, are complete panic at the idea that her daughter will be left all alone and uncared for. This carries over to Hanajima and Uotani (who are Tohru's friends, but also act as surrogate parents at times), who are shocked to learn that while they thought Tohru was living with relatives, she'd spent a week living in a tent. Specially considering that Tohru's only relatives come from Kazuya's side... and save for her grandfather, they all hate her. (And when she has to stay with them for a while, they treat her like absolute shit.)
There's also the massive amounts of child abuse in general, both physical and psychological. Most of the characters are able to escape or overcome it by the end of the series, but it's still horrifying, especially considering how well most of it is covered up. And it's made even worse when the biggest of the abusers... turns out to have been one of the most abused victims. For a really selfish and petty reason, too.
Animorphism: There is one person corresponding to each animal in the Eastern Zodiac, as well as a cat. Hair color and personality appear to be linked to the animal spirit the person possesses, which causes problems for the people cursed by animals with exotic coloring.
Hilariously lampshaded with Hatsuharu (the cow): To prove to the overeager student council's president that his hair is naturally white with black roots, he drags him into the boys' bathroom and shows him his pubic hair. Of course, when Tohru asks Hatsuharu how he did it, and due to the fact that Haru is in 'black' mode and isn't really thinking straight, things end with a double Mega Ton Punch.
Art Evolution: The art gets very noticeably better as the manga goes on, starting from around the end of volume 2.
The Beastmaster: The Zodiac members do have the ability to attract and (sometimes) control whatever animal they are possessed by. However, only Yuki is seen actually utilizing the latter ability in the early chapters to help him dig out Tohru's belongings after her tent is buried in the aftermath of a landslide.
Kyo is regularly mocked by people who don't know his secret, who suggest that he should become a "Cat Trainer" given how cats are attracted to him.
Big Bad: Akito is directly responsible for a good portion of the problems several of the Sohmas dealt with. Ren was the one that ultimately pushed Akito over the edge.
Big Damn Heroes: When Yuki goes with his mother to a parent teacher meeting to discuss his future post high-school, she coldly dictates her chosen path for him, ignoring or overriding both Yuki and his teacher's objections... Until Ayame shows up, drives their mother into Rage Quitting, and takes over the meeting. This marks the point of true reconciliation between the brothers.
Chekhov's Gun: The manga is full of them (almost all are cut out in the anime adaptation) including Kyo's beads but most noticeably the little red hat that Tohru owns. It is shown sitting in her tent on the very first page, hanging off the iconic picture of her mother. Turns out to be one of the most driving plot devices as Tohru has a dream remembering her receiving the hat from a little boy when she was lost as a child and he led her home and in the second volume goes into full detail about the event. But while hinting at the significance of this story, what at first seems like it might only be a cute accidental meeting as we don't know whether the mysterious boy is Yuki or Kyo at first and when we find it was Yuki it is still unsure who the Official Couple will be, it actually turns out to weave into a whole Jigsaw Puzzle Plot between Kyo, Yuki and Tohru's Dark and Troubled Past where Everyone Is Related in ways that ultimately turn every character relationshipon their head and clears up all their past actions towards each other, in one Reveal right after another. All because a little red hat.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Kagura Sohmais a genuinely nice girl, but around Kyo she tends to switch into berserker mode, leaving the object of her 'affection' a crumpled heap on the ground before she knows it. ("My love! Who did this to you??") Kyo is rightly terrified when she first appears.
The Prince Yuki Fan Club is the definition of this trope although their leader, Motoko, later realizes she's being selfish about what Yuki wants after an attempt to confront Hanajima backfires and Hana questions them about being too pushy and forceful towards Yuki. She then speaks to Yuki and gets over him.
Akito is an enormous one. She has her reasons and eventually gets over it. Her mother is even worse.
Covered in Mud: At one point, Tohru's uniform is dirty from the mudslide that fell on her tent. Once she gets cleaned up, one of Yuki's fan club, jealous that Tohru arrived at school with Yuki, says "That mud looked so good on you".
Cross-Popping Veins: Parodied. After Kagura causes a big mess at Shigure's house, Kyo yells at Shigure for being too easy going about the incident. Shigure promptly reaches down and sticks a large, red set of veins to his head, declaring "Now I'm mad," and removing them a moment later. And Kyo in cat form is seen often sporting these.
Cursed with Awesome: Hatori would have been this, except his transformation symbolizes that the curse is weakening and so he becomes a seahorse instead of a dragon.
Played straight with Kureno, who transforms into a bird and thus has the ability to fly (though he only mentiones this briefly in a flashback and his animal form flying is never actually shown).
Dark-Skinned Redhead: Kyo is darker skinned than everyone else, at any rate. Could be partially due to his curse, partly to how much time he spends outside.
Which prompts Kyo to yell back "Don't try it here, either! And who the hell are you talking to anyways?!"
Due to the Dead: Many characters assist in proper respects to Tohru's dead mother.
Dysfunction Junction: Everyone has a tragic past, screwed up family history, and/or other significant psychological issues. Parents in general tend to be abusive, neglectful, ashamed of their childrens' forms, or dead. Some characters slip into states of violent psychosis when excited or annoyed.
On a lighter note, the rampant cross-dressing in the Sohma family seems almost normal by comparison to the myriad accounts of abuse and neglect.
In the manga, a brief look into Kimi Todo's backstory shows her getting teased in middle school, with the girls wondering aloud why she doesn't just go hang out with the boys and get by on her looks. And then Kimi subverts your expectations hilariously.
Eastern Zodiac: There is a character for each animal in the zodiac, plus a cat and the 'god' who arranged the legendary banquet. "God" doesn't get a transformation, however, it does have the power to manipulate the other spirits at will, forcing them to do anything it asks. They also love it unconditionally and can never blame it for anything. Unfortunately for the owner of the dragon spirit, a little wordplay means that instead of turning into an actual dragon (which would be badass), he turns into a 竜の落し子 (tatsu no otoshigo; "baby dragon"), or seahorse. However, Shigure in the manga says that the curse is falling apart and even the animal forms are half-baked forms of what they used to be, and he actually says: "Look at Hatori, for example.". While the traditional legend says there was one banquet and that the rat tricked the cat into missing it, the end of the manga reveals what really happened: the animals partied with the god all the time, but when they started approaching death, the god came up with a drink of reincarnation and gave some to the unconscious and dying cat. The cat woke up after drinking it and gave a Who Wants to Live Forever? speech that pissed everyone else off. Completely Missing the Point, they felt betrayed by the cat, drank the elixir, and died at some later point.
Everyone Is Related: Both in the sense that half the cast is actually biologically related to each other (the Sohma family is HUGE), but also in that the characters all manage to have some sort of connection to each other. The friend Yuki makes at school, for example? His girlfriend's father just happened to be the driver of the car that ran into Tohru's mother. Tohru's homeroom teacher? She just happens to be a friend of Shigure, Hatori and Ayame, and is in love - and by the end of the series, most likely on her way to being an official couple- with Hatori. The most obvious example, however, is that Tohru just happened to have met Yuki as a child, and Kyo just happened to know her mother.
When Kyoko was alive, so was she. And Tohru is nearly bowled over when she sees a picture of Momiji's German mother, while Yuki's homeroom is rather stunned when they see his mother.
Thanks to the Sohma being The Beautiful Elite every mother seen is at least fairly attractive if not drop-dead gorgeous.
Hot Springs Episode: Kyo, Tohru, Momiji and Yuki visit the hot springs resort owned by the Sohma family. Not as much fanservice for guys, but (considering the cast of bishonen) a fair amount for the female audience.
This ultimately is how Tohru's friends feel about Kyo dating and "taking" Tohru from them - they don't mind, as long as he makes her happy.
I Know Your True Name: Megumi Hanajima, Hana's little brother, claims to be able to curse a person if he knows his name. Every member of Yuki's fanclub accidentally reveals her name to him, to their horror, except one. ("Nice to meet you, Number Two-san.")
Instant Fan Club: Yuki has a small, very determined fan club. One episode is centered on their possessive, inconsiderate attitude. Though in the manga, the leader (Motoko Minagawa) actually gets over it.
According to the anime, almost half the entire school's female population is part of Yuki's fan club. We never see them though.
In the manga, Kyo eventually has his own fan club.
Akito — however, this partiular culprit does show remorse for the shit she pulled on everyone, even realizing with horror that there's simply no way to obtain forgiveness from the most abused members of the cast. That, and she has now the knowledge to break off the cycle of abuse that was started by Ren...
Ren really doesn't get punished for all of the emotional abuse and trickery she racks up over the course of the manga. Although she still doesn't end up too well, given that Akito is able to move past her manipulations and thus can't be tormented by Ren anymore, leaving Ren just a slightly crazy woman who is ignored and/or disliked by the Zodiac, a lot of the servants, and the family at large.
Fate Worse Than Death: Considering how a good part of Ren's motivation her desire to completely ruin Akito, this might actually be the best punishment ever for her. Now Akito is free and somewhat redeemed, and she will be more or less happy from now on — wbile Ren will always be there to see this and will never get over herself.
The neglectful or actively Abusive Parents or get away relatively unscathed. Rin's Abusive Parents? Well, Hatsuharu called them out, and Rin went to live with Kagura, but no action is actually taken against them. Momiji's mother? Retains the "perfect life" that her husband created for her at Momiji's expense — even his violin lessons were stopped when his little sister decided she wanted to play. Perhaps the latter's mental fragility gets her off the hook, but considering what her son went through...
Ren is also quite fond of it. Really, that's almost certainly where Akito picked it up from.
Kissing Cousins: A good portion of the official couples. Shigure/Akito, Haru/Rin, Hiro/Kisa, Hatori/Kana, Kagura's feelings for Kyo. Possibly justified by the size of the family, and that Hatori and Kana had never met each other before their first meeting.
When Katsuya Honda passes away, his relatives' conversations during the funeral ceremony quickly devolve from the circumstances surrounding his death to expressing their disapproval of Kyoko by berating or gossiping about her, saying that Katsuya was better off single. In a separate recollection of the same funeral, Tohru's grandfather brings up how the relatives would say disparaging remarks toward Tohru right in her face, thinking she would not understand.
Kyo's biological father chooses his mother's funeral ceremony to start scene/argument with Kyo, using the latter's inability to approach his mother's grave in front of the family as an excuse.
Magic Pants: Totally averted. Retrieving clothes is the first priority of any of the family members after they turn back human.
Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: During Katsuya's aforementioned funeral, Tohru's relatives openly speculate if Tohru was born from an affair. Their "evidence" was that Tohru didn't physically resemble Katsuya, and that Kyoko was a Former Teen Rebel.
Also possibly Akito/Shigure, who are between seven and nine years apart.
Mind Rape: Kana, thanks to Akito manipulating her after the incident with Hatori and driving her into madness, and Yuki, thanks to Akito's psychological abuse when they were kids.
Very ironically, Akito is a victim of Mind Rape from much earlier: it came from her mother Ren, who after years of horrendous mental and emotional abuse, drove Akito to think that the Sohmas would abandon her forever for somebody else...who turned out to be Tohru, who also was able to save Akito from herself.
It's implied that Tohru herself went through this as a child, when her father died and she had to listen to her relatives talk about how Kyoko was a good-for-nothing bitch who didn't properly care for Katsuya and probably was having affairs, how Tohru was probably an illegitimate child, and how "a child like that is no consolation". Ouch.
Mutual Envy: Both Yuki and Kyo envy each others circumstances and personalities, Kyo wants to be acknolowged by the main house of Sohma and as part of the Zodiac so he envies Yuki who being the mouse, gets a privileged place over Kyo and even the other members of the zodiac, Yuki on the other hand has always been in a Gilded Cage, due to turning into a mouse if a girls hug him, he maintains distance and doesn' t have any real friends, nor does he know how to make them, he envies Kyo's personality, outgoing nature, and ability to bond so easily with others.
Never Got to Say Goodbye: Tohru always said goodbye to her mother, except for the one day her mother ended up dying in a car accident. This comes up again as a lesson about no second chances near the end of the manga. In the manga, there's is a flashback with Kyoko saying the same thing about Tohru's father Katsuya.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The point of Ren's bet with Akito to not erase Tohru's memories was to allow the Zodiac to gravitate towards a stranger and away from Akito (aka "God"), proving to Akito that the bond between the Zodiac and God was false and that no one truly loved her, thereby pushing her into the Despair Event Horizon. The end result was the breaking of the Zodiac curse, Akito pulling a Heel-Face Turn and Ren being left with nothing but her rage.
Our Werewolves Are Different: While not called werebeasts, each member has a single and unique alternate animal form, brought about by being hugged by non-Zodiac members of opposite sex. The animals are a cat, rat, dog, tiger, rabbit, dragon (seahorse), ox, snake, sheep, monkey, horse and rooster (sparrow).
Also, the person possessed by the cat will turn into a foul-smelling monster if their prayer-bead bracelet is removed.
Overtook the Manga: Barely averted. Due to Natsuki Takaya's hand injury necessitating a leave of absence from the series, the anime would have done this had it continued any longer than it did.
The Patient Has Left the Building: Rin is taken to the hospital to be treated for malnourishment. She wakes up when no doctors are around to check on her and, having no idea what she's doing there or why she was not imprisoned in the Cat's room as she promised, she promptly left and began wandering the streets in a dazed stupor.
Personality Powers: While more obvious for certain characters than others, their animal forms tend to reflect their personalities: Yuki (the rat) is quiet and shrewd and pretty screwed up mentally, Kyo (the cat) is impulsive and hotheaded but defrosts to certain people he chooses, Shigure (the dog) is laidback and friendly, etc.
Pimped-Out Dress: When she and Yuki visit Ayame's shop, Tohru gets dolled up in one by Mine, causing Yuki to have a "Romantic BSOD".
Ayame's store tends to deal with these in general. The ones he provides for the girls in the cast of "Sorta Cinderella" are pretty nice as well, with Mine loving Hanajima's request for a "pure black" one.
A variant is done when Tohru dreams that she is back in her old apartment, and it is the morning that her mother left and was hit by a car. While she dreams that she is stuck in her bed, she mentally screams for her mother to not leave or else she'll die.
Reincarnation: The agents of the curse, not the characters themselves.
Rescue Hug: At one time, Tohru trips and falls down a slope, prompting both Yuki and Kyo to try to rescue her, accidentally hug her, and turn into animals.
Rousseau Was Right: In the end, the only real "antagonist" of the series was the misunderstanding brought on by the curse and the closed nature of the Sohma family, and even the worst individuals are revealed to be scared and lonely onside. A good example is the rivalry between Yuki and Kyo: both actually hold the other in esteem, but their jealousy and perception of the "curse" prevents them from saying so until they have no choice.
Schedule Slip: The artist, Natsuki Takaya, broke her left hand - her drawing hand - while working on the 8th book, forcing her to take an extended break from the series. This is one of the reasons that the anime ended the way it did, the other reason was the Creative Differences between her and anime director Akitaroh Daichi.
Shout-Out: Early on in the manga, Tohru refers to the massive garbage pile in the Sohma's kitchen as "the Sea of Decay".
In the episode where Tohru is visited by her friends in the Souhma house, Hanajima sees Kyo and Yuki fighting and says they remind her of a show called something with the name "Jerry" in it (completely unaware as to how close a similarity she actually was making). No doubt she was speaking the thoughts of many a western viewer/reader.
Social Services Does Not Exist: Tohru is living in a tent in the woods at the beginning of the series, and the Sohma kids have all been so abused/neglected that they're barely able to socialize at school. Justified in that Tohru always and constantly makes clear she does not want to be a burden to anyone, probably including any social service that would be responsible for her (not to mention she sees it as a training for the harsh real life), so she apparently took care that Social Services never learned about her one-week-adventure with the tent. And the big messed up Sohma family are secluded and rich and stick to themselves, so Social Services could hardly step in.
Not to mention, poor Tohru was loathed by her remaining family except for her grandfather, who can't do a lot about it since he's extremely old and sickly. When she has to live with them, her aunt and cousins treat her in a really horrifying manner - they don't beat her up, okay, but they badmouth her and her Missing Mom every five minutes. At that rate, it was for the best for her to not stay with them.
He does it again (though right at the edge of the panel, so it's easy not to notice, and nobody calls him out on it like in the above example) when Ayame orders Tohru to immediately remove all her clothes in volume 8.
Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: Kisa is the victim of a version of the ignore tactic. First everyone in her class ignores her, and then whenever she says something everyone starts to giggle. This turns her into a Cute Mute.
Strange Minds Think Alike: Ayame and Mine have no problem understanding each other. In another scene, Hatsuharu talks to Kakeru like he's giving away Yuki to be married. Kakeru jumps into the bit without missing a beat.
There Was a Door: Some part of poor Shigure's house is nearly constantly being repaired as a result. Causes of damage usually involve Kagura or Kyo, either kicking something or being kicked into something.
Kagura appears to have a tendency to break her own house, given a scene where she punches a door and her mother comments "Kagura, that's the second time you've broken that door in as many months."
Title Drop: The title references a memory that Tohru had of a game she once played in Kindergarten called "Fruits Basket" (essentially Duck-Duck-Goose, only with fruit names). She was assigned the name of "onigiri" (rice ball) and was never called on, leaving her to conclude that "there was no room for an onigiri in a Fruits Basket".
To Become Human: The curse greatly restricts the social freedom of the afflicted and binds them to the head of the Sohma family. Emphasized more in the events after the anime.
Trash of the Titans: How Shigure's house was until Tohru moved in. A throwaway gag later reveals that his bedroom remains like this.
Before having her mental breakdown, Akito was one. When Yuki looks back on those times, he remembers Akito yelling at him for coughing too much, then calming down and gently picking up a bowl that fell over.
Vomit Discretion Shot: In the manga, Kyo's expulsion is discreetly covered...by Bishie Sparkle! Also Tohru, in an off-panel shot while chasing after Kyo in the cat's true form, as well as in the manga flashback when Kyoko is first revealed to be pregnant, she's leaning over the sink.
What Could Have Been: Natsuki Takaya said she planned to have Ritsu and Mitsuru develop a relationship but she couldn't find a spot to fit it into the story. By the time she realized the story was still sitting there (and Ritsu hadn't made an appearance after his introduction) the manga was ending.
Though a small mention at the finale gives the impression that it happened off-screen.
What the Hell, Casting Agency?: In-universe obvious example. Playing "Cinderella" at the school festival? Fantastic idea! Tohru will be perfect in the role of… What do you mean, she was cast as the mean stepsister? Prince Charming Kyo has no chance of rejecting the stepsister, in this case.
And when the characters realize it, instead of switching a few actors, they completely warp the story so it fits the actors personality. At the end of the play, we have actually no idea what was part of the rewriting, what was the actors going Off the Rails.