Fruits Basket, commonly abbreviated as Furuba, is a comedy-drama manga of 23 volumes that was first serialized in the shoujo manga magazine Hana to Yume between 1998 and 2006. Its anime adaptation of 26 episodes ran in 2001; as the manga was still ongoing during its production, it took several liberties with the story, including the merging and omitting of events, and ends prematurely with the events in volume 6.

The story follows the recently orphaned Tohru Honda as two members of the Sohma clan welcome her into their household. By accident, she learns that their family is haunted by a curse: In their long history, children possessed by the animal spirits of the Chinese zodiac are born from time to time; when in a physically weak condition or embraced by someone of the opposite sex, they temporarily turn into the respective animal. As Tohru gets used to her new everyday life, cursed clan members keep turning up one by one, each with their own struggles and issues. Tohru, the heart of the story, reaches out to each of them, and her personal strength and overflowing kindness allow them to find comfort so as to gradually recover from the things they have been through.

Fruits Basket combines many different elements, including the supernatural and the romantic, and may look like a reverse harem or a high school life series at first. Members of the Sohma clan make up a major part of the cast, considering the fact that the timespan covered in Fruits Basket is the first time that all members of the zodiac have been alive at the same time. At times wholeheartedly happy, at times heartbreakingly sad, often equally hilarious and thoughtful — yet, what’s truly remarkable to me is that none of that is series-defining. In fact, the supernatural elements are subdued, and are mainly a catalyst for the human and immensely relatable personal issues underneath to be addressed. Fruits Basket is first and foremost a coming of age story of many different people in many different situations, not just the Sohmas, and at the center of its narrative are the human psyche, the bonds that we weave, and emotional healing.

Kyoko Honda — at first glance
Echo — lingering presence
Gang Member — one of many subcultures