one of many subcultures

This page serves as an intermission to explain something that will come up several times across the shrine. In Fruits Basket, two female characters are associated with delinquent all-girl street gangs: Kyoko and Arisa. Arisa’s story is covered in volume 7, which also addresses some of Kyoko’s past, though Kyoko’s background as a gang member is already mentioned in volume 1 and volume 4.

These gangs are known as Sukeban, a Japanese subculture which was on the rise from the 60s onwards and may have been inspired by the boys-exclusive Bancho gangs. Girls belonging to Sukeban culture expressed themselves with modifications to their sailor-style school uniforms: ankle-length skirts, rolled-up sleeves, unruly socks; uniforms were also embroidered with symbols and slogans of their gang. Many dyed their hair and carried weapons such as concealed razor blades, chains or bamboo swords.

Sukeban had their own groups with strict rules and harsh penalties: Transgressions resulted in “lynching”, executed via cigarette burns or beatings. Such transgressions included disrespectful conduct towards senior members, stealing boyfriends, consuming drugs and bonding with rival gang members. These gangs would commit violent and criminal acts and start fights with rival gangs. Altogether, their attire and actions were expressions of defiance against the strict rules of society.

Note that Arisa is still referred to as a Yankii (Yankee) by the time the story starts due to the way she presents herself (dyed hair, long skirt, loud mouth, rebellious vibe), and it may be that I lack knowledge despite extensive research, but the line between Sukeban (all-girl gangs), Yankii (delinquent youths) and Bosozoku (biker gangs), all of which are Japanese subcultures, seems to be blurred in Fruits Basket (and not just there).

In the series, these gangs are depicted as sisterhoods with strict codes and physical sanctions, which mainly seems to apply to Sukeban from what I’ve read. On the other hand, elements of Bosozoku are present in Kyoko’s and also some of Arisa’s past get-ups (the thin or shaved eyebrows, the gauze mask, the embroidered robe, and the sarashi, a white cloth wrapped around the chest) as well as the mention of Kyoko’s bike. Yankii also seems to be an umbrella term for delinquent youths that loiter about in the city.

Both Yankii and Bosozoku apparently emerged later and may have their roots in Sukeban though, while Sukeban is now considered out of style (perhaps absorbed by Bosozoku), and they are all at least partly inspired by the Yakuza (Japanese criminal syndicates), so I recommend reading these three articles for more information if you’re interested!