If there is one thing that Fruits Basket is very good at (other than its characters), it is foreshadowing and symbolism. The melancholic anime has moments that seem unconnected at first, but fit right into place later. A foreshadow that remains my favorite is Tohru being the onigiri in the game of Fruits Basket and Kyo being the Cat in the Zodiac Signs. Both of them are the odd ones out in their group and are never called upon for that very reason. Until they meet the other oddball and find something they never have. And well. Rest is history (or the future 😛), I suppose?
The anime always leaves you asking for more with its little teasers seamlessly sewn in the plot itself. And if you’re like me, you look for clues to answer your questions that the makers leave. One such instance is the ending sequence of season 2 (Eden by Monkey Majik) which is laden with symbolism. Sure it is a gorgeous sight to the eyes, but it is so much more than just a bunch of people sitting/standing/lying down in a bunch of plants. Every image has its own meaning and today we’re gonna dive right into it. Buckle up, ’cause this is going to be a long ride.
Now then, let us start.
Fruits Basket is heavily inspired by hanafuda cards (yep just like that one thing from Demon Slayer), and I am going to incorporate the most important implications that come from it, but do read up on that if you want to!
The first image that we see is of Kyo, standing among bamboo trees reaching out to sunlight (keep that in mind for later!). The bamboo trees serve as an imagery of the prison that the previous Cat of the Zodiac was confined to, and Kyo is donning the kimono that the latter wore in confinement. This might be a hint at him getting locked up in the future that Akito has kept reminding him and us. However, bamboo also depicts resilience – it doesn’t break no matter how much you bend it. I think it shows how Kyo, even after being ostracized all his life, is holding on, and him reaching out to the sunlight/freedom depicts the tiny hope he has left in him. It also symbolizes purity & innocence, much akin to our boy, ain’t it?
Named after the month of January, Hatsuharu is surrounded by pine cones. Pine trees are related to the New Year in Japanese culture and symbolize renewal and a bright future. Pines are also known to withstand harsh conditions, continuing which we see a blood/red moon. This moon is related to bad omens and superstitions – to the point of extreme, & even violent, behaviors caused by it. Sound familiar? Haru turns “dark” often and becomes violent from his sublime self. We also see him focused on a flower he’s holding, which I cannot decide if it is a peony or red rose. It is widely known that the red rose is a symbolism of love and romance, which is quite pertinent to Haru’s story. Those are also the flowers Haru took to Rin in the hospital, which she rejected. About the peony…hmm. Wait for a while and you will know why I’m undecided! In short, Haru’s present might seem ominous, but there is hope for him. 🙂
For February i.e., Kisa, we see a plum blossom tree. This tree blooms before other plants marking the change of seasons: spring thawing into winter. If you remember, that is how the story of Kisa goes. She was pushed into silence after being bullied by her classmates due to her strange appearance courtesy of her curse. But now, she is gradually overcoming her fears and growing. One beautiful thing to note is that plum is known to bloom even when covered in frost – a sign that Kisa has the strength to ward off adversities.
Even if I don’t tell you, you will have recognized the flowers portrayed behind Kureno already. This is everyone’s favorite and very popular – sakura, or cherry blossoms. However, whether deliberately or accidentally, Natsuki Takaya swapped Kureno and Momiji. In short, March was supposed to be Momiji as it is the month of the rabbit. But coming back, cherry blossoms represent spring and the fleeting nature of life. This might be symbolic of the fact that Kureno is later revealed to be the person who broke free from the curse. It can also represent the short time he spent with Arisa that was beautiful as the flowers, but very short too akin to their two weeks’ worth life span. The cloth that Kureno is holding is one that we see Akito drape often. It shows his attachment to Akito that he can’t break away from even after not being under the curse.
Hatori, named after April, is surrounded by another flower that you might have recognized. Yep, it is Wisteria. This flower has many, many meanings but the ones I feel pertain to Hatori the most are love, patience, honor, and endurance. Love is an important element in Hatori’s story. I would even go as far as saying that love shaped him into an interesting character – irreparably broken from his tragedy with Kana but still upholding his duty as a Zodiac member. He has also endured his pain for a long time. We also see him being an honorable man (unlike his friend, Shigure). Wisteria also interestingly symbolizes wisdom and consciousness, considering how Hatori erases the memories of people. Lastly, Wisteria and the eclipse in the background can also mean new beginnings in the form of Mayuko in Hatori’s life.
Coming to Ayame who is named after May. The once distant brother of Yuki has the irises around him. Irises most importantly signify protection against evil. This is symbolic of Ayame wanting to defend and support Yuki, unlike before when he had not rescued his brother from Akito. The flower also depicts the absence of hesitation – very much like Ayame who is outspoken, confident, and flamboyant in his behavior. It also signifies loyalty and sympathy, which can again be directed to the emotions he truly feels about Yuki after realizing his mistakes.
Isuzu (Rin) Sohma
Peonies and peonies. Rin, or Isuzu (named after June), is a closed-off person on the outside but a sensitive and broken child on the inside. These characteristics perfectly associate her with peonies, the flowers that symbolize bravery. Her traumatic life with her family’s fake happiness rendered her with weak self-respect but she is as daring as they come. Peony embodies just that – daring – like her wanting to break the curse all on her own to ensure Haru’s happiness. Now if you remember, I was undecided if the flower Haru’s holding is a rose or peony. The theory for peony comes from Rin’s image because Haru is so focused on the peony in his hand, whose petals are flying away. In Rin’s image too, we see her back as if turning away, like the petals. But she’s still looking over her shoulder, (where I want to believe Haru is standing) because peonies also embody love.
One of the youngest cursed members of the Sohma family, Hiro is moody in his behavior with others but loves Kisa deeply, and will go to any lengths for her. However, Kisa is oblivious as hell to his feelings. The young boy named after July is, hence, encircled by bush clover, which signifies melancholy and unrequited love. The melancholy plays into his story as we come to know that Zodiac members are forbidden to be in a romantic relationship by Akito. Bush clover are also the bearers of autumn; they are modest plants that take root after the showy flowers of spring wilt gradually. Hiro too is a silent lover but puts up an attitude of an older person.
After Hiro, we meet Kyoko who is gracefully standing amongst a field of flowers and playing with butterflies. And I don’t even need to tell you the name of this infamous flower. If you have watched enough anime, you know that these are red spider lilies, the symbols of death. These flowers are called the flowers of heaven, and the name can also be translated to ‘the other shore’. Another interesting interpretation of this flower is to signify companions who are departing from one another and will never meet again. The crimson butterflies have their own meaning too. Butterflies are considered to carry the souls of the departed. They are also known as messengers, following whom, one can solve troubles. This is accurate, as Kyoko is someone Tohru often look back at in times of trouble and despair. Plus, Kyoko also went with the name Crimson Butterfly when she was in a gang!
Coming back to the Sohmas, the next one is Ritsu. The shy and timid member of the Zodiac is named after August, and thus his image has the Japanese pampas. This grass is the bearer of autumn, a good harvest of rice, and an important element of the Tsukimi or moon-viewing festival in Japan. We can also see the full moon which further relays Tsukimi. I am gonna be honest with you. I did not know how this whole thing connected to Ritsu’s story. But then (after 30 minutes of research) realization hit me. Ritsu had to work very hard in his childhood to keep up with everyone else in school and athletics, just like the farmers do for growing crops. He is also shown to be extremely anxious, just like the people are for having a good harvest because rice is so important to Japan. And lastly, like the full moon symbolizes clarity and realization of desires, Ritsu begins to slowly develop his confidence and open up after Tohru tells him to live for someone else’s sake if not for himself.
September is supposed to the month of the rooster. But, like our mangaka wishes, we’re just going to pretend to not see it (again). Momiji sits in the image amongst a field of chrysanthemum flowers. The one symbol that outshone the others to me is one of goodwill. We know that Momiji is one of the first friends Tohru makes (aside from Yuki and Kyo) from the Sohma family, and the rabbit-boy is full of purity and goodwill for others. He also helped Tohru on multiple occasions. Befitting his personality, the flowers also symbolize loyalty and devoted but neglected love. He is kind and understanding, to the point that he accepted not meeting his sister or mother for their sakes. He gave up his much-adored violin lessons for the same.
Shigure and maple trees (fun fact; they’re called momiji too) have one of the best symbolisms here. Japanese maple trees have been considered to represent balance and practicality, which is exactly what defines Shigure. He carefully balances his personality and actions with Akito, Tohru, Yuki, Mayu…basically anyone who is around him. He is also brutally practical – we already know he took Tohru in so that he could achieve his personal ends through her. Maple trees also mean calm, which is how we see his demeanor in every situation. He is too composed, to the point of sinisterness. You will never find Shigure without a book and it just adds to his educated tastefulness that he is an author. You guessed it, that is another interpretation of maple. These trees also embody beauty, grace, and elegance which is the appearance Shigure puts up. An interesting perspective I have is that maple leaves start off as green, but as soon as autumn starts, they completely change colors. This is indicative of the man’s true nature, as he is (maybe not fully) faking his outward personality. I think I can go on and on about this, but let’s stop here (click on this link to see what else maple means) and move on.
Now, November. From the hanafuda cards image, I couldn’t figure out at first what these trees were. But thanks to Google, they’re willows. These trees have an interesting characteristic in the form of roots. Their roots grow pretty quickly and deeply and are very enduring. This can symbolize Kagura’s love for Kyo which took root fast out of her guilt. Willow roots can grow even from broken branches, which can be a poetic metaphor for how Kagura’s broken feelings of pity, disgust, and repulsion took the form of love for Kyo as compensation. A meaning of willow from the West related to the “weeping willow” also resonates with Kagura. It means pain and tears which can explain the tumultuous nature of Kagura’s love. Since willow grows so fast, it also represents renewal which Kagura wanted to achieve by confessing her true feelings to Kyo.
For December, we have Yuki! His name is the unique one from the Zodiacs as although it is pronounced like snow in Japanese but it is not written like it. The kanji for Yuki’s name is 由希. 由 means ‘a reason’ and 希 means ‘hope’. So the meaning of his name is “a reason to hope”. The flower he is holding is a white rose which represents purity and innocence. They also mean friendship, love, a new beginning, and eternal loyalty. Beautiful, given that he seems like he will play an important role in breaking the curse and the rose describes his relationship with Tohru. He is also trying to make new friends. Behind him, we see paulownia. Now, this tree too screams Yuki. One thing that the tree is known for is being resistant enough to even grow in infertile soil. They also require the bare minimum to grow and are low maintenance. The trees also signify obedience and loyalty. Very poetic representation of Yuki’s childhood and teenage, right? Many bees, butterflies, and birds are attracted to the fragrant flowers, just like the people around Yuki. This tree is also called the tree of life and good luck, and the children of Rat in Zodiac are also considered lucky. You know what? It is also called a princess tree and we know what Yuki is teased by, LOL!
Now for the kamisama or God of the Zodiacs, we see a sinister and dark image. I love how the two contrasting images of Yuki and Akito are placed next to each other, with them even facing each other. It just confirms speculations that they are two sides of the same coin. Red camellias signify a deep desire, in this case, I think it points out to Akito’s desire to keep the Zodiac members close. The messages behind camellias are pretty positive until you see it with Akito in the frame. Undying love, union, and divinity; all these don’t have a negative connotation but combine that with Akito’s position and obsessive behavior with controlling the Zodiacs and you get a tragic meaning. This flower is also considered as a sign of misfortune because when it dies, it gets “beheaded” i.e., the entire head falls down. Akito’s hands also seem bloodstained representing impurity. It also looks like Akito is almost dirtying a flower similar to the white rose held by Yuki. It might point to how Akito has Yuki completely under control. It also helps that Yuki is looking away while Akito seems to be directly staring at him. Pretty striking and dark, isn’t it?
Lastly (and finally!!) we have our favorite girl Tohru smiling like always and reaching out. Essentially ending the sequence on Tohru is something we already know – Tohru is the key. But besides this, if you look closely you will see that all the sunflowers are facing her to symbolize her being the “sunlight”. And if you have a good memory, Kyo was reaching out to the sunlight!! It is a full circle from Kyo to Tohru. Is it just my heart or you feel a bit emo too?! The kimono and hairpin Tohru wears are also marked with sunflowers. These flowers hold a lot of meaning through myths – but in Japan especially they are related to hope, faith, and restoration (this comes from a radioactive spill in Fukushima, click here to know more). Tohru perfectly embodies these emotions for the Zodiacs.
Author’s note: Phew! Now that we’re at the end, this video gave me the inspiration to research about and write this article after I came across hanafuda. Because flowers and plants depict so many things, there are a lot of meanings I might have missed but I tried my best to give a gist of how artistically beautiful this ending was. If you noticed anything that I missed, let me know in the comments! Can’t wait for Season 3 now, can you?! Me neither. Until then, sayonara~ (IYKWIM)!