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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fruits Basket is a heartwarming anime series with strong themes of friendship, inner strength, and spiritualism. Although it explores some pretty weighty issues like the death of a parent, suicide, and depression, its overwhelmingly positive messages point to trusting relationships as the key to happiness. There's a lot of conflict between the characters because of a family secret, and conflict often evolves into physical fighting with little result. You'll also hear some language ("hell," "suck," "shut up") and name-calling when tempers flare. Ultimately, though, this thoughtful show expertly illustrates the importance of self-acceptance and respecting differences in others.
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What's the story?
FRUITS BASKET opens to the story of recently orphaned Tohru Honda (voiced by Laura Bailey) stumbling upon the closely guarded secret of the Sohma family, whose 13 members bear a curse that can turn them into embodiments of the Chinese zodiac animals when they're stressed or if they touch a member of the opposite gender. When she promises to keep their secret, they invite her to live with them as a housekeeper, which allows her to get to know them -- and their alter egos -- better over time. She's drawn to Kyo (Jerry Jewell), a fiery teen who embodies the resentfulness of his animal form, the cat whom legend says was left off the Zodiac because of the rat's trickery. Meanwhile Yuki (Eric Vale), the rat, harbors feelings for her as well, which complicates matters in the Sohma home. Determined to help her adoptive family, Tohru sets out to break the curse that holds them hostage.
Is it any good?
This series is a surprisingly warm-and-fuzzy addition to the anime genre, thanks to overwhelmingly positive themes about strong relationships built on trust and mutual respect. Flashy, loud, and often weighted down by blatant marketing (Pokemon and Bakugan, anyone?), anime is an acquired taste, and it doesn't strike a chord with everyone. But because of Tohru's generosity and kindness, the guarded Sohmas come to appreciate long-avoided companionship in an unexpected way, which eventually proves life-saving to everyone involved.
Despite its exceptional attributes, some of Fruits Baskets' content still demands a tween's maturity, particularly in the periodic language and the often-violent feelings that surround the characters' circumstances. But if yours tune in, they'll also witness an evolving teen relationship that favors patience and devotion over physical infatuation, and several emotional journeys out of despair and loss, all tied together by a strong underlying spiritualism.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coping with feelings of sadness or loss, like Tohru does in Fruits Basket. Have your kids ever dealt with issues like these? How does confiding in someone help? To whom do they go for a sympathetic ear when it's needed?
Tweens: Do you feel much pressure to conform to how your peers dress or act? Are you ever self-conscious about the qualities that set you apart from them? How does it feel to be different from the pack?
Conflict is a constant presence in the characters' lives. How do your kids resolve differences with siblings or friends? Is violence ever the right answer?
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