Fruits Basket: How one manga taught me to believe in myself
For those who have not heard of Fruits Basket by Takaya Natsuki, the story begins when Tohru decides to live on her own in a tent after her mother dies in a car accident. When her classmate Yuki, the school prince, discovers her secret, he invites her to live with him and his relatives Shigure and Kyo (until she can move in with her relatives.) But soon, Tohru realizes that Yuki and 13 members of the Sohma have a curse that enables them to change into animals of the Chinese zodiac. As time goes on, Tohru realizes that because of the curse, many of the jyunishi or the Chinese zodiac members hold emotional trauma at heart but Tohru’s optimism helps shine a light into everyone as she searched for a way to break the curse.
In episode 28, the author introduces the reader to Kisa, a girl who embodies the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac. She recently began middle school but started to skip school as well as stopped speaking because she is being bullied for her unusual appearance. As members of the jyunishi, some have unique hair and eye colors that regular people do not have, and like Hatsuharu mentions, “such is the fate of those of us who are possessed by the spirits’ to become easy people to tease. Tohru and Yuki brainstorm over how they could help Kisa when Hatsuharu stops by Shigure’s house to deliver a letter from Kisa’s teacher. In the letter the instructor writes: “Sohma-san, how are you? Will you be coming to school soon? Everyone in class is waiting for you to come back. You can come to me for advice, so won’t you try harder to join everyone? And what’s most important.. is for you to like yourself, Sohma-san. To find the good things about yourself, and like yourself for who you are. Because people who don’t like themselves can’t expect others to like them.” After reading the letter, Yuki tells Kisa that there was a time when he was younger when he too, stopped talking and felt feelings of shame and hatred toward himself. He then asks a self-rhetorical question of how can one begin to like oneself when “ [you] only know things that [you] hate about [yourself].” But then he tells her that it’s not that one has to force oneself to find a quality that they like about themselves, but it’s when someone tells a person that they like you, “when someone accepts you, for the first time…you feel like you can…forgive yourself a little” despite their faults and begin to love themselves as who they are.
This may not be thought-provoking literature, but for a comic to illustrate this subject and write about it with the right words, I felt it was profound. I was 14 or so when I first began reading the series, a time when teens are interested in being able to fit in with one’s peers, make friends and have a place to belong. I used to be overly concerned with the fact that I didn’t fit in everyone else or I wasn’t as popular or that it took me longer to get used to new situations. Middle school was a time when I spent many days crying over when the day would come when people saw me for who I felt I really was, instead of how I appeared to be. When I reminisce on those times, I laugh at myself for having spent so many brain cells on such trivial thoughts, but that is, I guess, what it means to be a teenager. But as Yuki tells Kisa in episode 28, I too, began to heal when I felt that I became accepted for who I was.
It began with high school. During those years, I met friends who didn’t seem to mind my quirks, stuck with me even when things weren’t going too bright. From the moment I met them, I felt as though we connected well, all of us were studious and we understood a kid sense of humor. I also believe that part of it was becoming more mature. In college, I realized that it did not matter who was popular, people did not hang around as often in cliques and because I went to a community college, students came from a variety of backgrounds that made it so that being different was okay. The last step that solidified me into the person I am today is my study abroad experience. Before going abroad, I felt worried about whether I would make friends, whether I would be okay living so far away from everyone I knew (I went to a university within an hour of my hometown). But once I was there in Edinburgh, Scotland, all of the fears I carried with me just melted away. Because I was at a new school, with people who did not have a clue of who I am or what kind of history I have, I became courageous, tried new things I would never try back at home, and just acted as myself without giving a damn of what other people might think. Whatever it was, it worked because the person who left to go abroad, came back a different person: more confident and not afraid to shine out the inner light that makes us unique. Despite flaunting around my queer self, I found friends in other study abroad students, who did not seem to mind this and we became friendly enough that we went traveling across Scotland. My university also provided us with group excursions where all the students studying in the UK got together to sightsee and travel. Through these events, I got to meet students from my home university as well. Coming home, I continued to apply the lessons I learned abroad. When I did so, I felt my relationships between old friends and coworkers improve.
The whole experience taught as well as proved to me that idea Yuki tells Kisa, that truly, when “someone accepts you,” acknowledges you and continues to stick with you despite your faults that is, only then can we begin to appreciate ourselves with who we are.
It wasn’t like the friends I talk about here, they inspired me and then we went our separate ways. The study abroad gang and I, we still keep in touch to this day. My high school amigas as well.
Fruits Basket: How one manga taught me to believe in myself by StellaSee is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.