Tohru Honda, the heroine of the manga and anime series Fruits Basket, is a kind and compassionate soul with a healing touch. Everyone she meets is astounded by her generous, understanding nature, looking to her to help soothe their old wounds – even if they don’t particularly like her. But Tohru’s hyper-sweet personality isn’t exactly realistic and, the deeper the series goes, the more it can actually be seen as a problem.
The idea that Tohru Honda’s incredible compassion could be a negative thing might seem a bit odd at first. After all, this spirit of generosity and kindness is what defines her, and it drives the story forward. But there can be too much of a good thing, and the story of Fruits Basket tries to make Tohru into an infinite well of understanding, prepped and ready for the Sohmas to draw from whenever they want. A person can only give so much of themselves to a family of strangers.
Tohru’s mother, Kyoko Honda, taught her daughter to always be kind and understanding, no matter what. Kyoko had a rough upbringing and grew up as a delinquent, but was healed when she met her future husband, Katsuya, and they had a daughter together – Tohru. Katsuya died not long after that, leaving Kyoko as a struggling but tough single parent.
Kyoko had long since left her delinquent life behind, and she passed on lessons on compassion, patience, and forgiveness to her daughter. As Kyoko taught her, it’s easy to be cynical, but it’s a real effort to believe in others and bring out the best in them. She taught Tohru that the best things in life are worth fighting for and ever come easy, like how Katsuya overcame every obstacle to save Kyoko from her hard life. Tohru took this to heart, truly believing that every hurt or lost person can and should be saved – a one-woman army of redemption. That’s a noble cause, but really, there is only so much that one teenager can do. Being willing to shoulder emotional burdens still means shouldering a burden.
It’s honestly great that Tohru works so hard to bring light into the dark and painful lives of others. But never once in the story of Fruits Basket does Tohru show any real fatigue from doing so. After a person gives so much of themselves to others, realistically, it’s only a matter of time before that person is mentally drained and can’t do any more. Tohru flits from one wounded soul to another in the Sohma family and beyond, showing Herculean mental strength by uplifting them all. In a story like this, of course she should help them; it’s what she does. But this much?
As the story goes, it becomes rather odd, seeing Tohru do so much for others and experiencing zero consequences of such emotional gymnastics. She ought to need a rest, a moment to focus on her own life and what matters to her for her, but she never does. Even up to the manga’s end, she looks out for those around her, sparing no thought for her own well-being. Suffice it to say, it’s eyebrow-raising that this one girl is still at it, and never slips or stumbles in the slightest. A more cynical approach is that it’s simply impossible for anyone to act like this so much, and it’s unrealistic to show Tohru working like a tireless machine. But, even with a more balanced view, one has to wonder why she never at least receives any help.
Another minor, but real issue with Fruits Basket‘s Tohru Honda is that she does little more than chug along on this quest to become everyone’s personal savior. She barrels down her path like a train, set on the rails of “I must save everyone!” Of course, the main character of any story should have a distinct goal, and a certain personality and worldview so they can be consistent. Tohru is certainly consistent and has a goal, but there’s little else to her outside of that. What does Tohru want for herself, beyond her mission to heal everyone around her? What does she want from a career, does she want a family, does she have travel plans? The manga does outline her future life as a grown woman, but for now, Tohru has clear thoughts about what she wants.
It’s not so selfish for a person to consider their own needs. After all, Fruits Basket makes it clear that Tohru is a tough, independent and smart girl who can handle herself, so deciding on her future path and tending to her own needs should be a snap. But she doesn’t do it, because she has yet another lost soul crying out for help to tend to, and Tohru must run off to save it. Once in a while, the Sohmas should solve their problems and drama on their own, and give Tohru a much-needed day off.
Tohru Honda is an exceptionally loving and giving person – and that's exactly the problem.