Waifu Wednesday: Tohru Honda (Fruits Basket)

Waifu Wednesday

With the finale of the newest anime adaptation of Natsuki Takaya’s best known manga series wrapping up in less than a week’s time, I thought it was high time that we dedicate at least an article’s worth to this wonderful, timeless creation and its protagonist Tohru Honda.

Fruits Basket exposed millennial anime fans to a poignant and life-altering tale, and it could not have come at a more appropriate time for myself. But more on that shortly.

With its rebooted anime adaption airing since 2019, it has captured the hearts of a new generation of younger audiences, grabbing their attention and imagination with its fantastical premise, and inspiring them for their future endeavours with its grounded messages. It’s a show that remains relevant to our daily lives as we continually discover who we really are and what we should make of our existence.

The cast of Fruits Basket is mostly splendid, with many notable standouts who deserve their own pieces in the waifu and husbando halls of fame (obligatory Rin and Haru is the OTP comment right here).

But Tohru Honda is truly special for being a captivating and empowering role-model, even after well over 20 years since her first appearance. And as one of the very few anime/manga protagonists I regard with the very highest level of affection, we’re giving her all the credit she deserves right here, right now.

Who is Tohru Honda?

In a show centred around the universal theme of opening up to others despite the possibility of rejection, the heart of Fruits Basket’s overall message of acceptance is delivered through Tohru Honda.

Through Tohru’s patience, consideration and affection towards others — and her ability to share some meaningful life lessons despite her tender age of 16 — she is the catalyst for the ongoing narrative. She helps everyone around her within the Sohma family, whose curse across centuries has had its members turn into their respective Zodiac animals when they come into physical contact with the opposite sex.

The journey of her own self-improvement and her acceptance of her own trauma is seen through through her kindness in aiding the Sohma family heal from their own mental scars. And we can learn so much from her personality, ideology, and growth. So, so very much.

Why we love her

Fruits Basket Tohru Honda

But first, a personal note to set the scene on why Fruits Basket is so inspirational to me specifically. Back in 2006 when I first watched the original anime as a pre-teen with family members who had never watched an anime before, Fruits Basket (2001) proved to be the only anime that kept my nan in particular hooked.

The side splitting laughs shared between us during its run is a fond memory, especially during episode 6, “Invisible Friendship”, for how much it tickled her as we witnessed the humorous set up of Yuki and Kyo barely managing to avoid Tohru’s female friends. The overarching, heartfelt and human tale with its fantasy element of cute animals made for a recipe for success to my nan.

But what touches me most in retrospect is how much Tohru Honda is a reflection of her, with their shared ideals of being kind, supportive and patient with everyone and anyone. And as of her passing in 2021, the show is even more special and sacred to me. It is no longer just for nostalgia, but as one of the few anime adaptations that I can appreciate even more now than I once did; I’m aware now that it made me aspire to be just like her and Tohru, and that it is one of the few anime shows that we both bonded over.

Tohru Honda gave me certain expectations for how I wanted to mature, and provided an ultimate goal for how to grow up. She is remarkably kind, unbelievably polite, incredibly patient, and endlessly forgiving, and while I still have a long way to go (other than being just as much of a deep sleeper as her), her influence and inspiration on my younger self has never been forgotten.

Many of her lines were so easy to identify as powerful, heartfelt and meaningful that I still remember them to this day for their everlasting significance. Alongside touching on relatable themes, such as overcoming hardships by turning them into precious memories, seeing the good in people, and finding reasons to keep on living — such as seeing those you love smile, seeing your wishes be made, and finding happiness through others’ kindness — Tohru always managed to touch the very depths of my soul due to her optimism, inner strength, and sheer enthusiasm for life.

In fact, undoubtedly one of my personal favourite manga quotes ever is delivered by her: “if you think of someone’s good qualities as the umeboshi in an onigiri, it’s as if their qualities are stuck to their back! People around the world are like onigiri. Everyone has an umeboshi with a different shape and colour and flavour. But because it’s stuck on their back, they might not be able to see their umeboshi.”

This one adorable line effectively sums up Tohru Honda — she has a solid heart of gold and does no wrong.

Why you’ll love her

Tohru Honda Fruits Basket

Tohru sets an example for Fruits Basket’s characters, as well as its audience. As a teenager who is a hard worker, she cleans the Sohma residence and cooks for them, continues to attend school while still grieving her mother’s passing, and works to make as much of an income as possible for a future home investment.

Tohru is a great reminder that others may be better or worse off than ourselves, but we should continue to march forward at the beat of our own drum towards a brighter future. She is highly empathetic towards those around her, even if they may appear as aggressive and volatile, because she does not judge a book by its cover. And her emotional intelligence is extremely noticeable; it’s an appealing trait, as she is able to assess and understand others’ behaviour to make better sense of their actions and feelings without words, often providing them with comfort and advice.

Overall, Tohru Honda is a splendid role model for all of us, yet still manages to be completely human and relatable due to her own faults. She’s not perfect. She often sidelines her own trauma and issues for the sake of others and to avoid having them deem her as anything less.

On top of this, while she willingly presents kindness to everyone around her, she dismisses it when she receives the same treatment. She is a clear beacon to allow anyone else to see their own self worth — but she is also unable to follow her own example for her own sake and wellbeing.

The revelation that her personal growth is stunted by her refusal to accept her mother’s passing makes for highly effective and memorable character development. Her growth across the series made me feel like a proud mother witnessing her blossom into a young woman, capable of standing up for herself and being vocal of her feelings and desires while still always thinking of others. Tohru makes me so proud that it never fails to bring me to happy tears.

On a final note, Tohru’s character even had an effect on her Funimation dub VA, Laura Bailey, who said “I was so inspired by her character by her, joy, and outlook on life that, you know, you wanna emulate that.” We’re certainly not the only ones!

So let us continue to accept and be kind to one another while we build each other up, and learn to improve ourselves along the way. It’s a lesson well worth learning after all.

Watch the reboot on Crunchyroll now.

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Lilia Hellal
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