Natsuki Takaya introduces a whole lot of Sohmas over the course of Fruits Basket (Tokyopop). They come in all different emotional flavors – vulnerable, secretive, courtly, angry, bubbly, bratty, withdrawn, demented, you name it. Takaya gives them all a chance to move the reader, and they all pretty much fulfill that promise. There is one, however, who almost always broke my heart, mostly because he was so damned sneaky about it.
Momiji Sohma represents the rabbit in the Chinese Zodiac. Instead of going with the animal’s timidity, Takaya gives Momiji the rabbit’s bounciness. He’s the oldest child of a Japanese father and a German mother, so his speech patterns can sometimes seem a little formal, even precious. He’s older than he appears, a quality he uses to the irritation of his male cousins. When we first meet him, he’s all hoppity and adorable, landing gleefully in Tohru’s loving, motherly embrace. Like most wise-beyond-their-years cutie pies, there’s something a little off about Momiji, something a little creepy.
Of course, every character in Fruits Basket is a little off, a little creepy. They have good reason to be. And while most of the narrative is dedicated to revealing those reasons, Momiji’s reveal is the first, best example of Takaya’s sucker punch. “You think you’re looking at something cute, something maybe even cuter because it’s a little bit sad? I will give you sad.”
So the fluffy little bunny not only witnessed his mother’s mental disintegration and purposeful abandonment, he subjects himself to reminders of it as often as he can. This isn’t because Momiji is a masochist; it’s because he’s an optimist. Like Tohru, he believes that things can be fixed and connections can be restored as surely as they can be broken and severed. It’s not for nothing that, when Tohru is threatened, Momiji is right there by her side. They’re kindred spirits, and they’re both tougher than their exteriors and sweet natures would suggest.
For me, Momiji is the character who best embodies the truest nature of Fruits Basket: pretty on the surface but almost unbearably damaged beneath that, yet still possessed of the resources to make things work out in the end. I love a lot of the Sohmas for their sadness and their strength, but Momiji is my very favorite.