Fruits Basket MMF: Harry and Tom and Tohru and Akito

While it’s never a bad time to consider Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket (Tokyopop), the fact that this feast has fallen on the calendar shortly after the opening of the final movie in the Harry Potter series offers some other possibilities for thought. J.K. Rowling’s novels are at least partly about breaking traditional and abusive cycles, as is Fruits Basket. Rowling builds that around a rivalry between a naïve outsider (Harry) and the person who represents the worst extremes of a flawed system (Tom Riddle). Takaya does the same, positioning Tohru against Akito.

Tohru goes fairly quickly from knowing nothing about the curse to recognizing its profound destructiveness. This gives her something of an advantage over Harry, who takes roughly forever to consider the larger implications of his grudge with Voldermort. It could be argued that Tohru displays an improbable degree of altruism, and that argument isn’t automatically wrong, but most of Tohru’s qualities appear to an improbable degree – her maternal concern, her optimism, her faith in the essential goodness of others, and her belief that things and people can change for the better.

With a few exceptions, I found Tom Riddle to be a very boring antagonist. His behaviors were certainly frightening, but I very rarely recognized anything in his point of view. In this sense, Akito has the advantage as a “villain.” The leader of the Sohma family is certainly unpredictable, powerful, and frightening, but there’s a very evident level of emotional damage. Akito isn’t the progenitor of the cycle of abuse so much as just another partial victim of it.

This highlights another interesting contrast between the two properties. Harry may briefly feel stabs of sympathy for the young Tom Riddle when he learns of his circumstances, but that never translates to an attempt to save the adult Voldermort from himself or to stop him through reformation. As Rowling constructs things, that’s a ludicrous notion. It isn’t in Takaya’s narrative, and it’s entirely credible that, in spite of Akito’s cruelties, Tohru can see Akito as a victim in need of rescue.

There are other points of comparison. Like Harry, Tohru has some untrustworthy mentors. Shigure is a weird fusion of Severus Snape and Sirius Black. He manipulates Tohru for his own ends, but he cares for her as an individual, not unlike Dumbledore does with Harry. Those ends will benefit all, but Shigure has no way of knowing how Tohru will end up when his aims are met. Tohru’s allies sometimes find her as frustratingly naïve as Harry’s companions do him. And both Harry and Tohru are fixated on absent parents.

I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite of the two sagas. Fruits Basket has a more nuanced villain, but Harry Potter conducts a volume of world-building that’s almost impossible to match. Takaya really nails a lot of complex emotional truths, perhaps at the expense of chapter-by-chapter momentum. Rowling excels at building things to a crescendo, but she’ll blunt emotional nuance along the way. Basically, I’m just glad I live in a world where I can enjoy both of them, over and over.