Analysis of Relationships
Haru is one of the few Jyuunishi whose relationship with his parents is mentioned but left ambiguous within the series itself. We know very little about them, or about how they get along; Haru still lives with them, and only comments on them twice. We know that they were unable to handle his anger problems when he was a child, and enrolled him in martial arts (as mentioned above). However, it's not made clear if they did so in an effort to have someone else deal with him, or because they wanted him to be happier. The second reference is in ch. 43, after Haru has calmed down after trashing his classroom: he says that his parents have been called, and it will take his mother an hour to get her makeup on and arrive. Later, talking privately to Yuki, he says that his parents will probably laugh about it.
Both of these comments can be taken in either a positive or a negative light, and as a result, his relationship with his parents has been interpreted in very different ways by the fandom.
Some readers have assumed that his mother is simply an image-conscious woman who spends too much time on her looks, especially when she wants to look her best to face the school after Haru's gotten in trouble, and interpreted the latter comment as his parents being reasonably good-natured about the whole thing. However, others have read the references as his mother caring more about makeup than about him, and as his parents laughing at him for being stupid (and we all know where that sort of treatment got him).
Additional information about Haru's parents is provided in the 2005 Neko Fanbook--in the second interview with Takaya, one of the questions asked is what kind of people they are. Her response (Shadow's translation, quoted with permission) was:
"Haru's parents seem pretty showy. If you ask whether they meet their responsibilities as parents . . . hmmm . . . But current Haru doesn't seem to mind his parents who'd made fun of and laughed about him. Not any more."
Rin (Isuzu) is initially introduced as Haru's ex-girlfriend, with whom he has little to no contact due to her avoidance of him. There is no real indication of how long their romantic relationship lasted. Haru was probably still fifteen when they broke up (it happened before the summer break, which was soon after his sixteenth birthday), and Rin kept him in the dark about her real motivations for leaving him. She broke up with him with no warning, after being badly injured, and said only that she "was tired of him", and that she "didn't need him anymore". Haru makes it clear in his occasional references to her (he discusses her only with Yuki, except for a conversation with Shigure in ch. 70) that he is still very much in love with her, and wants to reconcile with her.
Despite her antagonistic behavior towards him, they were close as children, particularly after Rin's problems with her parents came to the surface and she went to live with Kagura's family. Haru would go visit her and keep her company; he seems to have been the only person capable of getting her to leave her room unnecessarily, and was the only person she was comfortable with. That doesn't seem to have changed as they grew up; he was not only her first love, but probably her only friend. Since they never established a 'sibling' type of relationship, it was probably inevitable for them to fall in love.
Sometime in his early adolescence (Rin is two years older than he is), Haru told her straight out that he was in love with her and wanted to be with her. (In volume 14 there's a sweet single panel between chapters that says he waited until he was as tall as she was to confess his love for her. Very adorable, and very Haru. ^^) Rin was frightened by the idea--a sensible reaction, given Akito's behavior toward the Jyuunishi. (This may have happened after Hatori's relationship with Kana ended; that situation seems to have been common knowledge among the other Jyuunishi, and if so Rin had a concrete reason for being afraid.) However, it took very little persuasion for him to talk her into starting a relationship. My assumption is that they probably became sexually involved, or at least physically intimate, very quickly: they'd already been close, and silently in love with each other, for a long time; they're shown kissing intensely at the end of the scene where they became a couple. (Ch.78-79.)
Their relationship, from the little they've said in the manga, seems to have been a mixture of maturity and profound emotional dependence. Rin, particularly, had no one else she was close to; however, it was far from one-sided. They were both isolated and damaged people, and they responded to each other in a way that was both adult and desperate. They were sexually active (Rin's internal monologue in ch. 78 makes it obvious, although there is no graphic imagery) and probably very tactile in sexual and non-sexual ways. They kept their relationship secret, from fear of Akito, but also because they are both very private people. Despite the stereotypical adolescent tendency to lose other aspects of a relationship in the physical side, their love for each other was incredibly strong, and dangerous.
Between their breakup and chapter 106, Haru and Rin saw each other only three times that we know of: first outside Shigure's house (ch. 70), where Haru suddenly kisses her, to see how she responds. Despite her vehement insistence moments before that he stay away from her and and not touch her, she accepts and then returns the kiss, which quickly evolves into an extremely passionate embrace (thoroughly embarrassing Yuki, while they show no sign of remembering his presence). It lasts until Haru asks her if she's still not strong enough to survive ('recover') by herself, at which point she slaps him and runs away. In chapter 81, we see their next encounter in flashback: Haru tells Yuki that he tried to visit Rin after she is readmitted to the hospital, but that she swung her IV at him and had him removed. He has a spark of his usual calm optimism there, though--he points out to Yuki that it's a good sign, since it means Rin's recovering her strength. And in chapter 95 he goes to see her at Kazuma's home after the New Year's banquet (interesting that he knows where she is--he's keeping tabs on her); he finds her asleep, and the chapter ends with him embracing her. In the next chapter we discover that he's still far enough under her defenses that she never woke up, even though he held her and moved her so that she woke up lying down, when she had fallen asleep sitting up.
[Beyond chapter 104]
For a long time it wasn't made clear whether Haru knew that she was injured because Akito discovered their relationship, and after New Year's, a few months went by without any contact at all between the two of them. In chapter 104, Yuki tells him that Tohru's heard Rin has been hospitalized again, and asks whether Haru knows anything about it, because Tohru is worried. Haru's response is mixed--first, he is touched and pleased that Rin seems to have made a friend, but then he acknowledges that he feels as if something is wrong with him, because he doesn't feel as worried as he ordinarily would.
Later that day, he encounters Hiro, who is also concerned about Rin's absence and the family's general lack of information about her location. Too worried to keep silent, after keeping Rin's secret for months, Hiro finally tells Haru the truth: that Akito had discovered their relationship, as Rin had feared, and retaliated by shoving her from a second-story window. Out of fear of similar harm coming to Haru, Rin broke up with him, and ever since has been struggling on her own to break the curse so that Haru will be free of it. Hiro doesn't seem to be aware of all of Rin's motivations (she's also convinced that she's not worth Haru's love, and that her own love would destroy him). The revelation snaps Haru out of his lethargy, and he confronts Akito about Rin's injuries and demands to know where she is. [see also: Akito] Akito lashes back at him and forces him to confront the fact that he was also responsible for hurting Rin: loving her so much he couldn't bear to be apart from her, even though in the back of his mind he knew that her fear of Akito was founded; realizing, even if it was only a whisper of unbearable suspicion, why she was injured.
From Kureno, Haru (and Akito) learn that Rin has only just been hospitalized to recover from Akito's latest abuse of her, and Kureno tells him that he believes Rin wants to see him. Before Haru can visit her in the hospital, he is told that she's gone missing; despite being haunted by his guilt for what was done to her, he immediately goes to search for her. He finds her collapsed on the street, delirious with weakness and the shock of sudden freedom; too off-balance to lie to him any more, she confesses that she wants to come back to him, and they reconcile. They haven't been shown together after chapter 107, in which Haru seems deeply protective of her, and determined to make up for his selfishness towards her; his current attitude seems to be one of hoping to convince her that it's not a sign of weakness if she relies on him for emotional support, and that he is now more able to "carry" her (a recurring metaphor in their relationship since ch. 79, which showed a flashback of him being too young to help her when she collapsed from her parents' abuse; in 106 he physically carries her to Kazuma's, telling her that she's not a burden to him in any way).
In chapter 130, Haru and Rin are together when the curse finally breaks entirely. They share very little dialogue (Haru comments that, in its own way, it's a sad thing), but are shown holding each other tightly after they realize what's happened. They are also together in the final appearance in the series: in chapter 136, Haru is holding Rin in a very peaceful embrace.
Yuki is probably Haru's closest friend. As a child, Haru resented Yuki without even meeting him, because the adults' teasing him was based on the Rat's use of the Ox. However, when they finally did meet, Yuki patiently allowed Haru to scream out his frustrations and then pointed out that he didn't think Haru was stupid. Yuki was the only one in a position to start easing Haru's distress, and the fact that he did so was the basis for their relationship. Because of this incident, Haru refers to Yuki as his 'first love'; afterwards, he began sneaking in to visit Yuki, and their friendship began to develop from there.
It's easy to simplify their relationship to one of Haru having a childhood crush on Yuki and that feeling continuing as they grew up; fans are still debating whether or not Haru is actually bisexual. (Personally, I suspect he is, but I also think he's no longer 'in love' with Yuki, despite his teasing.) Haru is very tactile with Yuki, which makes Yuki uncomfortable sometimes; it's a sign of how much Yuki cares about him that he doesn't lash out and actually make him stop. Yuki gets annoyed at the physical closeness sometimes, but that's probably partly because he's hung up on seeming feminine. Their relationship is actually very subtle and complex; they confide in each other more than with anyone else (with the exception of Yuki's periodic talks with Tohru). Haru understands Yuki in a way Tohru isn't really capable of--they share the Jyuunishi curse, and Haru, more than anyone, knows what Yuki went through as a child. Yuki doesn't seem to have the same level of understanding of Haru; he certainly tries, but often admits that Haru's leaps of logic and intuition confuse him.
Haru's initial love for Yuki grew out of Yuki saving him from his own cycle of bitterness, and he was able to repay Yuki with literal freedom: when Yuki was kept locked away, Haru and Rin would sneak in to visit him (Rin went along to keep watch, although neither boy realized it at the time), and eventually Haru went to Shigure and convinced him to get Yuki out of the room and out of the Main House entirely. He never tells Yuki about what he did--Haru seems to be the type to help people without talking about it. However, Yuki does find out eventually: in ch.69, when he's pressing Rin about her broken relationship with Haru, she throws the information at him to divert him. (As far as we know, Haru does not know that Yuki knows what he did.)
The two of them don't seem to spend all of their free time together at school, especially as Yuki becomes caught up in his involvement with the student council (which Haru supports, and clearly thinks is good for him). They do, however, check in with each other regularly, to exchange news from the Main House and Shigure's house, and are still obviously close despite having their own very different lives. Despite getting back together with Rin, Haru still comfortably tells Yuki that he loves him (to which Yuki replies that he should "only say that sort of thing to Rin". Haru claims that Rin understands [ch. 107]). And after Tohru is badly injured in chapter 121, Haru goes to visit Yuki and make sure that he's ok (ch. 123). "Making sure he's ok" includes a fair bit of randomness and hanging out with Shigure while Yuki and Kyo deal with each other, and also involves jarring Yuki out of his lethargic mood by matter-of-factly informing him that Rin's breasts "have gotten bigger again", much to Yuki's discomfort. (Yuki asks if he's being proud, trying to defuse the intensity of the conversation, or just being a "sexual harasser"; Haru thinks about it and says, "all of the above?". Poor Yuki. ^_^)
After the curse breaks, the former Jyuunishi gather at the Main House, and Yuki says he's glad that they all seem to still feel comfortable together despite the bond being gone. In response, Haru reassures him that he'll always love him.
Haru and Kyo have a simpler relationship--they get along well, in a competitive way (although the rivalry is more from Haru's POV than Kyo's). Kyo yells at him, but Kyo yells at everyone. ^^ The two attended elementary school together (where Haru's poor sense of direction extended to Kyo needing to make sure he found the washroom), and probably saw a lot of each other at the dojo while they were growing up. When Haru goes Black and needs to vent, Kyo is usually Haru's first target, which may be because he's still aware on a subliminal level that Kyo is 'safe'--Kyo won't be badly hurt, and it'll keep Haru from seriously hurting anyone else. They're not close, but they're friendly enough. Also, Haru enjoys keeping him off-balance, although he doesn't take it as far as he does with Yuki; instead, it manifests in ways such as dragging Kyo into the ocean and then appealing to his eternal competition with Yuki to make him race with them (ch. 54).
The strongest connection between Haru and Shigure is that Haru convinced Shigure to let Yuki live with him. Shigure agreed, on the condition that Haru would have to address him as 'sensei' (ch. 69). To this day, Haru does so. Otherwise, they don't seem terribly close; Haru visits Shigure's house from time to time, but more to visit Yuki and Kyo. However, he's clearly aware (and wary) of Shigure's manipulative tendencies. When telling Yuki that Rin had broken up with him, he says that he suspects Shigure had known that they were dating (this is confirmed in chapter 70, although it hasn't been explained how Shigure found out). Haru also knows that Rin has been visiting Shigure, but doesn't know why; he tries to get Shigure to tell him what she's up to (by offering to call him 'honey' in exchange), but Shigure refuses (again, ch. 70).
Haru is very protective of Kisa. When he goes hunting for her after she runs away, and brings her back to Shigure's house, he says that he feels particular concern for her because she reminds him of Yuki as a child. In fact, the relationship is very reminiscent of a sibling one; Kisa and Haru don't show any sign of confiding in each other or being close on a deep personal level, but he obviously keeps a close eye on her and steps in for her when she needs it (and, in good older brother fashion, when he thinks she needs it, whether she agrees or not [ch. 88]).
Haru has the dubious privilege of being on Akito's short-list of preferred Jyuunishi. They're not often seen together, but when they are, Akito is constantly touching him. In ch. 78 Rin sees them together, and Akito is standing too close for comfort; more significantly, in ch. 60 Akito calls for him and keeps him close for much of the day, touching and caressing him. He is the only one of the younger Jyuunishi with whom she displays this absent, yet demanding, physical interaction (her way of touching Yuki is distinctly different, meant more as intimidation than as a careless invasion of his personal space). Some readers interpret the way she handles Haru as vaguely sexual, although it's not clear if it's entirely deliberate or simply an extension of the way she interacts with Shigure and Kureno (or, to a lesser extent, Hatori).
Being fond of Haru doesn't keep Akito from cheerfully taunting and laughing at him, though--like all of the Jyuunishi, Haru is a pet, if a cherished one, and his wishes and feelings have no influence on her view of the world. In chapter 95, after Akito hurts Yuki at New Year's, Haru flatly refers to her as 'oni' ('ogre', in Shadow's translation), but despite Yuki's injury, he displays the same passivity to her actions as the other Jyuunishi, touching back on Momiji's long-ago suggestion to Tohru that the Jyuunishi are incapable of blaming Akito for her actions (ch. 10).
However, Haru later becomes the first Jyuunishi we've seen actually blaming Akito for anything, telling her flat out that her behavior is cruel and unacceptable, and trying to hold her accountable: in chapter 105, after discovering that Akito almost killed Rin by pushing her from a window, Haru confronts her. He displays a very controlled rage as he demands an explanation for his god's behavior and lifelong hatred for Rin. Akito lashes back and touches on his secret fears about his relationship with Rin--that his love for and need to be close to her blinded him to the very real danger that the relationship put her in, that his deliberate ignorance allowed her to be hurt so badly. The guilt that overwhelms him as he realizes Akito's right doesn't change his fury, though, and there is a very real threat of violence throughout the scene, to the point where he takes her by the throat. Even when Akito is reduced to real terror of abandonment, and cries for him to stay with her, Haru ultimately walks away, telling her that if she comes near him or speaks to him again, he will kill her and himself. As he goes, a childhood memory of Akito comes to his mind, reminding him of the (real or desired) connection between them; he hesitates, but Kureno tells him that he should leave and not return.
Haru later admits to himself that, had Kureno not intervened, he might well have returned to Akito's side (ch. 107), thereby "letting go of" Rin. Despite everything, the power of the bond remains very real. His confrontation with Akito is also interesting in that it shows Akito's ability to see the truth about the Jyuunishi, even when it's something they themselves are unwilling or unable to see; her intuition (aided by the bond itself, presumably) is reminiscent of Haru's own ability to see to the heart of matters.
One other point of interest is that, although Haru is clearly one of her 'favorites' among the Jyuunishi, Akito doesn't hesitate to threaten him with serious physical harm (specifically, she threatens to blind him, in both chapters 79 and 106) as a way to control Rin. It's not entirely clear how sincere the threats are, since Akito's intuition about the Jyuunishi undoubtedly extends to knowing Rin's love for Haru would make carrying the threats out unnecessary. Haru is never told about these threats.
In chapter 128 Haru and Yuki mention that Akito seems to have changed dramatically since the events of the several preceeding chapters, but he and Akito don't see each other again (at least not where we can see) until chapter 132, after the curse has broken. Along with the other younger Jyuunishi, he discovers that Akito is a woman when she summons them to the Main House and appears in a woman's kimono. She makes an effort at apologizing to them for everything she's done, but is too aware of how empty words are to choke very much out. Since Haru hasn't had any one-on-one time with her, we don't know whether he's forgiven her or not, but it sounds as if he's closer to doing so than Rin is (ch. 133).
Haru is obviously closer to Kazuma than he is to most adults, even though they've rarely been seen together. Kazuma trains him in karate, and wins his trust; when Haru is a child, he finds Rin collapsed on the sidewalk and calls for Kazuma for help (ch. 79), rather than calling his parents (or hers). By the time Rin regains consciousness in the hospital, Kazuma is still the only adult Sohma on the scene. (After her parents abandon her, Kazuma opens his home to her to some extent [ch.95], although she goes to live with Kagura's family.) Years later, when Haru once again needs a safe place to take Rin, he goes to Kazuma (ch. 107).
On a lighter note, when Tohru, Kyo, and Yuki's class puts on their "Cinderella" play for the school cultural festival (ch. 89), Haru is also the one who tells Kazuma about it (against Kyo's wishes). ^^
Since chapter 107, Haru has been shown at Kazuma's several times, visiting Rin.
The connection Haru and Hiro share is mutual concern about Rin, although they have very little explicit conversation about it; most of their conversations involve Hiro being angry about how much Rin is suffering on Haru's behalf. Due to his agreement to keep Rin's secret about her injuries and decision to break up with Haru, Hiro reacts somewhat passive-aggressively to Haru, lashing out in different ways when they interact. In chapter 55, when Haru comments that Hiro's attitude is making Kisa uncomfortable, Hiro thinks of Rin while snapping that it's none of Haru's business; much later, in chapter 89, Hiro accidentally comes closer to giving away how much he knows, by accusing Haru of hurting Rin. Haru jokingly asks if Hiro has a crush on Rin, but Hiro's accusation clearly haunts him; there are signs that he worries about it even before he finally asks Hiro directly about it in chapter. 104, which results in Hiro finally betraying Rin's secrets in an attempt to have someone help her.
Haru and Momiji are in the same class, and sometimes hang out together when there's a group activity with Yuki, Kyo, and Tohru, but they don't seem to be particularly close. Momiji is present for some of the discussions when Haru, Yuki, and Kyo talk about the family or other serious issues, but there isn't much other contact. Despite that, after Haru and Rin break up, it's Momiji who tells Yuki and Kyo that Haru's seemed depressed (ch. 43), and later, it's Haru who first notices that something has changed about Momiji after his curse breaks--although he doesn't figure out what the change is (ch. 116).
Haru seems to go through his school life oblivious to most of the people around him. He tells Yuki that Machi, from the student council, is in his class, but he doesn't show any sign that he knows anything else about her. The girls of the school collectively swoon over him--thankfully not to the extrent that they stalk Yuki, as it wouldn't go so well for them if Haru were subjected to the same low-level constant stress that Yuki is--but he doesn't indicate that he notices. Whether he's genuinely oblivious or politely ignoring them is unclear. The only people he's seen spending time with other than his relatives are Tohru and her friends, and that seems to be more of an association of coincidence than anything else. Certainly he's rarely seen carrying on an independent conversation with anyone outside of the family, other than being friendly with Tohru; he does briefly talk to Kakeru in chapter 81, and asks him to 'take care of' Yuki (later, Kakeru asks Yuki if Haru is a relative, and jokes that the Sohmas are the 'good looks' clan), but that's about it.
While Momiji is friendly with anyone he comes across, and Kyo seems to do well with people, Haru seems to have a full dose of the instinctive reserve that comes with being a Jyuunishi. He's not particularly unfriendly, but he doesn't go out of his way to talk to people either. Unlike Yuki, who only pulls out of his shell under Tohru's influence, Haru doesn't seem to give it much thought. He's different, and he knows he's different, and that's just the way it is. Generally speaking, Haru accepts things he can't change.
Role in the story, and future
The overall picture Fruits Basket gives of Haru is of a person who shows remarkable maturity and thoughtfulness despite some serious weaknesses. His emotional intuition is arguably the best in the series, and he has a tremendous capacity to love the people he trusts. His anger issues are increasingly controlled as the story progresses, but his ability to blind himself to truths he can't handle, as demonstrated in his initial relationship with Rin, is frightening. That critical flaw is somewhat compensated for by the fact that, once he was forced to be aware of it, he took responsibility for the hurt he'd caused, and is working to overcome it and make amends with Rin.
Structurally, his role in the story is multi-faceted: his unique way of thinking eases emotionally-charged scenes, he functions as a confidant for Yuki, and he passes information between the main characters and the Main House. Most importantly, he provides insight into other characters' hearts and thought processes, making things clear to others (and to the readers) in a non-intrusive way.
At the end of the series, the main things that remain open-ended are his relationship with Akito and the things he's been forced to realize about himself. Although his relationship with Rin wasn't deeply explored since they reconciled in chapter 106, he seems to have laid the groundwork for doing better by her this time around: he's more aware of his own weaknesses, and thus more able to love her selflessly. He's also matured enough, in terms of his emotional strength and the simple fact that he's now almost an adult, to be more able to carry the weight of a serious relationship. Having realized that love on its own is not enough to make everything ok, he's probably come a lot further on that front than many people ever manage.
His relationship with Akito is a much murkier thing; the last time we saw them talking ending with his threat on both their lives, and a powerful resistance to the bond between them. How either of them deals from the fallout of that confrontation will probably have a huge impact on their continued development.
In chapter 130, Haru was released from the Jyuunishi curse, along with Rin and all of the other characters who had still been possessed by the zodiac; in chapter 132, Akito tried to apologize to all of them for the harm she's done. Haru had already acknowledged that she'd changed dramatically, so he may been somewhat forgiving toward her (Rin's worries about him being upset that she can't forgive Akito seem to suggest that Haru's handling things better than she is).