Fruits Basket (2002)
So as not to create any trouble for her family and friends, Tohru Honda spends some time living in a tent in the woods while her grandfather's house is being renovated. Her father long since dead and having just lost her mother, she vowed never to become a problem for her family, instead focusing on school.
Fortunately, due to various circumstances, she is offered a place to live at the house of Shigure Sohma, where she also bumps into Yuki Sohma, the prince of the school she goes to. Of course, this brings a whole new set of problems to the table, like having to deal with the Prince Yuki fanclub girls, but perhaps the most interesting problem lies within the Sohma curse itself.
And so started the tale of possibly the first shoujo title I ever watched. Mind you, I'm generally not one for shoujo, not being the target gender for it and all, but I like to consider myself man enough to admit when something is great. And Fruits Basket simply has so much going for it that things like "not being the target audience" generally don't enter the equation. I woud have to admit that maybe I haven't really watched a lot of shoujo, though. In fact, the only other show that comes to mind right now is probably the Story of Saiunkoku, which seem to have garnered some acclaim for itself, and not for unjustifiable reasons at that.
Word on the street has it that the mangaka of Fruits Basket is none too pleased about the anime adaptation. Though I don't know why, I can imagine parts of it at least be because the anime covers only parts of the manga, and from what I can understand, lessens the darker sides of the story itself and the characters in it. While I can understand this to some degree, it still makes me a little bit sad, because even to this day; Fruits Basket remains one of my favorite titles, mostly because it has a very good cast, but also because it's fun. Fruits Basket is, simply speaking, a (visual) gag-tastic show.
In the center of all this, we find Tohru Honda. She might very well be one of the nicest girls you will ever see in any anime bar none. Truly, she might very well be a match for Aria's Akari Mizunashi, which is no small accolade in itself. Her blithe refusal to get angry about anything -- and I mean anything -- is possibly what landed her in Mary Sue territory with a lot of fans, alongside her habit of playing the therapist for the various issues centered around the Sohma household. An unfair observation, methinks, because she's not exactly the center of attention with everyone for no particular reason. Like everyone else, she has to earn her respect from the others, and she's certainly not perfect. In many cases, she needs her friends as much as they need her.
The romantic foils in the anime generally comes from Yuki and Kyo Sohma. Yuki is, as mentioned, seen on as the prince of his local highschool (mostly by the girls, of course.) Due to his curse, coupled with an incident from the past and the physical and mental abuse from another family member, he has a bit of a problem opening up to people, and the blind adoration he faces at school isn't helping matters either. Kyo, on the other hand, is an "angry young man". In fact, that might very well be understating things, as his first meeting with the viewers comes from basically crashing into the house and challenging Yuki for a fight. Through that and Tohru trying to stop the two is when the viewers finally learn about some of the aspects of the Zodiac curse; those who are cursed with the animals to transform into them when hugged by someone of opposite gender who is NOT cursed by the zodiac.
And since Yuki is the rat and Kyo the cat, it goes without saying that the two hate each other's guts. Part of this stems from an old legend about the twelve animals of the zodiac attending a banquet, where the rat apparently tricks the cat so he could take the cat's place. With the two of them befriending Tohru, it basically ensures the viewers that we get to see the three of them spending a lot of time together, which can and will lend itself to many moments of the two of them going at each other's throat both vocally and other.
Despite all that, the two of them definitely develop a lot in the duration of the show. Through his friendship with Tohru -- and later her two friends Saki Hanajima and Arisa Uotani -- Yuki is able to open up more and accept people without keeping them at a distance, while Kyo becomes more able to keep his anger in check, at least towards anyone that isn't Yuki. (Though his general temper nevertheless marks him a prime target for the teasing from his fellow students.) Tohru also meets up with other members of the zodiac, each with their own harrowing pasts, and is later on given the chance to move in with the Sohma's on a more permanent basis.
I said this show was a gag-laden show, and it is. For most of the show, and even inbetween more dramatic moments, visual gags fly in low and frequent. A lot of it is physical reaction gags, but most of it is centered around the characters and whatever stage of relationship they share, showcased by the dialogue. And this is where I would like to make a shout-out to the dub team, who do a wonderful job of hamming up what needs to be hammed up while otherwise doing an admirable job of playing the roles they were given. In particular I like John Burgmeier's role as Shigure and his ridiculously theatrical pronounciations, which he launches into at almost every opportunity, but Laura Bailey also does a wonderful job as the frenetically panicky Tohru Honda. Eric Vale and Jerry Jewell also do rather well as Yuki and Kyo respectively, which is good, given that you will see them for most of the show. (And for the record; no, I don't care that Yuki isn't voiced by a girl in the dub.)
It's probably worth noting that the art style might turn some potential watchers off this show. Not necessarily because it's filled with all kinds of pretty boys, but more because Tohru herself is rather... giant-eyed, as is some of the other females in the show. Fruits Basket seems to have gone for a bit more cartoon-ish style, even in the most dramatic of moments, which might not sit well with people expecting their heavy emotional drama to look grittier or darker. I'm probably making a bigger deal than it needs to be, though, given the popularity of shows like AIR and Kanon, which have as outlandish female designs as you can get. But Fruits Basket also has this, just so you know.
Despite this, I'm rather pleased to see just how well this show has aged. Not that it's a terribly old show or anything, but shows that tend to throw itself on the fashion bandwagon of the moment tend to end up looking less palatable after a mere few years. Fruits Basket suffers no such problems, and it's easily as digestable as it was when I first watched it. In fact, Fruits Basket's harrowing journey to the sweet resolve is easily as memorable now as it used to be. The ONE major snag I can think of is basically, as mentioned, the anime doesn't cover the manga in its entirety, and while the anime does have a sort-of conclusive ending in its last episode, it still feels rather open-ended. There is also some of the secrets to the manga -- mostly centered around one of the core characters, and where the anime has kind of written itself into a corner -- that might make continuing this show difficult, and might also make it less appreciative among the fans of the manga. Not having read it, I can't really say how much, but I've read enough information and spoilers from here and there to venture a guess that it might become a problem.
Regardess of all this, though, I consider Fruits Basket to be a top-notch show. The lead character, Tohru, is easily as delightful a lead as the aforementioned Aria's own little ray of sunshine, and the show itself is just so much fun that I can't really dismiss it outright because of the potential problems it might have. Shows like these doesn't come out all that often, so I think it's important to appreciate them when the opportunity arises. There's no telling how long until the next time you get the chance to watch something like this.
Easily as poignant, compelling, dramatic and fun as the first time I watched it. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: No nudity (unless you count being clouded in "transformation" smoke as visible nudity), no sex, no profanity although Kyou may be rather rough at times. It's a clean show, people. The final two episodes, however, may be a bit too graphic and tense for younger viewers, but it's generally suitable for the whole family. There is also one character that may be rather scary to younger viewers, but he seldom appears although he is crucial to the storyline.
Version(s) Viewed: R1/2/4 DVD, bilingual.
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Fruits Basket (2002) © 2002 Natsuki Takaya / HAKUSENSHA - TV TOKYO - NAS - Fruba Project
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