Anime Review: Fruits Basket (2019) Season 1 Part 1

By Drew Hurley 29.12.2019

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Fruits Basket (2019) Season One Part One (UK Rating: 12)

Remakes, reboots, and long after all that, sequels have gathered a negative perception in Hollywood. Fans deriding the lack of originality and relying on nostalgia. Not everything is unwelcomed though, especially in the worlds of anime and manga. Jojo's recent anime revival along with Devilman Crybaby are perfect examples. Now, a shoujo classic that helped countless western gals and romance lovers into the medium is getting a rebirth that will finally tell the whole story. Coming courtesy of Manga Entertainment, this rebirth of a classic is available from November 25th and contains episodes 1-13.
The original manga of Fruits Basket was launched way back in 1998 and ran for a huge eight years over 23 volumes of manga. Four years into that run, the original anime adaptation appeared in Japan, courtesy of Studio Deen, it was just 26 episodes long and covered off the first seven volumes or so. Now, eighteen years after the anime concluded, a new rebirth of the story arrives, to finally tell the whole of Natsuki Takaya's story.
At the heart of that tale is Tohru Honda, a classic Japanese anime heroine. She's attractive and happy, popular and charming - impressive considering her rough upbringing. At just three years old, her father got sick and died. She matured quickly and ended up keeping on top of the housework and cooking. Then life kicked her legs out from under her once again as her mother was in a sudden car accident. Leaving Tohru. Alone. She was still in high school but was determined to stand on her own and not be a burden. Even though her grandfather took her in, she got herself a job after school to not affect his pension. So much so, that when he decided to get his house renovated and temporarily move in with his other children, she got herself a tent and lived alone in the woods.
Despite all the challenges, Tohru remained positive, happy, and upbeat. Living in a tent in the woods, rushing to school, then to a job, then back to the hovel. It couldn't be easy, and things got even harder when a passing typhoon decides to try to take out her little makeshift home. Lucky for Tohru, a pair of brothers is wandering through the woods at the time, and happens to stumble on her. The younger brother knows her, and she knows him even better. They're classmates in school, and he just happens to be the school's "Prince;" a stunningly attractive boy, hugely popular with all the girls. Tohru gets an opportunity her fellow students would kill for, as she's invited back to his place. The typhoon takes the opportunity while she's out to mess her life up even further, crushing her ramshackle home and all her possessions in a mudslide.
This turns out to be the best thing that could happen to her though, as the pair of brothers open up their home to her, offering her a place to stay. Temporarily at first, just until her grandfather returns. These brothers are part of a huge family with a wondrous little secret that is hinted at in the opening of the show, which shows Tohru listening to a story of the Chinese zodiac - it's well-known in the East, not so much in the West. All 13 animals were trekking to a grand banquet, but on the way the sneaky Rat tricked the cat into missing the event, resulting in the cat being excluded from the iconic dozen of the Chinese zodiac. The zodiac is core to the story, something that is explained when another member of this extended family makes a dramatic entrance. A redheaded boy busts through the roof to try and throw down with Yuki that Tohru realises these boys are all animals. Quite literally.

The scuffle results in Tohru throwing her arms around the new firey, boy and in an explosion of coloured smoke he transforms into his true form. A ginger tomcat. While the truth of the situation is not fully explained for some time, what is revealed is that the Sohma can are transformed into the forms of animals of the zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex or when they're particularly weakened. This new boy - Kyo -  is the Cat. The younger brother - Yuki - the Rat. The older brother - Shigure - the dog. Yuki is the most popular boy at school, an aloof, hyper-bishi boy with silver hair who is constantly beating Kyo within an inch of his life. Kyo is a hothead and constantly trying to overcome Yuki. The pair constantly butting heads like their animals of the legend. Finally, Shigure is the mature head of the house, acting like a father figure to the little group.
The first half of this collection is dedicated to developing these four characters along with the relationships between them, with hints at a budding love triangle between Yuki, Kyo, and Tohru. The suitors are drastically different, but familiar to any fan of shoujo romance. Yuki is the classic stoic and aloof bishi boy. The Prince archetype. Kyo's a classic bad boy. He's got a bad attitude on the outside but a heart of gold. The pair fight constantly, befitting of their animal counterparts and the Zodiac story, with boy jealous of the other. Kyo is an outsider to the family, not one of the grand twelve of the zodiac, and holds it against the rat who took it from him. He never quite can catch up to Yuki, constantly beaten when they throw down. Yuki may seem superior in every way, but truthfully, he's just as jealous of Kyo! Jealous of his natural charisma, and ability to draw people to him, even though he doesn't realise it. Not to mention his freedom being outside the clan.
This little makeshift family has some warm and charming little stories over the first few months they live together, and the brothers aren't the only zodiac characters of course. As the story develops, more of the twelve start to make an appearance, and the truth of the curse affecting them begins to be revealed. The boar, true to her animal, crashes onto the scene. Her name is Kagura, and she's a great character. She's obsessed with Kyo, especially so since as children they planned to get married, even if it was slightly under duress as she had a literal knife to his throat! This demure little beauty snaps at a moment's notice to hyper-violence, often beating Kyo within an inch of his life. She's the most fun but there are many more zodiacs revealed in this collection. The Rabbit, the Ox, the Snake, and even the Dragon!
While this is obviously an old-school shoujo romance, there's also plenty of comedy. The zodiac characters have the unfortunate effect of returning to human form completely naked, causing some huge embarrassment and plenty of chuckles. The slapstick violence is genuinely funny, and the writing is regularly smart. Atop the romance and comedy, there is some real drama too. Tohru isn't the only one with a dramatic past; many of the Sohma clan have trauma in their history and at the head of the clan, Akito lurks as a shadowy presence invoking terror in the other characters. Tohru's soliloquies on humanity and life are beautifully written and heartfelt.
This release holds both the original Japanese and a new English dub. The opening song is 'Again' by Philipino J-Pop sensation Beverly. Tokusatsu fans will know her from the recent Kamen Rider Build. Anime fans for her Fairy Tail opening and gaming fans for the Astral Chain soundtrack. There's a decent amount of bonus features here. The first disk holds two episode commentaries with the English dub team. The second has the usual text-less opening and closing, alongside a handful of featurettes. The main one of which is a fifteen-minute featurette entitled 'Fruits Basket Tell-All' which sees the ADR director of the series joined by Eric Vale (English voice of Yuki) and Justin Cooke (English voice of Hatsuharu).
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Shoujo has few romance series as well known all around the world as Fruits Basket, it launched at just the right time both in Japan and in the West to capture the cultural zeitgeist and recruit a generation of fans to the wonders of shoujo. The series is truly timeless, especially considering the source material is over twenty years old now. It feels like it could be an entry in any season this year, making it easy for today's audience to get as attached as the show as the last generation. This rebirth gives fans of the originals a reminder of a classic along with an opportunity to see the whole story animated for the whole time while also giving new fans a chance to experience the best version of this classic.

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