Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Fruits Basket: Another Review


It’s time to look at a recent Fruits Basket spin-off that ended without  a whole lot fanfare. I dare say that a lot of fans of the main series wouldn’t have really heard about this unless they’re were looking for it. It was all very low key which matches the tone of the series as it is a very down to Earth slice of life story. There aren’t any big plots here or a large cast of characters to deal with. It’s a nice enough title but one where not much really seems to happen.

The series follows a girl named Sawa who has a pretty tough home situation. Her mother is always sabotaging her relationships with friends and uses a lot of passive aggressive behavior to keep Sawa from going outside or doing much of anything outside of school. Saw a now believes that she is a bother to everyone. Right now she feels completely trapped but that all begins to change when she bumps into two of the most popular kids in school. They help get her out of trouble and even get her to join the student council. Sawa finally has some friends and activities to do outside of the house for the first time. Can she manage to keep these new friends or will the Mom defeat them as she did all the others?

This is one of those sequels that really has nothing to do with the original title. Outside of the fact that it’s in the same universe and you get a cameo here and there, there is nothing really connecting the two. This could easily have just been a one shot if the author had wished it to be. These kinds of sequels are interesting in the sense that I have mixed feelings on them. On one hand, I like the boldness of not relying on the old characters. Particularly in a slice of life series like this it makes sense to expand the universe with more characters to add some more depth to the place. I also like when it’s a standalone sequel because then I can compare it to the original. Look at Yugioh, that’s the mindset behind that franchise. At the same time, as fun as those sequels are I’ll always still vote for a sequel with a lot of the old characters as the most fun way to do it.

Sawa is definitely not as tough a main character as Tohru which is surprising to say the least since the old heroine wasn’t exactly known for her toughness. Sawa spends most of the series getting pushed around and constantly apologizing. A good portion of this is due to how she was raised. Sawa believes that she is always bringing bad luck to people and that she gets in everyone’s way. Since this is what she has always believed it is difficult to get her out of this mind set. Still, her new friends have made it their mission to do so. By the end of the series Sawa has definitely improved to an extent although she is not quite there yet.

I don’t believe the series was cancelled although the ending makes you feel like it was. The title only has 3 volumes and it just suddenly ends. Most if not all of the plotlines were still going and Sawa’s character arc hadn’t even ended yet. It’s definitely a pretty bold ending but one that you can appreciate. I suppose the author was trying to go for a more realistic angle than the usual everyone turning good at the end kind of thing. By the end Sawa’s Mom still seems like she will be an antagonist and that’s just how things will be for a while.

The best character in the series is definitely Sora. She’s one of the more outgoing members of the Sohma family and is quick to get Sawa’s spirits back up. Sora is very charismatic and can always turn a situation around. She doesn’t see to have any fears or be reluctant to meet new people unlike most of her colleagues. Whenever Sawa was down she always knew that Sora could be counted on and that’s always important. On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got Riku who isn’t particularly great at dealing with people. He can give good advice at times, but it’s rather blunt and so you can only make use of the knowledge if you have a strong character. Otherwise you just wouldn’t have the nerve to pull his plans off. I wasn’t a big fan of his. He’s pretty similar to one of the original Sohma members from the first series and I wasn’t a big fan of that guy either.

Shiki gets a pretty big role in the series. He is the new head of the Sohmas after all or at least in the process of fully going into the role. He’s younger than most of the other members and is fairly emotionless most of the time. He seems like a reasonable kid who does his best to fit in. Unfortunately Shiki does get roped into a romance plot with Sawa towards the end though. I think the series could have gone pretty well without such a pairing. The romance comes in rather late and as the series is only 3 volumes there is absolutely nowhere for this plot to go. Keeping them as friends would have still made for a good dynamic with Sawa still worrying that she caused him too much grief and Shiki trying to get her to realize that he’s over it. He’s definitely not the kind of character who would hold what Sawa’s mother did against her. They are different people after all.

Time to take a look at Mutsuki. He’s one of the main guys in the series and gets a rather large role. He surprisingly has more similarities with Kyo than Yuki at times. While he has Yuki’s positive reputation and is a genius he tends to play the villain like Kyo to get Sawa to realize things. Mutsuki is always one step ahead of the other characters with only Hajime being able to realize his end games half the time. Mutsuki is a solid character. There isn’t a whole lot to him despite the guy always appearing throughout the series, but there isn’t really anything bad about him either. The guy does a good job in his position at school and always tries to seer everyone the right way. Hajime is a little more oblivious as he tends to just lie down in random places which causes people to step on him. He doesn’t really take things like that too personally though and just likes to live freely. He watches out for Mutsuki making sure that the other guy doesn’t take too many things on. For the most part he is fine being a spectator though and just watches over everyone.

We’ve got a pretty solid cast here. The series is more of a slice of life than anything else so there aren’t a bunch of villains or anything like that. The only antagonist here would be the Mom. I do think her confrontations with Sawa can be a bit odd at times though. Half of the time she’s being so passive aggressive that it’s almost hard to read the actual threats. Sawa also never even tries to talk back or explain the situation from her point of view. We can infer that she used to try and since it never worked she gave up but I feel like Sawa needed to be more active. All of their confrontations boil down to her Mom saying a bunch of stuff which Sawa just accepts and then she leaves. It’s never an actual conversation. Sawa also gets surprised when she sees the Mom going through her stuff at one point, but I feel like that’s something she would have already known was going on. She didn’t know the truth about her old friends though so she may have just been a bit oblivious on these things.

The only ones who could really stand up to the Mom were the Sohmas. We find out that she sued them at one point, but they didn’t fold which is good. Having the Sohma family lose to her would have been a pretty odd decision since the whole point of the family is that they’re all rich and don’t bend over so easily. They’ve got a ton of influence even if they no longer have evil members at the ready.

Overall, Fruits Basket Another is a pretty reasonable sequel to the original series. I didn’t like the original when I first read it, but that was a long time ago so I need to give it a second look someday. I did enjoy the recent anime adaption of it after all. Another definitely isn’t as high stakes as the first series and has to condense everything into 3 volumes, but the writing is pretty solid. Aside from the Sawa vs Mom scenes which still didn’t feel real to me and the rushed romance I had no real qualms with the title. The school was a lot more realistic than some with no crazy bullies around every corner. The Sohma family looked pretty solid and it’s just nice to see the franchise back even if the old characters didn’t really show up this time. If you want to read a fun slice of life story about a girl escaping her toxic home and finally making friends then this is the one for you. It’s a pretty upbeat story.

Overall 6/10

7 Star TV Shows, Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Fruits Basket Review


It’s time to look at the recent Fruits Basket anime. I read the manga many years ago when I was a kid and didn’t really like it all that much. I actually put it down as one of my least favorite Shojo series so it was good to see it in a fresh setting. I actually liked the show so maybe I would like the manga more on a re-read or the show is just directed that well. Either way it’s a title I can definitely recommend. It’s an emotional slice of life title that manages to hit different tones in different episodes, but is careful not to go too far into being tragic.

The show is centered around a girl named Tohru. After her Mom passed away she went to move in with her other relatives, but it wasn’t ideal and so now she lives in the forest. She is found by the popular boy at school (Yuki) and he convinces her to stay at his place instead of the forest. To be exact, it’s Shigure’s place and soon after another kid by the name of Kyo stays there as well. Kyo and Yuki are constantly fighting like cat and mouse (heh) so Tohru quickly becomes the most mature member in the household. Tohru has decided to always have a positive attitude and to do her best to help everyone else out in respect to her mother’s memory.

There are no shortages of situations for her to help out here as everyone in the school has issues. The 3 people she lives with all of things to deal with and then the rest of the family. See, in a larger scale look at the plot there is the Sohma family. They were hit with a curse where if anyone from the opposite gender makes contact with them they turn into an animal. It is from the Chinese Zodiac legend which may be real and of course Kyo is the Cat and Yuki is the mouse so now things make sense. In the legend the rat didn’t send the cat the invite so he was shunned for life. Of course that was ages ago so we’re likely dealing with descendants, but the wound is still fresh.

Tohru is definitely a great main character. I mean she is pretty much portrayed as the perfect heroine. She’s super nice, does well academically, and is always ready to lend a hand. Tohru imparts wisdom whenever she can and even stands by her friends when they literally lose their minds. If Tohru has any issues it is just that she is a little too oblivious when other people are being downright mean to her. It’s great that she turns the other cheek but at least acknowledging this or telling them to stop would be a good idea.

We don’t see Tohru’s Mom much since she dies prior to the series but she appears through flashbacks a few times. She also seems really good and I’m glad that she still knows how to fight even though she is retired. The flashback where she helps Arisa was handled really well since it’s implied that she basically took down an entire gang.

Yuki is one of the main guys so he naturally gets a lot of screen time. He has a tough time showing his emotions except for when he’s upset at Kyo. Gradually Tohru helps get him out of his shell. We haven’t really seen his true origin but there is a lot of foreshadowing for it. From the main 2 I do prefer Kyo, but Yuki is good. He does step in to help Tohru at times and I do believe he would be able to conquer his fears and help even if Akito was involved. I really hope so at least. Yuki still gets hit with fear and isn’t perfect, but he does his best.

Then there is Kyo who is always ready for a fight. I dare say that Yuki picks the fight most of the time but that isn’t always the case. Kyo always tends to lose the fight, but at least he is enthusiastic. Kyo is not great around people but does his best to communicate with Tohru. He’s come a very long way from the first episode to the last one. His character arc already feels pretty complete and that may help in why he is one of if not the best character in the show. He’s probably the only character to not be openly scared of Akito. While part of him wants to be in the main family, I do think this is an advantage of not being there.

Then we have Shigure, but I can’t get behind him. He’s always trolling his editor to the point where he basically puts her job at stake. Then there’s the fact that he flirts a lot and rarely takes things seriously. He may be the adult in the house, but there is a reason why I said that Tohru is the most responsible. Shigure will have a moment or two where he steps up but that’s about it. The show is hinting that he is planning some kind of big revenge on Akito and is pretending to be a friend for now. He claims that he will avenge everyone else, but he’s sure taking his sweet time. Shigure better do something before the tables turn on him, but that is one of the more interesting plots right now.

Arisa is one of Tohru’s friends. She used to be a juvenile delinquent who hanged out with gangs and was generally on a rough path. Her origin is a bit similar to Tohru’s mom in some respects and that’s also why Arisa always wanted to meet her. Arisa was less thrilled to meet Tohru but along the way Tohru got to show her how to properly adapt to school life. Arisa had a tough road, but now she’s in a good place and has a solid group of supporting friends. Arisa is a nice ally to have. While she may not be as entertaining as some of the Sohma characters she is definitely a good character.

Then you have Saki who is Tohru’s other best friend. She has psychic powers which is cool. Mainly she just uses them for comic relief scenes against bullies and there is actually a story reason for this. She gets a backstory where we learn that her abilities nearly ended Saki. Saki’s origin story was definitely one of the toughest ones in the series, maybe the toughest because everyone was against her. I was glad that she had supportive parents who were there for her at least. It’s a reverse of most situations where you have a friend on your side but the family isn’t. Saki is fairly laidback and quiet so she can’t hold her own episodes the way that others can, but as a side character she’s good.

Kagura is a very persistent character and that’s a good thing since otherwise she probably would get pretty hurt with how Kyo is always ignoring her. Deep down she likely realizes that he isn’t interested in her but will keep on trying until he meets someone else. She’s a good side character. I’m also glad that the show didn’t go down the road of making her jealous of Tohru. That always gets old pretty fast and them being friends is a much better development. Momiji is one of my least favorite characters in the show though. He can be pretty annoying with how oblivious he pretends to act. He trolls Kyo and Yuki about Tohru quite a lot. She may be too oblivious to really take notice but it doesn’t do wonders for his character. I’m not even really interested in learning more about his backstory, but maybe it’ll help to make him more likable. Right now he’s just quirky and not really in a good way.

Ayame is also fairly eccentric, but he handles himself well and with style. Ayame throws himself into every situation and you can admire how bold he is. Even in real life it’s always an admirable trait to be so confident. Nothing throws Ayame and even when everyone is hurling insults he keeps his cool. Ayame and Yuki may never properly bond the way he hoped they would because of how different their personalities are, but at least they won’t be as antagonistic as they used to be. Ayame is a handful, but not in a problematic way. I can’t point to anything he did in the show that was downright bad. Perhaps inconvenient for the others, but that’s about it.

Hatori is a character that I definitely had some problems with. For starters he is very submissive to Akito to the point where he allows the guy to wreck his life. Hatori is basically a yes man and even threatens Tohru into meeting him. We learn that he is a nice guy for the most part, but since he is so weak that is barely a consolation since you won’t be able to trust him when it counts. His origin story is sad, but it’s hard to feel any sympathy for him because of how terribly he handles it. He met someone and they were to be together, but then Akito decided that he didn’t like this and throws a fit. Instead of stopping him Hatori lets Akito claim the win and then even erases the girl’s memories. From there on Hatori lost the will to resist, but he never had it to begin with. If he won’t stand up to Akito there then he never will. The whole origin was just really annoying, especially since Akito is so sickly to begin with. How is he going to threaten Hatori and the guy just takes it? I don’t really have any respect for this character.

Hatsuharu is another one of the Sohma and his dual personality is definitely unique among the others. One half of him is very edgy and definitely wants to be close with Yuki. Then the other half is calmer and more polite in comparison. He can shift gears at any moment and as a result tends to get involved in a lot of fights. It’s nice to have another fighter on the team, but it makes it more and more odd why everyone is so scared of Akito. I’ll get into that more later on. Anyway Hatsuharu would be near the middle of the pack. He’s nowhere near the best members but he’s better than someone like Hatori.

Kisa is one of the younger members. She’s a nice enough kid although she hasn’t gotten much of a role yet. I’m not sure if that’ll change or not later on, but so far she’s off to a good start. The same can’t be said for Hiro. That guy’s real petty and a jerk to Tohru for no reason. She overlooks all of it because she’s so nice, but it doesn’t do him any favors. He seems to be over that now so things will be looking up for him, but he’ll have to work hard to fully get past that terrible intro. Then we have Kazuma who was Kyo’s instructor. This guy seems reasonable. He lives on a mountain probably so he can get away from the main family. Forcing Kyo to transform was definitely a pretty iffy strategy since that could have easily backfired and really made life terrible for Kyo. It worked out in the end I suppose, but it’s hard to see them being quite as close after that. Kazuma seems like Hatori, but with more self-confidence.

Then we have the main villain of the series, Akito. He gets a lot of hype throughout as everyone is scared of him. Everyone shudders at the thought of even meeting him and they all freeze in terror. The guy’s super sick though and needs constant attention or he’ll die. How is anyone scared of him? I think this goes more into cultural impact and the fact that the family is so old. Traditions are strong here and maybe everyone is afraid because he would ruin their reputation. Since everyone else is afraid it becomes circular logic where everyone is afraid because of everyone else. All one person needs to do is stand up to him though and then everyone else could. Maybe the next season will go more into depth on this.

Regardless, Akito isn’t a good villain. The guy just seems really petty and self centered the whole time. I’m sure he’ll have a sad origin, but he’s taking it out on everyone else which is never good. Everyone in this series has had a tough background and I mean almost literally everyone. That means it’ll be very hard for Akito to try and stand there with a straight face and explain why he has to be mean to everyone. I just won’t be able to buy that very easily. Seriously, someone just needs to stand up to this guy and then the rest will quickly fall into place.

At the end of the day Fruits Basket is really about moving on from your past. That’s the main theme of the show and Tohru helps the characters come to terms with it and move forward. The origins are all sad and dark in different ways which allows her to give many different kinds of advice. It’s definitely a moving series in that regard and that’s why it’s a fun watch. You should always feel pretty good upon finishing up the episode. It can get heavy at times as well so make sure you are prepared. It’s worth noting that the romance here isn’t terrible so far. I still don’t think any romance should ultimately happen here since Tohru is just too heroic and oblivious to get into that, but it does feel inevitable that it’ll happen soon. We’ll see how the show handles that.

It’s also just plain fun most of the time. The cast can handle themselves pretty well and that’s extremely important for a slice of life show. There aren’t going to be big action scenes here so the show has to hold its own with pure writing and fundamentals. The pacing is on point and the writing is good so it’s all set there. The animation is pretty good as well. I wouldn’t say it’s anything particularly special, but it all looks smooth and vibrant. Then you’ve got a reasonable soundtrack here as well. It may not be the most memorable, but it does get the job done.

Overall, Fruits Basket season 1 is a pretty good show. It’s the kind of all around title that you can easily recommend to someone who doesn’t really watch a lot of anime. That’s because it touches on a lot of themes that a live action show would with regard to the origin stories and characters trying to find reasons to keep on living or to re-experience what it’s like to enjoy their day to day existence. The show can get pretty sad, but there is always a happy ending. I can’t think of any episode that ended on a low note. It’s not a perfect show and I’d say that a drama will always be limited in how high it can ultimately reach. That being said, the execution is basically ideal and we’ll see if season 2 can match it. I don’t know if season 2 intends to cover the rest of the series but you can already see how not everyone can get their perfect ending here. Multiple characters are interested in each other so someone will have to take a back seat. I also better see more people stand up to Akito because that’s the one part of the series that makes no sense so far.

Overall 7/10

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Fruits Basket Another

Fruits-Basket-Another-announcement-2015-01
Fruits Basket wasn’t that good if you ask me, but it was fairly decent I suppose. The romance had too much focus put on it if you ask me, but this series is taking it slowly and enjoying the slice of life aspect so far so that’s a good thing. This series has potential and hopefully it can live up to it. I’ll have a review for this series when it finishes…someday!

Overall 6/10