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.