Oh Fruits Basket, you remind me of the end of high school; oogling Kyo and Yuki with the nearly all-female anime club, learning to sing Momiji’s silly onsen song; thinking how frustrating being unable to give your boyfriend hugs without him turning into a dog would be. The creators and voice actors are quick to point out that the show has something for everyone–comedy, romance, drama, even a little action—but the story of Tohru Honda and her life with the Sohma family after the death of her mother really does touch on quite a few accessible themes. Dealing with the loss of a parent, being the odd one out, loving someone for who they are and accepting their faults—it’s true that anyone can relate. Watching a parade of awkwardly timed animal transformations that must, without fail, go unnoticed–that’s great, too.
For those unfamiliar with Fruits Basket–this is the second edition of the complete series, after the original release in 2004–Tohru begins the show camping in the yard (it turns out) of Prince of the school, Yuki Sohma. Yuki lives with his cousin Shigure, a novelist, and orange-haired Kyo returns from intense martial arts mountain training to complete the household, that is, until they invite Tohru to stay with them. Before episode one is even out, she discovers the strange curse their family bears: being hugged by a member of the opposite sex causes them to change into an animal of the Chinese zodiac. Obviously, the curse affects those Sohmas that transform (whom you’ll continue to meet throughout the series—Hatori the seahorse, Hatsuharu the cow, et. al.) pretty deeply, so between adorable chibi moments and goofy jokes from Shigure you’ll hear more serious stories about what it’s like to try to relate to people who don’t understand or accept you for who you are.
Other drama comes in the form of the bitter head of the house, Akito, who is so in charge he can even order the erasure of Tohru’s memory if he deems it necessary, and the rivalry between Yuki and Kyo, which has to do with the fact that somehow the rat (Yuki’s animal) makes it to the banquet of legend, but the cat (Kyo) misses out, and thus is left out of the zodiac. The plot turns to Kyo’s situation again and again, climaxing in the last two episodes. Some might these find corny and stupid, but for people who are used to dramatic anime, it’s far from over-the-top, and some of the emotion there was actually touching as opposed to just gaggy. I enjoyed all 26 episodes (mostly in Japanese, since Tohru’s fretting noises felt pretty unnatural in the dub and I just couldn’t get over the disconnect between the chibi characters, sometimes with animal ears, and the typical American dub voices), never feeling that they pushed the stereotype or cheeseball line past the point where I would throw my hands in the air and stalk away (far, far away) from the TV.
There isn’t any point to picking up last year’s Viridian Collection if you already own the series, since the extras, quality though they may be (featuring staff behind-the-scenes interviews, plus voice actor interview segments called “Fruits Basket Room, hosted by Tohru’s Japanese voice actress, Yui) are identical to what you’ve already experienced. If you got into anime post-2004, though, and happened to have missed the fun of Fruits Basket, this newer box set makes catching up a less expensive proposition.
Studio/Company: FUNimation Entertainment