There’s no denying that all across the media landscape remakes, rehashes, and unnecessary sequels are abundant. While this seemingly never-ending trend is most palpable within the space of Hollywood movies, this phenomena unravels itself within the confines of our more specific anime spaces. For instance, all sorts of manga sequels I’d never have imagined have come out in 2019 like Happy Mania, Yakitate Japan!!, and Blade Of The Immortal to name just a few. One saving grace for manga sequels is that, unlike the 4th installment in a Hollywood series nobody really wanted, these comic sequels are usually handled by their original creators giving them a chance to be pretty good. Anime too, putting sequels aside, has spawned a number of really great remakes or adaptations of older material like Banana Fish and Dororo. With these older properties, they probably wouldn’t get made unless somebody wanted them done justice, and friends Fruits Basket 1st Season does the story justice.
From the first few episodes of Fruits Basket 1st Season, I was championing this show and trying to push it into the eye-streams of all my friends. My younger pals weren’t really present in the weeb zeitgeist when the original Fruits Basket was all tween anime fans could ever talk about and my older chums were apprehensive because of the culture surrounding the series 15 years ago; Shoujo for people who owned yaoi paddles. Yes, its chock-full of cute guys who turn into animals, which is some primo raw material in which the denizens of Deviantart and Live Journal fan fiction communities refined into content most of those creators would be horrified to look back on now. A big BUT here, The extremely Tokyopop fan culture surrounding it way back when doesn’t actually stop Natsuki Takaya’s original manga from being truly an incredible, quintessential work in the medium. Now, there’s an anime that both is removed from the series’ previous younger-skewing fandoms and does it all right.
Even if you’ve never read Fruits Basket yourself, all the more reason to check out Fruits Basket 1st Season. Just about every single episode of this new adaptation will tug at the most vulnerable of your heart guts. While not as over the top as, say, Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, it ramps on just as much sentiment. There’s this beautiful raw honesty and earnesty in the series that spawns from its profoundly good-natured protagonist Tohru Honda. As uplifting as the morning sunrise, her goodwill and generosity begins to infect many members of the Sohma family who, due to their curse that turns them into animals and because of that strict family traditions, all have their crosses to bear.
What people who’ve never experienced Fruits Basket don’t know is that the series gets dark but in very realistic and human ways. While the already confirmed Fruits Basket 2nd Season is sure to be doubly traumatic, even in Fruits Basket 1st Season which more or less covers the first half of the manga, you already get heaps of character backstory that’s ripe with instances of abuse, abandon, neglect, and even death. The sad genius of the series is that the show’s cutesy and magical element, the one that really sold it to the fan-art drawing teens of yesteryear, is the impetus for all its tragedy and trauma. More so, something like Puella Magi Madoka Magica has cute creatures doing terrible, terrible things but a lot of art design is played up for shock value, whereas series creator Natsuki Takaya really had people turning into rats and cats be a great source of human pain.
Unlike a Madoka though, Fruits Basket is a story of people overcoming their traumas and bad histories so they can enjoy the happiness in their lives. What makes Fruits Basket 1st Season a stellar adaptation is how depicts these emotional journeys; I’m not about to call this anime better than its source manga and if after reading this you’re curious about the comic go read it. However, there’s probably a lot of people out there who’d prefer a fresh coat of paint over a 20-year-old series and sharing the Sohma family’s trials and tribulations in digestible episodic chunks. Many of the secondary character’s stories, like Arisa’s gang past and Kisa Sohma losing the ability to speak, are wrapped in one or two episodes that allow their stories to be featured prominently and with the emotional punch they need to connect.
It’s like every episode of Fruits Basket 1st Season you’re invited to the Sohma family home with Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo and get to witness first hand these character’s private histories that successfully come off as more than just sob stories. On the production and animation side, director Yoshihide Ibata, who worked on FLCL Progressive the better of the two new FLCL series, and studio TMS Entertainment really strived to make the presentation of the Tohru and the Sohma’s lives as poignant as possible. The cast, while still entirely recognizable, have been given a more modern touch to their designs that go a long way in making you feel like you’re not just watching 2002 rebranded. The scenery’s all beautifully illustrated and the animation’s generally at a pretty high quality for a TV series, making the world of the show vibrant and palpable.
Fruits Basket 1st Season is certainly dramatic, but I wouldn’t call its events drama. There’s an intense human quality to the original manga that’s been faithfully recreated and added onto in ways only a full color moving animation could. It’s hard to think of any criticism besides ‘this really is just the manga brought to life’ but as we’ve said 1st Season only covers the first half of the comic. It gets darker, more intense, as it goes and it’s possible the anime will add some unique directorial touches to a lot of the culminations to the over-arching plot elements that only make appearances here and there at this point in the story. Overall, as a life long Fruits Basket fan, I think this show is great and despite the swirling emotions its making me relieve every episode has been a joy. A contender for my favorite show of the year so far.
Fruits Basket 2nd Season will air sometime next year.