Fruits Basket Volume 1

Fruit’s Basket is the tale of Tohru Honda and the many different (and frankly strange!) personalities she meets during this small period of her life.

Since losing her beloved mother (and essentially her only home) to a fatal car crash, Tohru has had a hard time in life. Unable to live with her relativities and seemingly too shy to ask to shack up with one of her buddies, she takes to camping in a forest close to her high school.
One day, when leaving for another hard day’s study, she happens across a strange house in the middle of the forest and is attracted to its strange (and apparently ‘cute’) display of Chinese Zodiac animal figures. As fate would have it, a resident of this house is none other than Yuki Sohma, the most popular boy in her class.
Upon introducing themselves, Yuki and Shigure (Yuki’s older relative) quickly work out how Tohru is living rough in the forest and offer her a place in house– after all, they have a spare room and are acutely aware just how badly the house is in need of a ‘women’s touch’.
Not everything is as it seems in the Sohma household though. Yuki and Shigure harbour a strange curse which prevents them from touching any female, should they accidentally do this– they are magically transformed into animals of the Zodiac, Yuki becomes a rat and Shigure becomes a dog. Promising to never to tell this secret to outsiders, Tohru seems content enough just to have roof over her head and to be living with such interesting people.

Just as things begin to settle down, we are introduced to Kyo Sohma; an occasional resident of the Sohma household and sworn arch enemy of Yuki. Kyo’s particular fate is one of constant struggle, given he becomes a cat when touched by a women– the one animal considered to be the outcast of the Zodiac.
Desperately striving to prove his strength to Yuki, he only ends up looking more like a fool and getting even angrier.
Thing is, Tohru’s favourite character in the ‘Zodiac tale’ was always the cat, and she makes a special effort to befriend the anti-social Kyo.

No doubt appreciating that warmth in Tohru but unable to express their own gratitude, Yuki and Kyo only realize the importance of Tohru in their lives when she is more or less forced to leave the Sohma household and live with her (rather nasty) distant relatives.

At this point, I will stop describing the plot in order to avoid spoiling the climax of Volume 1; a powerful combination of scenes full of warmth and emotion, its better that you experience these scenes without knowing what to expect.

Not being a big fan of this particular genre of anime, I wasn’t expecting anything special coming into this series. However, I was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be a well written, funny and dramatic series.

I wasn’t sure what to think of the strange ‘Zodiac’ premise at first, but as the story went on, I found myself enjoying more and more of the scenes where the (usually accidental) transformations take place. Usually (and rightly) used as a comic device, these scenes are often at the centre of some great entertainment.

Shigure, Yuki, Kyo and Tohru make such a great bunch of characters to watch and their interactions are what makes Fruits Basket such a good, enjoyable series. Particularly fun are the heated exchanges between Kyo and Yuki/Shigure. Poor old cat!

The dramatic side of Fruit’s Basket is a little cheesy in parts, but this very sentimental feeling manages to be well restrained by some well placed music and an up-tempo set of voice actors. (Japanese track)

The climax of this volume, episode 5, is particularly good drama. After seeing a good few episodes full of comedy and light hearted action, things finally get a little serious and it’s a credit to the story telling of the series that you will most likely feel the sadness of the characters as they are painfully yanked apart.

A surprisingly enjoyable treat, Fruit’s Basket #1 is an incredibly fun, dramatic series that never takes itself too seriously. Can’t wait for Volume #2!

8 / 10

Paul

Washed up on the good shores of Anime UK News after many a year at sea. Also known as @bateszi, Paul has been writing about anime for a long time here at AUKN and at his anime blog.

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