In 2004, all four single volumes of Fruit Baskets were reviewed very favourably on this site and as years went by, it became harder for me to find these single volumes that were rated so highly. Eight years later and MVM have kindly reacquired the license and released the full series box-set; the question is: has it stood the test of time?
Some may be surprised to know that this is my first time going into Fruit Baskets. I knew about the popularity of both the anime and manga but I never really investigated what the series is about; at first, I thought it was going to be a typical shoujo romantic comedy and while that statement is kind of true, it turned out to be different from what I was expecting.
We are introduced to Tohru Honda, who has been living in a tent in the middle of the forest since her mother died in an accident; her grandfather’s house is currently being renovated and she doesn’t want to trouble her friends to stay over at their places, neither does she want to trouble her grandfather. While on her way to school, she spots an old-fashioned house nearby and a bunch of little animal figurines from the Chinese Zodiac, and then notices that one of her classmates, Yuki Sohma, is living there with his older cousin, the writer Shigure Sohma.
Yuki walks to school with Tohru where we meet Tohru’s friends and see more of her positive, energetic personality. Later, Yuki and Tohru discuss the tale of the Chinese Zodiac and learn that Tohru admires the cat for being the loner, the one excluded from the story. Once school is over and she finishes her night job, Yuki and Shigure find out about her situation and offer her a room in their house on condition that she works as their housekeeper if she accepts, which she does. It’s not until the introduction of Kyo Sohma where Tohru finds out that Yuki (Rat), Shigure (Dog) and Kyo (Cat) are part of the Zodiac curse and change to their animal form when they are either hugged by a human or are under immense stress.
Tohru is a bit of a klutz but is kind, cheerful and hard-working enough to be likeable (although talking to her mom’s picture in most of the episodes can make her seem a little weird.) Yuki has a quiet personality and is very attractive, even having an obsessed school fan-club, in complete contrast to Kyo, who is hot-headed and anti-social. The relationships between these three characters are one of the main focuses of Fruit Baskets. Yuki and Kyo have never gotten along with each other, even when they were young, and it’s because of Tohru that both male main characters start to slowly change (even if their rivalry doesn’t).
The series uses Tohru to introduce us to the rest of the Sohma family (who all have their individual Zodiac animal form.) Most of them appear, giving them the natural development which is needed, but some are given one episode in which they tell Tohru their back-story and talking with her helps to solve their troubles. This device felt rushed and repetitive as the final episodes came around. Still, I liked most of the supporting cast, and it’s largely thanks to the English and Japanese dubs that bring a lot of energy and fun to Fruit Baskets. One of my favourite characters was Yuki’s flamboyant older brother Ayame, who injects a lot of humour into his scenes; his past with his brother was interesting as well.
A few gripes: there were a couple of episodes that focused on the Yuki fan-club that I really didn’t like (I found everyone in this club unlikeable and their antics pointless.) And the ending felt a bit lacking as well after a good dramatic build-up.
For a series that was made ten years ago, the animation still holds up very well, the character designs suit everyone’s personalities, and even though there are some strange animation choices (like unneeded static effects) there’s nothing that really spoiled my enjoyment.
In the English dub the opening and ending are sung in English; both are sweet and relaxing to listen to but the opening animation and the closing credits tend to be boring to watch.
Fruit Basket is littered with extras on each disc; not only are you getting the regular textless openings, but character profiles, Eyecatch galleries on the episodes, an interview with director Akitaro Daichi, a ‘behind the scenes’ look at Studio DEEN’s production before the anime TV broadcast (which might interest people on how anime was being made back 10 years ago) and some segments called Fruit Basket Rooms, which are basically interviews with some of the Japanese dub cast.
I’m glad that I finally got to watch Fruit Baskets; it’s got enough good characters and drama to suck me in to watch it all and with the large amount of extras, it’s worth a purchase.