I considered saving this for my traditional year-end highlight list, but opted to give this show its own post because A) I have a ton of thoughts on it RIGHT NOW that I wish to express and B) I have a ton of thoughts on it which would inevitably take up no less than half of that post and still not really do them justice. So I’m just taking some time to write said thoughts down and dedicating a whole post to it, though it’s not really a proper review. If you want a review, here it is: If you’ve ever had the slightest interest in Fruits Basket, watch this show. It is beautiful.
When I say “beautiful”, I mean first of all that this show LOOKS gorgeous. I was particularly impressed by the backgrounds – whether it’s a city skyline or a cozy living room, it always looks fantastic. There are are also plenty of great vocal performances – whether you prefer the original Japanese or English, you can’t go wrong, even though they took wildly different approaches. The Japanese dub completely recast every role (according to Takaya-sensei’s wishes), while the English dub brought back quite a lot of the cast from the 2001 anime (for some reason a lot of the female roles were still recast, but at least Laura Bailey returned as Tohru). I’d have to give the edge to the Japanese as far as casting goes (there are a couple English roles which are merely “well-suited” where the Japanese was spot-on), but the English dub more than makes up for it with a phenomenal script.
This show deftly acknowledges its status as an adaptation of a classic shoujo manga and as a reboot of a popular anime. I’ll admit I was somewhat unimpressed by the first three episodes, which didn’t really distinguish itself much from the first few episodes of the old anime (production values aside). Then came Kagura, and all of a sudden I knew this story was in very competent hands.
I’ve always had trouble liking Kagura, at least partly because I had trouble understanding her, but now I think it’s safe to say that it was largely because she was poorly introduced – because this show gave her a much better introduction, and I actually liked her! Yes, better than the manga – honestly, I feel like Takaya-sensei just wanted to bring a female Zodiac member into the picture and then couldn’t think of much else to do with her later. I mean, she’s hostile toward Tohru until the very end of the chapter, when Tohru compliments her and suddenly she’s nice. Episode 4 develops their relationship more naturally, but still perfectly in character for both of them. I also liked how they brought in a flashback that came much later in the manga to help establish Kagura’s motives. Also, there’s a little reference to the old anime when she cuts out a little cat-face in the wall-paper, which was just adorable.
Another place where they definitely improved upon the manga is Episode 19 – Ritsu’s story. They took the single worst chapter of the manga and made it GOOD. The manga (and in turn the first anime) was uncharacteristically mean-spirited in Chapter 44, culminating in playing Ricchan’s SUICIDE ATTEMPT for laughs. This anime managed to be much more respectful towards Ritsu and honestly write everyone else more in-character than they were in the manga. Yes, they still play Micchan’s suicide attempts for laughs, but at least everyone feels appropriate degrees of concern about it (that is, Shigure taking sadistic pleasure in it, Tohru trying to calm her down, and Ritsu freaking out). I’m also glad that they more or less did away with trying to make Ritsu’s gender a twist, and I greatly enjoyed seeing Ricchan and Micchan actually bonding, because they are perfect for each other and we didn’t get anything like enough of them in the manga.
I love that they’re confident enough to make changes like that! But there are still plenty of spots where they stick to conveying the heart of the story with a splash of color. One of my favorite episodes was Episode 11 – the White Day episode. While it’s still almost completely the same content as the old anime and the manga, the production values just make it soar. The Foolish Traveler was perfect, and the hot springs were beautiful, and it just showed such a depth of understanding of the characters that helped me see them from new angles.
I also liked the choice to include Uo-chan and Hana-chan’s backstories in this first season. Uo-chan’s story is particularly enlightening because it’s out first glimpse of who Kyoko really was (as opposed to who Tohru remembers her as), even offering a little insight on her own history. And while I’m glad Saki’s story was finally animated, I ultimately concluded that it worked better in the manga. I think there’s just something about that black-and-white medium that makes it easier to get into her headspace or something.
Now I’m mostly done gushing about the show, so on to speculation about Season 2! (coming next year!)
Things we will almost definitely see next season:
-Introductions to the last Members of the Zodiac (finally)!
-Student Council shenanigans with Prince Yuki!
-Happy fun times at the Sohma Summer House! 8D
-My precious problematic fave! (everyone has one)
-FINALLY some insight into what the Curse actually is!
-More (living) Sohma parents! (trust me, Hot Springs Lady is one of the HIGHlights)
Things which may or may not make into the next season, depending on the length and how they decide to play it:
-A hopelessly miscast Cinderella play!
-Yuki finally admits his FEEEELINGS!
Personally, I suspect Season 2 will focus more on Yuki in general (as opposed to Season 1, which skewed towards Kyo), since I can easily see a natural arc for him in the second act.
It’s been so much fun revisiting this story, especially seeing the reactions both of other old hands like me and of the Froob Noobs. Furuba seriously has a great fandom (and surprisingly diverse, especially for an anime fandom), and I can’t wait to finally get into the meat of this story with everyone.
Until next year…