Note: Review copy supplied by Manga Entertainment
Title: Fruits Basket Season One Part One
Anime Studio: TMS/8PAN
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Slice Of Life / Reverse Harem / Supernatural
Released: November 25th, 2018
Language: Japanese / English
Extras: Clean OP and ED, Trailers
After a family tragedy turns her life upside down, 16-year-old high schooler Tohru Honda takes matters into her own hands and moves out… into a tent! Unfortunately for her, she pitches her new home on private land belonging to the mysterious Soma clan, and it isn’t long before the owners discover her secret. But, as Tohru quickly finds out when the family offers to take her in, the Somas have a secret of their own when hugged by the opposite sex, they turn into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac!
Coming into this series, I found myself in an interesting position. I know that the original manga is very highly regarded and that the early 2000’s anime adaption gets a love. But, I have no experience with either. I saw the manga around here and there but didn’t pick it up. I skipped the anime because, back then, I had no interest in slice of life series. Now, I’m a lot more open to the genre. The key point is though, other than knowing that this is going to adapt the whole manga, while the original adaption did not, I had no frame of reference for comparison.
So, with all that being said, what did I think of the first part of Fruits Basket 2019? Well, I really enjoyed it. From an aesthetic standpoint, it stands alongside other modern releases well. The background work is beautiful, and the way the environment affects the characters is really well done, with plenty of light and shadow to make moments pop.
The animation looks smooth too. I checked out a comparison video of similar scenes with this and the original anime run, and the difference is really quite striking. The early 2000’s release looks fine for the time period, but with the technical advances we’ve seen, this one stands head and shoulders above it. This is perhaps most obvious in both the characters’ mouth movements and the little movements of fabric that pop up. Here, the increased number of frames and more vibrant colours stand out.
The designs themselves look modern due to the animation style, but they have enough of an old school edge to them to create a warm nostalgic glow for fans of older series. The voice cast is great, with both the English and Japanese VAs working well with the material. The soundtrack too felt like a really good match with the events on screen and captured the softness of the series well.
Where Fruits basket really shines though is in its characters. For the first chunk of the release, they really seemed to live or die by the interesting zodiac premise for me. That was fine, as the slow pacing felt right, and I always felt like there would be more to it than we were initially seeing. By the time we hit the second half, everyone started growing beyond their position in the world. By then, we’ve started to meet the extended family members, and are beginning to learn about their longstanding relationships. We’re seeing the good and the bad of the family’s life. Most importantly though, we’ve also seen just how sweet Tohru is as a lead. She’s naturally kindhearted and optimistic, but it doesn’t feel overdone. She’s had her difficulties in her past, and she avoids the risk of being a one-dimensional stereotype with ease. By the time the discs end, you really care for her.
For the most part, the way the series is set out works too. The way that the different family members have grown closer or apart is well done, and the relationships feel real as a result, with snippets dripping in appropriately rather than being launched I the viewer’s face. Even the harsher moments relating to Yuki’s past fit nicely into the overall tale. The only real issue I had was that the concept of marriage within the family came into play, which is always a negative for me. With that as the only one gripe though, there isn’t too much to complain about. Even the limited edition bonuses of three art cards, a paperweight stand, and two cute paperweights fit so nicely with the feel of the series that it’s hard not to like them.
Overall, Fruits Basket has gotten off to a good start for me. It’s a sweet tale with a genuinely likable cast and an interesting set-up to guide it. The slow-moving pace of the overall story may not be to everyone’s tastes, but on the whole, this is very good so far. I give this one a strong 4 out of 5.