Fruits Basket is the oddly titled tale of one girls discovery of a local family's secret, the consequences and the change it makes to her life, all told in gentle comedic style over 4 DVD's. And its great ^_^
Our heroine is young Tohru Honda, a schoolgirl who recently lost her mother to a road accident and, through circumstances I'll let you find out by watching, ends up living in a tent. On her way to school one morning she stumbles over a traditional looking house and meets the Souma family for the first time - through a twist of bizarre and gently humerous circumstancs she ends up becoming their housekeeper, and the only person outside the family to know their secret - it turns out that the Souma family carry a unique curse, whereby a hug from a member of the opposite sex turns them into an animal from the Chinese zodiac, giving rise to plenty of plot twists and amusing characters, as more Souma family members turn up to create havoc...
The series is, as you'll probably have realised, a gentle romantic comedy. Now, this is a genre with plenty of competition - Love Hina, Tenchi muyo, Ranma - the influences are all here, but whereas those I've mentioned rely largely on slapstick hi-jinx for comedy, Fruits Basket stands out by being surprisingly subtle - some of the funniest moments of the series are quiet one liners, and for once the English voice cast do such a great job I found myself enticed away from the subtitled version and watching it in English - very rare indeed, and testament to the quality of the handling by translators Funimation.
The characters are all likeable, even those that are supposed to be annoying. The central cast comprises of Tohru and three particular Souma members - Shigure, the quiet writer who turns into a dog is probably the coolest character simply due to the fact that he's a very subtle perv - Tohru is totally oblivious to this fact, and he's such a charmer that its easy to see how it goes unnoticed - he gets a nice share of the best one-liners too. Yuki (who turns into a rat) is just as charming, and is one of the most popular boys at his school - so popular in fact that he has his own fan club (much to his disdain), but he also develops very well as a complex character who has a running rivalry with Kyo, who turns into a cat and is something of an outsider (in fact he shares a lot of common traits with Ryoga from Ranma, minus the ability to get lost). The dynamic between the three is wonderful to watch and the comedy almost writes itself. Tohru can only sit back and watch bemused as she unwittingly changes the entire group dynamic simply by being there...
The animation itself is workmanlike, but that's easy to forgive given the quality of the writing. Also of note is the music, which is subtle and sweet without being sickly. I'm no great fan of cute anime, but this stands out a mile as a cleverly thought out concept with characters you can grow to love and episodes which have that "one more before bedtime" quality...
The DVD extras are pretty good too - character profiles and a textless opening are fairly standard, but the behind the scenes documentaries and interviews with the cast really make it stand out.
A rare score but heartily deserved. A wonderful example of its genre.