Article: Classics of Anime - Fruits Basket
Introducing Fruits Basket
When compiling a “10 of the best” list, there were some series that had to fight with others for a place. However, Fruits Basket was assured a place from the word go. You see, in many ways, it’s the reason this site still stands.
Back when this series was first released by MVM (the title now sits pretty in Revelation’s catalogue) I have to admit I was a little tired of anime. A lot of generic rubbish was flooding the shelves, most of which were dull, uninspired and, in the worst cases, clearly also-ran trash. And that’s a problem when you have to review it.
When Fruits Basket turned up in my review pile (at the time supplied with great care by The Associates) there was little fanfare. It was a series aimed at girls and featured no giant robots, “wacky” comedy hi-jinks or any trace of ninja’s and/or demon-busting priests. No, Fruits Basket was as understated as they come.
It doesn’t sound special on paper either. We meet Tohru Honda, possibly the kindest, gentlest girl on the planet and follow how, through acts of kindness and compassion, her life takes an upward swing after the death of her mother. We first meet her living in a tent, not wanting to put upon her Grandfather whilst his house is refurbished. A chance encounter with a young man painting the Chinese Zodiac animals onto rocks is her first meeting with the Sohma family, and from hereon in, things get… weird.
The Sohma family is under a curse, which causes anyone afflicted to turn into a member of the Chinese Zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Okay, it’s a blatant plot device, but one that not only works unbelievably well, but also creates a distinct flavour to everything that follows.
So why is this site so reliant on this quiet, under-exposed series? As hinted at earlier, anime in this country was becoming rather stale – before Beez had properly entered the market to freshen things up, and before another of our top 10, Gungrave, had convinced me that intelligent, action-anime was back with a passion, Fruits Basket simply shone and gave me hope for other titles. For possibly the first time in this country, we had a shoujo anime that appealed to both genders, managed to enrapture through sheer force of storytelling and gave us 3 dimensional characters with enough depth and emotional pull to ensure its success as a sleeper hit.
The anime itself is based very faithfully on the original manga by Natsuki Takaya, and won the 2001 Kodansha Award for Shoujo and is marketed as America’s number one selling shoujo manga. The anime uses the manga as a storyboard, which is a blessing when you consider that the manga continues from where the TV series left off, providing fans with the perfect fix for their Fruits Basket addiction.
The TV series was directed by Akitaro Daichi, who helmed fan-favourite series such as Now and Then, Here and There and the fantastic Kodomo No Omocha. The series has a clean, crisp look to it, and whilst the animation isn’t outstanding, it’s perfectly acceptable for TV animation.