Original Run: April 6, 2019 - September 21, 2019 Number of Episodes: 25 Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Supernatural Based on the Series Created By: Natsuki Takaya
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Fruits Basket 1st Season. Reader discretion is advised.***
Tohru Honda (voiced by Manaka Iwami) has recently lost her mother, and due to circumstances, is living out of a tent. These hardships don’t seem to bother her too much because no matter what, Tohru is determined to keep smiling.
Tohru’s living arrangement is soon discovered by her classmate, the school’s pretty boy Yuki Souma (voiced by Nobunaga Shimazaki). Yuki offers up his home to Tohru, and she begrudgingly accepts. While there, Tohru also meets Yuki’s cousin and rival Kyo Souma (voiced by Yuuma Uchida), and, at least, the household is never dull.
Then Tohru accidentally discovers the Souma family’s biggest and darkest secret. Yuki and Kyo are one of several Soumas who can transform into one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. This curse has caused great strife and hardship for those afflicted by it. However, that was before Tohru came into their lives.
Now, Yuki, Kyo, and the other Soumas see Tohru as their chance to live a happy life.
There are several points I wish to address at the start of this post. Things are about to get explanatory on my part, so before I say anything else, let me make this clear:
Fruits Basket 1st Season was quite, and I mean quite outstanding.
There is more to the picture than that, but before we can explore anymore, we must organize ourselves. Throughout the rest of this review, I will be referring to the following series as such:
- Fruits Basket (2001) – Fruits Basket
- Fruits Basket 1st Season (2019) – 1st Season
Next, so we are all on the same page, 1st Season is NOT a sequel to Fruits Basket. This 2019 series is the second TV anime adaptation of the Fruits Basket manga, and what makes this particular attempt so interesting is that the show makers claim to be adapting the entire storyline over the course of several seasons; 2nd Season is slated to have a 2020 release date as of this post going live. That leaves me, as a reviewer, at a crossroads.
Although I want to examine 1st Season by the weight of its own merits, I can’t exactly ignore Fruits Basket’s presence. This is made especially tricky since 1st Season and Fruits Basket are adapting the same section of the manga. There are a few key differences between the two series, but it is not unfair to say 1st Season’s most immediate characteristic was the upgrade in visuals. Now, please allow me to say that again, but this time with extra special emphasis.
There are a few supercritical, highly crucial, unignorable key differences between 1st Season and Fruits Basket.
With that in mind:
To my readers who have not seen Fruits Basket, I will be mindful of my words so that I neither lose you in the context nor unnecessarily spoil this story for you.
To my readers who have seen Fruits Basket, perhaps you will appreciate knowing that 1st Season maintained and expanded upon the elements that made its predecessor the classic that it is.
Have I covered my bases? I certainly hope so because this introduction has gone on long enough, to which I apologize. However, I felt this was warranted because despite me saying at the top that 1st Season was outstanding, what I didn’t say was:
1st Season was not only significantly better than the original anime, this is easily one of the best series to come out of 2019.
A staple for both this series and the last was the characters. Through a wonderfully balanced blend of comedy and tragedy, Tohru, Yuki, Kyo, and the rest make up one of the most memorable casts in anime. It was a sight to see how one moment could be lighthearted and silly, and the next one be dark and troubling. Although many of the characters were outwardly goofy, no one in this show or the last had particularly happy backgrounds.
For Yuki, Kyo, and the rest of the Soumas afflicted by the zodiac curse, they have had to live in a constant state of fear and isolation. Not only were many of them, if not all of them scared to allow people to grow close, but they were also often ostracized by those who should have been their most ardent supporters.
For instance, the backstories of Momiji and Kisa Souma (voiced by Megumi Han and Reina Ueda respectively) were as heartbreaking in 1st Season as they were in Fruits Basket. In the case of 1st Season, this series was benefited by better animation and phenomenal voice acting. That isn’t to say the voice acting in Fruits Basket was bad, it’s just that 1st Season definitely had people who knew what the hell they were doing.
Shifting gears to Tohru, there is an aspect to this series we need to keep in mind; the story is not over. I want to highlight that point because Tohru can help show us the difference between a flawed character and a poorly written one. Tohru’s attitude may appear happy and cheery on the surface, but her mindset and reasonings are not healthy. She is utterly subservient to everyone she meets; she has no sense of self-worth; she has no concept of what it means to stand up for herself. At this moment, this makes Tohru a flawed character, and she will only become a poorly written character should this series fail to address this potentially dangerous behavior.
From what I saw in 1st Season, I feel it is safe to hope that such an address is not only likely, it is impending.
Two scenes in this series cause me to suspect this, and it was these two scenes that were critical in helping 1st Season rise above Fruits Basket. If you’re wondering how only two scenes can do this, you need to remember that the near one-to-one nature of these two shows is neither surprising nor unexpected. After all, both anime are adapting the same section of the manga. Therefore, the similarities would be numerous. Thus, the only major differences between 1st Season and Fruits Basket’s could only come from their respective presentations.
The first scene occurred near the end. Not to give to many details away, let’s call this the Kyo Incident, and the Kyo Incident was present in both Fruits Basket and 1st Season. Remembering how this played out in the original series, I remember not liking it because I felt Tohru’s reaction was oddly out of character. She was far too hesitant, and her nonaction drove the scene forward. In 1st Season, Tohru behaved and responded in a manner that was consistent with what she had done up to that point. The driving force this time around was squarely on Kyo’s reaction to what was going on. As a result, the entire exchange was far more meaningful.
The second scene was the one that let me realize 1st Season would be its own beast. The introduction of Akito Souma (voiced by Maaya Sakamoto) was unnerving. I recall from Fruits Basket that Akito was mostly just a colossal prick who would throw a hissy fit whenever things didn’t go Akito’s way. In 1st Season, there was more a sense of this person is dangerous. I cannot wait to see where this version of Akito will go when this story continues.
And that’s it, isn’t it? Fruits Basket aired when the manga was still going, and thus, it couldn’t give us a proper ending. That didn’t stop the series from trying anyway, and it was a bit jarring how the narrative simply stopped. 1st Season didn’t have that problem. When this conclusion comes, hopefully, it will have more power because it will have had the chance to build up to a satisfying conclusion.
And now we come to a dilemma.
I have never felt comfortable criticizing a story while it is still in progress. I mean, how can we possibly know if something is either a mistake or if something hasn’t been realized yet? So unless we are discussing the final season of this series, I would expect every subsequent Series Negative section to be sparse.
But not empty.
With 1st Season, in particular, there was something I was hoping it would fix, something the original Fruits Basket didn’t do well. I am referring to the Kyo Incident.
Although Tohru’s role during this segment was vastly improved, the segment itself remained fundamentally flawed. In both series, Kyo came off as a secondary character and not one of the three primary protagonists. This meant there was no lead up to this part of the story. That was a bit problematic since what occurred during the Kyo Incident was critical in cementing the sort of relationship Kyo and Tohru will most likely have during the rest of the story.
I say “most likely” because I have no idea what will happen next. I hope that Kyo becomes a more central figure in the narrative, but as for his standing in 1st Season, he definitely didn’t leave much of an impact.
I’m excited to see where this story goes from here. I know that this series’ manga has seen great success in both Japan and the United States, and short of just reading it for myself, I can’t wait to learn why people love it so much.
Until the next installment comes, though, this one did something I thought was impossible. This didn’t just meet its predecessor’s standards, it surpassed them. If this is your introduction to this series and not the original, then you’ll be more than alright.
I suspected this one was going to be good, but I never imagined it would be this good.
Fruits Basket 1st Season has earned a huge recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? How would you advise The Fruits Basket 1st Season? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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