Honda Tohru’s mother died and she went to live with her grandfather. Unfortunately, he needed to move in with other family members and while the house was being renovated Tohru was asked to stay with a friend. Rather than troubling her friends, she moves into a tent. Then, one morning she comes across a house where the Prince of her school lives, Yuki Sohma. It turns out her tent is on Sohma land. After a landslide destroys the tent, Tohru finds herself living with Yuki but the Sohma’s have a little bit of a secret.
Alright, if you don’t like sweet, slow shows or fairly effeminate looking guys, you are probably going to pass on this one from the outset. However, if those three elements aren’t going to make you walk away, you will probably find a really charming anime to watch filled with interesting characters who are all just a little bit (sometimes a lot) emotionally damaged and you can watch them grow closer together, or turn into animals. Then you can suffer from the absolute lack of resolution given by this series.
It is one of my pet hates when anime just stop without finalising anything. While one small bit of Kyo’s story is resolved, the greater mystery surrounding the Sohma’s is still completely a mystery, as is the vast majority of what is motivating some members of the family to act the way they do. And we don’t even meet all of the zodiac. For a story where members of the family are possessed by the spirit of the zodiac, to not introduce them all and not to continue the story is just purposefully leaving us hanging. As a result, this is one of the very, very, very few anime where I did go and read the manga after watching because I just couldn’t stand leaving the story where the anime dropped us. That said, I didn’t completely finish reading it. I read enough to start piecing together some of the mysteries that were bugging me and then cut my losses (I’m just not a fan of reading manga, I’d prefer a novel).
So with that said, how do I review Fruits Basket? It’s adorable. It isn’t as visually impressive as Snow White with the Red Hair and Tohru is an air-headed protagonist who pretty much functions in ‘be sweet and don’t annoy anyone’ mode while voluntarily cooking and cleaning because she quite likes it. I really wonder if this is actually a thing in Japan where teenage girls actually enjoy cooking and cleaning for others who seem to be completely inept at living or whether this is a not so subtle message to the youth of Japan that typical gender roles should be maintained. Either way, it is something that generally irks me when watching anime, particularly in characters that don’t have much else to offer.
Fortunately, Fruits Basket as a whole offers more than what our protagonist brings to the table. Her two best friends are fantastic. Yeah, they are equally stereotypical (one is a standard reformed delinquent and the other the weird girl who senses vibes) but the balance they offer and their interactions with Tohru work really well. They also offer some of the more comedic moments during the school scenes.
The Sohma’s are also pretty interesting as a family. Individually, they all have scars from being part of a cursed family. Scars because of the way others outside the family deal with them and scars because of the trauma inflicted by the family. It’s interesting to watch and in honesty I would have preferred more focus on this at times.
Tohru’s mother also needs a mention. For someone who is dead prior to the start of the series, she has a definite impact all the way through. Whether it is her lingering advice to Tohru about how to live, the inspiration she gives Tohru and her friends, or just the way characters who have never met her begin responding to her because of their interactions with Tohru, she’s a tangible force that moves the characters and plot. Not bad for someone who is dead and isn’t even appearing as some sort of spirit. It does however give the whole series a very human feeling as the loss of a parent should leave lingering traces.
The opening theme is fantastic. Admittedly, it is slow but it sets the tone for the show and if you aren’t finding the theme engaging and sweet, while just a little bit wistful and nostalgic, you probably aren’t going to be the right audience for the show in the first place.
Lastly, while it wasn’t so much a problem when I first saw this anime, the character designs are definitely starting to look dated. Also, the backgrounds are fairly nondescript and pretty washed out looking at times.
All and all, this was a great anime to watch but there just is no excuse for the lack of ending. If you are watching it just for the characters, you will love every minute of it. If you are hoping for the overall story with the curse of the Sohma’s to go somewhere, forget it.