Wednesday, 30 June 2021

The Rice Ball in a Fruits Basket

When I was in my early twenties, I was going through my 'I'll watch anything if it's anime' phase. I remember often buying random anime DVDs if the premise of the show sounded interesting enough to me. One of these shows ended up being the original 2001 anime of 'Fruits Basket'.

I watched the whole series, which sadly only covered a small part of the manga, so I ended up reading the manga too. I think it's possibly the only long-running manga series' that I ever managed to finish reading from start to finish. I was hooked on the touching storyline and it's something that just really stuck with me since.

When they announced they were making a new anime that was going to cover the entire manga story, I was incredibly happy. It was definitely a series I wanted to see fully animated, plus it had been so long since I read the manga, I didn't really remember all of it, so the new anime allowed me to once again relive this amazing story. 

The rest of the blog will contain minor spoilers for the series, but I've tried to keep them at a minimum so not to spoil too much.

Fruits Basket is a touching story that follows Tohru Honda, a high school girl who meets members of the Sohma family after she accidently pitches her tent on land belonging to them, which she chose to stay in while her grandfather's home was being remodelled. This leads to her discovering the secret of the Sohma family; they're cursed by the animals of the Chinese Zodiac and transform whenever they are hugged by someone of the opposite gender.

The new adaption of this tale ran from 2019 - 2021 and has beautiful animation, complimented by a wonderful soundtrack that really captures the heart-warming and emotional story, which also carries an air of mystery and darkness.

They're all animals!

The premise may sound rather ridiculous to anyone who hasn't seen the series, but what follows is a moving tale about being bound and tied down by oath and traditions and how Tohru's presence in the Sohmas lives begins to change their outlook on things, especially for the two main characters, Yuki Sohma (the rat) and Kyo Sohma (the cat). The changes in them are very gradual, but you see them grow slowly through the series from the very closed off people that they begin as at the start of the story.

As she meets more of the zodiac members, and learns more about Yuki and Kyo, Tohru becomes more and more interested in the curse, understanding how tied down they are by it, which leads to her wishing to find out how to break it.

The story definitely has a good balance of both serious and comical moments, and is a very character introspective kind of series. The story is driven by the thoughts and feelings of the characters as they try to understand themselves, their situations and the others around them. There also is a lot of focus on themes of abuse and trauma in the series, which includes mental, verbal and physical abuse. Quite a lot of the cast have fairly abusive families or have experienced abuse and trauma in other ways. This is especially true of the Sohma family, as it's stated in the series that members of the zodiac are often rejected by their parents, or their parents become very overprotective of them. The show also has themes of having a 'found family', people you see as family, even if you're not related.

From L to R: Shigure Sohma (The Dog), Yuki Sohma (The Rat), Tohru Honda and Kyo Sohma (The Cat)

The abuse and trauma themes are something to keep in mind if you are sensitive to any of these kinds of matters, if you decide to watch the show or read the manga. It is very much about the struggles of the characters and how they begin to change and grow beyond them mainly thanks to Tohru's influence and how Tohru, herself, also changes due to them.

Out of the characters, I absolutely love Tohru the most. She's sweet, polite, kind and is very motherly, but she's also fairly gullible, naïve, spacey and incredibly clumsy. She also has a habit of pushing herself to work hard and putting others needs way before herself which can lead to her neglecting or ignoring her own needs. Despite how optimistic she is, she has her own struggles that become more apparent as the series moves on.

Akito Sohma, who is the head of the Sohma family, and serves as the role of 'God' in the zodiac, is also an interestingly complicated and very twisted character. They were groomed to feel important and told that they were born to be loved by everyone, but events in their backstory leads them to become a very twisted and manipulative individual, who acts out in rage and abuses others if they don't get their way, including the zodiac members. In reality they have a deep-seated fear of abandonment and being unloved, because their whole personality has been centred about being the 'God' of the zodiac and being 'loved' by the zodiac members and nothing else. They hang on to the unhealthy attachment of the bond of the curse, especially due to the own abuse they have experienced themselves.

Tohru Honda and Akito Sohma

I think for me, the only minor downside there is to the series is that the cast is very large and a few of the character designs at times can look fairly similar, so I found that it occasionally took me a minute to remember who specific characters were, especially if they're more minor and didn't show up in the series as often, but for the most part, the main characters are all recognizable and the story is mainly about them, so having a few characters pop up now and then that takes you a minute to remember who they are isn't too big of a deal.

A few of the zodiac members do suffer due to the large cast too and I feel some do get a bit side-lined. Ritsu Sohma especially doesn't have a huge role in the story and I feel Kagura Sohma doesn't show up as often and feels a bit side-lined later in the story too.

Even though the main series has now ended, I just learned that there is going to be a spin-off series airing in 2022 which focuses on the backstory of Tohru's parents, Kyoko and Katsuya. I noticed they didn't cover this in the new series, so I'm glad they are covering it, even if it's separately from the main series. I'm hoping one day they may also animate the spin-off manga series, 'Fruits Basket Another', which is a story that follows some of the children of the characters from the original series. I haven't actually read this series, so it'd be nice to see it animated.

Fruits Basket can be watched on either Crunchyroll (subbed) or Funimation (dubbed) streaming services. If you're in the UK, the show is also being released gradually on DVD too by Funimation UK and IRE (Formally Manga Entertainment) and is definitely a show I recommend if you like very character-centric moving stories. I also recommend watching the 2019 anime, over the older 2001 anime. The 2001 anime, as mentioned earlier, only covered a small part of the manga and also had a number of changes made to the story, as the manga was still on-going when it aired.

A subbed trailer for the series. It spoils a few of the zodiac members, but gives a good overall feel of the series.


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