When I was in High School, Fruits Basket came out in the US and it was a phenomenon. the manga was the flagship of Tokyopop’s unflipped manga (or “100% Authentic Manga”) initiative, and its success led to the majority of manga in the US being published unflipped, and also cemented a longstanding partnership between Tokyopop and Borders which lasted until both went bankrupt – all of that fueled as well by the success of the anime. Now, about 18 years later, long enough for the high school kids who grew up on FuruBa to have kids of their own, there is a new anime adaptation of Fruits Basket, with the first season airing this year.
The show follows Tohru Honda, a very nice girl who, of late, has had way too much tragedy in her life. Her mother died in a car accident, leaving her an orphan. She’s been taken in by her grandfather, but her extended family in her grandfather’s household are emotionally abusive. So, Honda has decided to live in a tent in the woods instead – feeling that would put less pressure on her father, and that tent is near the home of Shigure and Yuki Sohma. Shigure is a successful author, while his cousin Yuki attends Tohru’s high school and he is considered to be the “prince” of her school.
Also, Yuki and Shigure are among those members of the Sohma family who have the “Zodiac curse” a curse where if embraced by a person of the opposite sex who doesn’t have the curse, they turn into their respective animal from the Chinese zodiac. Well, more or less, the person with Dragon turns into a seahorse instead of a dragon, or even for that matter an eel. Yuki and Shigure decided to take Tohru in, and shortly afterwards another of Yuki’s cousins, Kyo, shows up – and after some slapstick, Tohru learns that he’s cursed with the cat sprit – shojo dramedy ensues.
That last bit “Shojo dramedy” will kind of determine how much you enjoy this show – as the show has a tremendous degree of tonal whiplash. The series can go from heavy emotional melodrama to wacky slapstick at the drop of a hat, if not faster. Male characters with the Zodiac curse will be having profound and angsty emotional revelations, and then Tohru will run into them and they’ll turn into an animal.
Additionally, while the show does not reach peak shojo melodrama (which I’d describe as Rose of Versailles), it does reach some levels of “intense emotional abuse taken as normal by the victims and some people around them” that some viewers should be aware of.
In all, it’s a very good show, and will hopefully lead to a new generation of fans of the anime and manga.
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