Fruits Basket is a show that might certainly sound interesting the moment you check the synopsis. People turning into the Chinese zodiac animals, dark and mysterious secrets surrounding them, cute, clueless main heroine – isn't that a great premise for a shoujo series? But only as long as it's executed accordingly.
I decided to watch Fruits Basket after seeing how high it is rated. I wouldn't normally watch a shoujo series, since I find most of them exaggerated and unrealistic – that's why, I expected Furuba to really change my opinion regarding them. Instead, I found Furuba to be exactly what I mostly disliked and avoided in this genre – with a really more unnatural and forced tone. Do not get me wrong; I do not hate Fruits Basket; yet I really couldn't feel anything else besides disappointment the moment I completed it, and this review explains why.
Furuba's story is surrounded by a dramatical and emo[tional] darkness upon which Tohru shines like a ray of redemptive hope. Because of that, 50% of the story is actually made up of Tohru's (and sometimes other characters' too) internal struggling monologues that pretty much unfold along the lines of "Is is right? Isn't it right? Is it wrong? Isn't it wrong?". The other 50% of the story might actually trick the viewer into believing that something happens - when it's usually just a repetition of the same overly used gags. There's no beginning, no development, no ending. It doesn't get anywhere.
To put it simply, Fruits Basket doesn't have a plot. Its entire 'story' could be summed up through the following sequence of (randomly ordered) events: Tohru acts dumb yet unbelievably nice which, in turn, causes other characters to also act this way, even though it isn't part of their personality, repeat; Kyo and Yuki fight, repeat; cliché and unfunny member of the Sohma family appears, repeat; Kyo and Yuki fight again, repeat; irrelevant episodic character that barely says a line throughout the whole series has an entire episode dedicated to themselves, repeat; Kyo and Yuki fight yet again, this time in a more dramatic light. Repeat.
Another bad aspect of the story is that it's ridiculously sweet, to the point that it loses all the bits of realism it could have had. It's clear that the creators wanted to have a mixed show, that doesn't only focus on the dramatical solving of tragic events, but also contains its funny moments. This in turn causes Furuba to have serious flaws, both in terms of execution and logic. Many times, the scenes change too quickly from overly-serious to (attempted) pink surrounded, humorous gags that pop up out of nowhere. Other times the events just don't add up. A clear example of this is Tohru living in a tent at the beginning of the series because she doesn't want to 'bother' anyone [thing which the viewer should find utterly amusing]. Apparently, she has a lot of people that care about her (grandfather, friends) yet they never check upon how she's doing. Yet somehow, the rest of her relatives actually go through the trouble of hiring a detective to find out where she lives when they could have simply followed her from school or asked her.
And lastly, in terms of storyline, Furuba is really stretched out for the amount of events it has to offer. Perhaps, had Furuba been a 13 episodes series and not a 26 one, with the same amount of story, it would have actually been entertaining. It's not just the slow pace that pretty much puts you to sleep; there's also the fact that sceneries, lights, wind are constantly emphasized just so that there'll be something to fill the gap and make an entire episode of something that could have been summed up in 5-10 mins.
Fruits Basket's characters are clear examples of shoujo genre gone wrong. Not only are they cliché, predictable and pretty much one-dimensional; they give off the feeling of being unnatural. There's something forced into them, whether it's the personality, the way they interact or their role. They seem to just be there for the sake of existing; therefore they don't have any apparent purpose or impact upon the viewer.
Tohru is a girl who's gone through a lot in her life, as it is clearly shown since the very beginning of the anime. Considering the amount of bad events she experienced, you'd expect her to be really introverted and (perhaps) pessimistic. Yet Tohru completely overthrows that, by not only being happy-go-lucky all the time, but also exaggeratedly clueless and nice to everybody, no matter the circumstances. There's a thin line between being inhumanly selfless and being ridiculously dumb, and Tohru seems to be stepping on it quite often. Because of that, most of the other characters seem to half divinize her. There's also another particular thing about Tohru. She doesn't seem to have any ambition for herself whatsoever, so she never asks for help – which brings up the question, is she really weak or is she really strong? Perhaps both, but she certainly isn't realistic or enjoyable.
Yuki is the least enjoyable out of the entire cast. Now, traps are one thing, effeminate characters other – but when some random character in the shows says: “Oh my, there's an interesting young person out there, but I can't tell whether it's a guy or a girl – isn't it exciting?”, that's a totally different thing. According to most of the other characters throughout the show and even himself, Yuki is a guy, though his personality, voice and appearance certainly don't show that. Why he was built that way is uncertain – there are a few attempts of making fun of this, but the humor fails, as usual.
Apart from when he's annoyingly correct by being the right person in the right place, Yuki is barely noticeable. However, his existence does seem to serve two purposes. First one is a Fruits Basket must: have a tragic, unexplainable and never actually detailed past that makes him dark and gloomy, which in turn asks for one of Tohru's miraculous healing techniques. Second is to serve as an opponent for Kyo – which is one of the most reused and unfunny gags throughout the show.
Kyo is probably the only character that actually suffers some sort of development. In the beginning, he's presented as a violent, leek-hating, anti-social idiot. In the end he's still violent and idiotic (though to a smaller scale), but at least he isn't lonely anymore and he's eaten leeks. Despite the fact that Kyo is also a cliché character, he's at least enjoyable, because he's a bit more realistic. Kyo has a lot of personality flaws, but there's one thing that compensates them: he at least sees Tohru as being weird and unhealthy for herself (which all the other characters seem to be blind to). Unfortunately, Kyo is never actually allowed to speak for himself since he's an outcast. It's clearly stated throughout the anime that the other Sohma members can't stand him; yet, as usual, it's never quite explained why. Despite this, Kyo could have had a lot of development and story going on around him. Unfortunately, the ending spoiled everything.
Sohma members+ Tohru's friends:
The rest of the Sohma family members and Tohru's friends were created so they would be as weird and different as possible, yet they all share the same characteristics. Their past is dark and tumultuous so they anchor around Tohru; on top of that, they are all one-dimensional commonly encountered types of characters. Shigure is the pervert, Kagura is the good-willed yet always screwing up girl, Momiji is the cute shouta boy, Risa is the sweet innocent girl and so on. But that's the end to it. There's nothing more to them; yet countless of repetitive unfunny gags are made of their only side. In the end, they are all too many and too similar to remember or enjoy.
ART AND SOUND
Furuba's art and sound are certainly nothing exceptional – yet they're not bad either. They all add up to the unrealistic, sweet and pink impression the show is trying to leave. There seems to be specific effort put into backgrounds and into the (often really big) eyes. The voice actors capture the personalities of the characters they portray really well (maybe sometimes too well, but it's in the series' nature to be exaggerated), especially during monologues or conflicts. The OP and ED were some of the very few generics that I constantly skipped – they were too slow-paced and fluffy for my taste. The background music also didn't really stand out – but is wasn't unpleasant.
Furuba really isn't enjoyable, unless you're a fan of slow-paced, warmth and fuzzy feelings inducing series that stretch too much and don't get anywhere. I expected something funny like Ouran or Yamato Nadeshiko before watching this; yet I was thoroughly disappointed. The whole anime seemed to be a mixture of randomly thrown in characters trying to act dramatic and special, but not leaving any particular positive impression. They were predictable, boring and irrelevant. Also, I really couldn't get over the few logic flaws (like Japan leaving its orphans to suffer in tents, Tohru being able to magically teleport herself from the forest to the cemetery and back to the forest [during the last episode] or the too sudden mood changes from tragic to overly happy).
Even though Fruits Basket had a pretty good premise to start from and quite the numerous cast of characters, it really couldn't get past the “Everything is so sad, oh! Let's bring Tohru in so it'll be nice and shiny” feeling. Furuba is a series that doesn't leave any positive feelings while watching and certainly not after being completed. The viewer is basically left where it all started from – no plot or character development whatsoever, nothing explained, nothing major accomplished. Therefore, it really doesn't get past the state of being a mediocre series with nothing special.