After living in a tent on private property for over two weeks, Sixteen-year-old orphan Tohru Honda is hired to work as a maid at the home of her fellow classmate, Yuki Sohma, and his older cousin Shigure. This singular event causes Tohru to stumble across the veiled situation of her newfound employers; these two men and certain other members of the Sohma family are the embodiments of an age old curse; whenever they are embraced by a member of the opposite sex, they transform into one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Now Tohru must learn to accept their customs, and to always honor the Sohma's code of secrecy, otherwise her most treasured memories could be lost forever.
Fruits Basket is a character driven anime targeted at a mainly female audience. As such, it consists of exaggerated interactions, little-to-no direct fan service, and an abundance of handsome male characters. One might even go so far as to attach the dangerous tag “male harem” to Fruits Basket, while in reality the romantic and sexual references presented throughout the plot remain innocent and entirely suitable for even a young audience. Of course, there are moments when the unsuspecting Tohru Honda stumbles, is pushed or just plain trips into the arms of one of the male protagonists, and then appears that memorable puff of smoke, as well as a short few frames of a chibified zodiac animal.
The plot is fairly straightforward, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is predictable. On the contrary, one may have the ability to forecast twists and devices, but the small events that lead up to these conclusions still remain a mystery throughout. In regards to short stories like Fruits Basket, I myself tend to prefer such palatable simplicity. By that, I mean that it isn’t too complicated or too exaggerated for its own good. Unlike series like True Tears or Angelic Layer, Fruits Basket is a rare breed of Shojo that tries, and succeeds with flying colours to not take itself too seriously. Stories with such a caliber are much more attractive in my opinion, because they are liable to bestow a feeling of comfort upon viewers that cannot possibly be achieved by a wholly original and inflated plotline.
Fruits Basket’s animation is very pretty, especially considering the fact that it is basically a series of still frames and detailed facial expressions. Movement, when it does occur, is fluid and believable, leaving much room for the character designs that Fruits Basket flourishes upon. With enormous, colourful eyes, and a specified code of dress for each character, physical traits offer much in terms of highlights to the overall animation. CGI is very well introduced as well; utilized for water and the puffs of smoke that surround the zodiac members when they transform. It is not used without good reason like it is in series such as Trinity Blood.
Fruits Basket’s background music is composed of various slow piano, flute and violin tunes. They definitely heighten the viewing experience, but don’t offer much in terms of listening outside of the series. The opening song, For Fruits Basket, was in one word, disturbing. Comprised of basically still-frame shots of each of the characters in a symbolic situation, it manages to reflect their individuality by featuring images of their lifelong anguish. The dubs of both languages were well done too, and I have next to no objections with the voices chosen in the English dub by Funimation. Laura Bailey, who also starred in Yu-Yu Hakusho as Keiko, voices Tohru Honda. Her vocals time very well with Tohru’s personality, just as the remainder of the cast’s voices suit their characters.
Fruits Basket supports a vast and highly diverse cast of characters. Incorporating the main and side protagonists, my personal favorites include Kyo, Shigure and Hana. Every single character was beautifully developed, and reflected how much effort the author of the series must have put in. One character that is unintentionally put beneath the spotlight is Akito Sohma, the head of the Sohma household. In the anime, there are no doubts in regards to the fact that he is a man. In original manga however, it is revealed that he is truly a woman. This detail places the series in a difficult position; one that would have been impossible to recover from had the anime continued further. Otherwise, this section of the review is actually rather difficult to write, because I am having trouble coming up with definitive character faults presented in Fruits Basket. I suppose I could comment on their somewhat sexualized interpersonal reactions, but considering what they manage to dish out to the series, I’d really just be rambling.
Fruits Basket is an amazing Shojo anime no matter which angle you examine it from. With a well-developed plot, fair animation and music, and stunning characters, few imperfections make themselves obvious. I consider Fruits Basket to be the Naruto of Shojo anime, simply due to the fact that there is no other series in existence that presents such remarkable character development other then Masashi Kishimoto’s masterpiece. As such, I conclude by review of Natsuki Takaya’s, Fruits Basket.