Review for Fruits Basket (2019): Season One Part Two
It’s strange to think that I’ve been looking forward to this release of Fruits Basket so much. I’ve counted. I’ve seen the original series ten times now at least, and I watched this first season of the remake as it was streamed less than a year ago. There are episodes in this new version that feel like beat for beat re-makes of episodes that the original series did, and you might expect me to start nodding off given how familiar I am with those stories. But when it comes to the first season of the new version, this Part 2 release is where the magic really starts to happen. This is where you get story that you’ll never have seen in that old series. This is where you really have to start paying attention.
You would think that Tohru Honda has a hard life. She was recently orphaned when her mother was killed in a car accident, and had to move in with her grandfather. It got crowded enough when his family moved back in, but when the house had to be renovated, and there wasn’t enough room at his family’s place, Tohru offered to find somewhere else to live. That turns out to be a tent in the forest. But Tohru is resolutely upbeat, and rather than burden her best friends Uo and Hana, she’s determined to keep her promise to her mother and finish high school, even if it means working her way through school, while living in a tent.
The trouble is that she’s pitched her tent on Soma land. Yuki Soma is in her class at school, the elegant, handsome young man who all the girls swoon over, but who keeps a resolute distance from everyone, never letting himself get too close. It turns out that he comes from an extensive and influential family, and they are surprised to learn that they have a squatter on their land. She’s a squatter they wind up rescuing when her tent is caught in a landslide. It also seems to be serendipitous, as Yuki’s house isn’t the most hospitable of residences, and he and his relative Shigure are badly in need of a housekeeper. The offer of a roof over her head seems heaven sent for Tohru, until Kyo Soma returns from a retreat in the mountains, looking to pick a fight with his eternal rival Yuki, and oblivious to his surroundings. In the ensuing mayhem, disaster strikes, and the Soma family’s darkest secret is revealed.
For the Soma family is cursed. For generations, they have been afflicted with a condition that causes them to transform into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Yuki is the rat, Shigure is the dog, and following the legend of the animal that was tricked out of the Zodiac (and the cause of Kyo’s antagonism with Yuki) Kyo is the cat. Now Tohru will have to keep their secret if she is to remain among them. But there is far more to the curse than just the cute animals, and as Tohru lives among them, and meets the other members of the Soma clan, she begins to learn the dark truths and tensions that keep them isolated. But if she has the strength of will, she may just be able to help heal these damaged souls, and in the process find a place that she can call home.
The 12 episodes of Fruits Basket Season 1 Part 2 are presented across 2 Blu-rays and this time Manga Entertainment are doing the honours.
14. That’s a Secret
15. I Wouldn’t Say That
16. She Said Don’t Step on Them!
17. This is for Uo-chan!
18. What’s Important Is...
19. I’m So Sorry!
20. I Can’t Believe You Picked It Up
21. I Never Back Down from a Wave Fight
22. Because I Was Happy
23. You Look Well
24. Let’s Go Home
25. Summer Will Be Here Soon
Fruits Basket gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these two discs, and it’s a world away from that original 2001 version. The high definition image is clear and sharp, detail levels are excellent, and the animation is smooth. You can really see the benefit of all this in the richness of the colours and the quality of the backgrounds and the settings. Compared to the lived in reality of this show, the original was an impressionist’s distillation. The same can be said for the quality and depth of the character designs. Having said all of that, there are moments in this show, certain scenes which feel like beat for beat recreations, albeit in HD widescreen. Then again, this is the same story remade.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and 2.0 Stereo Japanese, with subtitles and signs locked during playback. I watched and was happy with the Japanese version, that’s despite me missing Ritsuko Okazaki’s theme songs, Yui Horie’s breakout performance as Tohru Honda, and the original show’s music. The Japanese cast is completely new, and there are some surprising differences when you look at characters like Hatori and Yuki, although not unpleasant. The audio is fine, with no issues to report, and I have to admit that the new theme songs are growing on me, while the incidental music is more emotionally evocative. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos.
The discs present their content with animated menus, and there is a subtle but cute Zodiac animal motif with the menu selections.
Disc 1 autoplays a trailer for Funimation Now, and offers an audio commentary from Justin Cook (Hatsuharu), Kate Bristol (Kisa), and Eric Vale (Yuki).
Disc 2 begins with the Fruits Basket: Interview With Cast & Crew, which lasts 16:57. ADR Director Caitlin Glass is joined by Mikaela Krantz (Momiji), Jad Saxton (Hanajima), and Elizabeth Maxwell (Uotani).
You get 4 Fruits Basket: Inside the Episode bits, for episodes 16, 19, 22, and 25 running to a total of 20:49.
Finally there are the textless credits with locked subtitles.
This is where Fruits Basket fans are really rewarded. Season 1 of this new series pretty much covers the same ground as the original release, both telling much the same story over the same 26 episode run. The original series is adorable and a justifiable classic, but it took some liberties with the story and the characters, which this more faithful adaptation remedies. Still, it’s hard not to see Part 1 as a beat for beat remake at times, adapting the exact same material in much the same way. Where the shows differ is in subtext, and foreshadowing. The original series has less, this new adaptation is laced with it. It’s replete with back story, and everything that happens feels like part of a bigger picture. But this Part 2 of the first series, which also takes us up to the reveal about Kyo’s true nature, actually adds something new to the mix, some new story material that hasn’t been animated before.
You essentially get three new episodes here, four actually, as this series handles the aftermath of Kyo’s reveal quite differently. The series does this by dropping a couple of episodes from the original series, which I assume were filler to begin with, or taken from elsewhere in the manga run. The Prince Yuki Fan Club episode and the visit to Ayame’s shop episode have both been dropped, while the episode where Tohru catches a cold has been cut in half, and combined with the start of the finale, which itself is a fraction of the first iteration, as it’s all about Tohru and Kyo, and the interactions with Yuki, Akito, Shigure, Hana and Arisa are all cut out (once again I assume they were filler moments in the first series to stretch that climax to two and a half episodes).
What we do get are back stories for Tohru’s best friends Arisa Uotani, and Saki Hanajima. Two episodes are devoted to Arisa, revealing the story that was only hinted at in the grave visit episode. We see her first meeting with Tohru, when Arisa was still in a girl gang. We see the harsh home life that led to her delinquent escapism, and the fact that she idolised Tohru’s mother, who was a legendary gang member. She seeks Tohru out, expecting to find a chip off the old block, but instead finds this adorable, sweet, and excessively polite girl, and worse, her mother Kyoko has mellowed out and become a doting single mother. But this meeting starts the rehabilitation of Arisa Uotani.
Saki Hanajima’s story is revealed in just one episode, but it’s a follow up to an episode both series share, that where the Prince Yuki Fan Club invite themselves to Hana’s house, to secretly dig up dirt on Tohru so they can split her away from Yuki Soma. This time around, it’s followed by a new episode revealing Hana’s past. Unlike Arisa, she comes from a loving family, but her different nature led her to being bullied at school, and quite harshly at that. She got to the point where she withdrew into herself and avoided interaction, not that it helped. It gets so bad that the family move home, so she can go to a different school. She starts determined not to make any friends, to remain aloof. But at her new school, she runs into a couple of other ‘weirdoes’, Arisa and Tohru, and slowly she starts to change.
That original series also ended in a different way, with Tohru confronting Akito and challenging his manipulations, and it ended in a way that satisfied as a series closer, if you had no expectations of more. That obviously doesn’t happen in this season finale, the aftermath of Kyo’s revelation isn’t going to see a magic rapprochement between him and his nemesis Yuki, and there’s no way that Tohru is in a position to face Akito as an equal. Instead this conclusion sees Kyo reconciling with his foster father, and it shows the day after at school, but also offers plenty of hints at what the next season will bring, with two new enigmatic characters brushing by Yuki at school, and Momiji visiting a previously unseen character (in the anime) in hospital.
Those new stories regarding Tohru’s friends exemplify what is different about this new series of Fruits Basket. The original kept all the fluffy, light comedy antics, and dialled back the drama elements for most of its run. With the back story and the subtext in the remade stories, you get the sense that the drama is back, and the new stories confirm it. Let’s face it, a story about a girl gang member with a drunk for a father and what she has to go through to leave that gang, to reclaim her freedom would never have made it to that series, and certainly not a story about a girl who was so badly bullied at school that she was visibly brutalised. This is dark, dramatic and powerful stuff, even when told through the filter of Fruits Basket’s usual light tone.
There is certainly a lot more to Fruits Basket than we were led to believe by that first series, and it makes getting this new version imperative rather than optional if you’re a fan. This Part 2 release concludes the first season and it rarely puts a foot wrong. Kyo’s tantrum in the penultimate episode is a little too over the top to the point that the drama becomes histrionic silliness at one juncture, but it’s a rare misstep. This is another must own series, and I can’t wait for Season 2 to start streaming in a few weeks.