Fruits Basket (2019) Episode 1
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Romance, Fantasy
Like a lot of people, I was incredibly excited to hear the news that Fruits Basket was receiving a remake in 2019, adapting the entirety of the manga. Although the shoujo series previously had an anime adaptation back in 2001, this only covered about half of the twenty-three book series and glossed over some plot points.
I’m going to admit that this review will be a little biased – Fruits Basket is a series near and dear to my heart as one of the first manga and anime I ever encountered. The 2001 anime sadly hasn’t aged very well in terms of animation but still manages to be engaging, moving and comedic. So, how does this fresh take on the series compare?
Fruits Basket follows a young high school girl, Tohru Honda, who is living in a tent in the woods after her mother has died. Understandably she keeps this fact a secret from her friends and works hard to pay for her school fees and not be a burden on others. However, when wandering around the surrounding area she finds a house where a classmate of hers from school, Yuki Sohma, and his older cousin Shigure are living. Yuki doesn’t appear to be someone she knows well but has a reputation for being the ‘prince’ of the school – after finding out about her awkward living situation he offers her a place to stay with them. But it seems these two have plenty of secrets of their own and following the arrival of yet another family member, the aggressive Kyo, these secrets start to unravel. One thing is clear by the end of the first episode – Tohru’s life has certainly gotten a lot more interesting!
Compared to the older series, the animation has improved massively – everything is bright and colourful compared to the muted tones of the original series and is much more in keeping with the style of the original manga. Aesthetically, the characters are much more pleasing to the eye, as are the backgrounds. Content-wise… it’s very much the same as the older series, however, even down to the scenes shown. This may change in later episodes but watching the first episode of Fruits Basket (2019) felt very much like watching an elevated version of the old series. This isn’t a bad thing but I do hope that it may break out of this pattern later on and become memorable in its own right. It is almost as if, by wishing to be respectful to the original series, this new anime isn’t daring to step out of its comfort zone and do it’s own thing yet – possibly due to the risk of alienating long-time fans.
There are a few differences though, aside from the obvious updated animation quality. Tonally, the first episode felt more mature than the old series – there is more of a focus on the sadder and darker moments in this episode and the comedy elements don’t hit quite as well or as frequently. Perhaps this is a matter of translation or just my own nostalgia from the older series – which is one of the few animes I still enjoy in it’s dubbed version. The pacing too felt a little slow, but this suits the more slice of life vibes of the show and is somewhat relaxing. I do hope that later on when the drama takes a wider role, that the pacing will amp up a bit more as I feel this could potentially turn some new watchers away.
The way the characters come across is a little different too – Yuki is very mysterious but what we see of him so far presents him as a likable character whereas, in the older series, his first appearance was more creepy. In this way in this episode at least, he very much more fits the role of ‘prince’ that he has gained at his school. Tohru as a character could divide people – she is sweet, earnest and hardworking but this selfless attitude can get a little irritating at times. The hints at her back story shown throughout the episode, however, pinpoint how she gained these personality traits and make her more understandable.
So far, I would say this anime is on the right track if not quite hitting the nail on the head yet – but if the ending is any indication, the series is likely to run for more than one series giving it plenty of time to find it’s feet. As a fan of the original manga series, I’m looking forward to seeing the story adapted fully at last and watch the beautiful story unfold.
A decent start to a classic series reboot - great for both new watcher and fans. Don't let the initial slow pacing of the show put you off - hopefully this will be one of the gems of the season!