Anime Review: Fruits Basket (2001)

Hey guys, it’s Kernook here. Back in the early 2000’s there were plenty of great anime out there for seasoned anime fans. Today we’re going to talk about one of those anime; Fruits Basket.

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The anime industry continued to grow at a steady rate. Thanks to the wider range of anime coming to the west, the medium attracted plenty of newcomers to anime fandom.

Gateway shows began flooding out of the woodwork for a new group of fans to latch onto. Few shows exemplify this time in anime history better than Fruits Basket.

The anime was approachable, and that made the show extremely popular for a huge number of people. Even if you haven’t seen the anime yourself, chances are good that you’ve at least heard about it.

At the time of its release, Fruits Basket was a simple story with a lot of heart and soul. It was easy enough to digest for the casual viewer. However, it has deep characters that help carry the narrative of this slice-of-life show. The show has many core themes that qualify as tragic, but the healthy dose of comedic levity makes the tragedy palatable.

Unfortunately, the anime paled in comparison to the written material. The story was changed in a few key ways, and went on to go unfinished. Fruits Basket ended after a short twenty-five episode run with an unsatisfying ending that had fans of the show begging for more.

Thankfully in 2019, fans got their wish. Fruits Basket is being entirely remade with the full story left intact. The first season of the remake aired in 2019, and it was everything I expected to see and more. In light of this, I decided to watch the original Fruits Basket made in 2001 in order to do a proper review of the old show.

More Compelling Than You Might Think

Fruits Basket is an anime based off of a manga of the same name. Directed by Akitaro Daichi and animated by Studio Deen, the anime is a slice-of-life series. The series has both a sub and a dub. Either of them will serve you well.

I’ve seen both, and I prefer to watch the subbed version. That said, the dub cast manages the English adaptation well.

More importantly, if you are a dub fan, you have more to look forward to. Most of the 2001 English dub cast reprise their roles for the 2019 remake. I’ll review the 2019 remake of the series once the entire series finishes to completion.

For now the 2001 iteration of Fruits Basket deserves to be remembered fondly for what it brought to the table. It wasn’t a perfect series by far, and there were some issues with it.

The musical quality in Fruits Basket is about what you can expect for the early 2000’s. It isn’t completely amazing. I certainly don’t listen to the soundtrack on its own. That said, it functions, and melts into every scene the way it should.

The animation is much the same. It isn’t amazing, it doesn’t stand the test of time in the slightest, but it functions. Even if we were back in 2001, I’d be hard pressed to say that the series is beautiful or stunning visually. It just isn’t now, and it wasn’t back then either. That said, it doesn’t need to be.

Fruits Basket isn’t about impressive visuals or musical talent. Instead, the series offers an emotional journey. That is where the series excels. If you’re looking for show that can offer an emotional experience, Fruits Basket is the show for you.

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The Story: Heart and Soul

The series is tragic, but it never feels too depressing. In fact there is plenty of levity to be found within the confines of despair.

The series follows a girl named Tohru Honda as she bumbles her way through life. She has a part time job and attends high school.

At the start, Tohru speaks about her deceased mother who passed away off-screen a few months before the series begins. Tohru’s father passed away when she was still just a little girl, so now she’s mostly on her own.

The loss of her mother completely up-heaved Tohru’s life. Not only was it sudden, since her mother’s death was caused by a car accident. It was also a turning point for Tohru that happened off screen. After her mother passed away, Tohru moved in with her paternal grandfather.

With such a positive and important influence that Tohru had in her life taken away from her, she strives to do everything she can to make ends meet on her own. Tohru had always been fairly independent to a degree, but now with both parents gone, this is exacerbated.

Her need to be successful weighs on her, because she doesn’t like being a burden to others. She will go to great lengths to be an asset. Occasionally, she actually becomes the burden she doesn’t want to be. This flaw of hers is very problematic for her.

We even see this in the beginning of the show.

She’s living in a tent in the woods. Why? Well, her grandfather’s house is under renovation. He’s staying with people that don’t tolerate Tohru. She claims that she doesn’t want to cause problems for her other relatives.

Though she has great intentions, she has lied to her grandfather, saying that she’s staying with a friend. In truth, she just doesn’t want him to worry about her. In spite of her loss, Tohru is an optimist. She doesn’t let the weight of her grieving weigh her down.

The woods just so happen to part of the Sohma family property, Tohru doesn’t know that. While she’s walking to school one morning she passes by the front of a house. She stops to look at the small figures that have been freshly painted.

These little figures are replicas of the Chinese zodiac. She comes to find out that one of the boys living in the house is Yuki Sohma, a classmate at her school. The other person living there is Yuki’s older cousin, Shigure.

Later, a storm strikes a tall hill near Tohru’s tent. Rocks fall down, completely destroying it. Tohru has nowhere to go. Her lie of good intentions caused this.

Taking pity on the homeless girl, Shigure invites Tohru to stay with him and Yuki at the house. She agrees, offering to do the cooking and cleaning as a Taking pity on the homeless girl, Shigure invites Tohru to stay with him and Yuki at the house. replacement for rent. Eventually another Sohma family member, Kyo, joins the household.

The anime largely revolves around life within this newly formed family unit. There is no shortage of individual character stories. Supporting characters have time in the spotlight too. Each episode usually introduces a new Sohma family member, and a personal problem along with it.

So what’s the meat of the story then?

It just so happens that some members of the Sohma family has a curse upon them. These cursed few are also members of the Chinese zodiac.

When someone of the opposite gender fully embraces a cursed Soma, they turn into their animal counterpart.

This is where a large part of the humor comes into play. However, for the Soma family it comes with its fair share of emotional turmoil as well.

The anime is rather episodic in nature. None of the plot points overstay their welcome. This makes for quick patterns of trauma and catharsis. Due to the way the series is set up, Fruits Basket is easy to consume. After a few episodes, long running plot elements begin to fold in-between each episodic arc in order to carry the narrative forward.

Below is a gallery of several characters, each of them compelling, but they aren’t the only ones.

As you can see, the large cast is as different as they are robust, and this is only a small sampling.

The only problem is, with the series being twenty-five episodes long, some of those arcs don’t end in a satisfying way. You would need to go read the manga to fill that void.

The 2001 iteration of Fruits Basket only covers the first part of the entire narrative. Therefore if you watch it, you’ll be getting an incomplete telling of the story.

Final Thoughts

The series has a lot of heart. It’s well written and the core themes revolve around the concept of family. Fruits Basket stands out to me in a way that few anime can.

These characters come from broken homes and painful pasts. In spite of this, the series never feels like a drama or tragedy. The fact that it could, and the core weight of some of the themes is what lingers after the series ends.

I think of this scene, a picnic at a grave. Simply because Torhu’s mother would have wanted then to have a good time is a great example of levity in darkness.

That being said, the series doesn’t age well. If you want a polished series, the 2019 version is the better option. The original Fruits Basket was released back in 2001, and it shows its age in all ways.

From the music, animation, running gags, and common tropes, this anime is like a time capsule. It perfectly preserves what slice-of-life anime was like in the early 2000’s.

That alone might be a reason to go back and give it a watch. The problem is, I have trouble saying that you’ll actually like it.

The reason that it was so popular in the past just doesn’t hold up anymore. The reason that I’m still fond of it now comes strictly from nostalgia.

The standards of anime production in recent years has skyrocketed. I think that makes a huge difference.

Just look at this 2019 poster of the new iteration and retelling, you can see the jump in quality. Fruits Basket has a new breath of life now, and the 2001 anime just can’t compete.

For this reason alone, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the 2001 version of Fruits Basket 2001. Now there is a better alternative. That said, I won’t say not to watch this version of Fruits Basket, either.

I think that regardless of its age, we as a community have a lot to thank the series for. It wasn’t meant to be a “land mark” show in anime history. Yet, that is exactly what happened. It became greater than I think it was ever intended to be.

It bridged a huge gap between anime and non-anime fans. For many people, it was the first anime they ever watched that wasn’t on prime time network television. That’s the crazy thing.

Networks could have stuck it on a Saturday morning cartoon line-up right along with Sailor Moon or Pokemon. That’s how consumable it was. If that alone doesn’t merit a little respect for this version of the anime, I don’t know what does.

Honestly, thinking about all of that really is amazing. I’ve got to say, Fruits Basket 2001 is still pretty cool. Even if it is only for the nostalgia trip.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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