Title: Fruits Basket (2019)
Length: ? x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Drama, slice-of-life, shoujo, romance
Year of release: 2019
I’m in the small minority of people that haven’t watched or read Fruits Basket. The reputation precedes it, so, other than some relatively high hopes, I am coming in blind to this remake. There are no comparisons to earlier material that I can make, good or bad. Yet here I am, rather placated by this very pleasant opening episode – but not yet blown away. It’s going to take some time building itself up to a pinnacle moment, but a show should not be defined by its apex but its total – so how good is Fruits Basket in the lull before the storm?
As is fairly typical for shows with a sudden supernatural twist, the onset of Fruits Basket begins with a vague, otherworldly monologue that cannot really be read into too much as of yet. However, immediately following this, Fruits Basket seeks to charm by character and scenario developing in style, if a little overly-punctuated and relying a little on eye-rolly rolls and gags.
Tohru Honda, our protagonist and viewpoint, emerges from her crammed-full tent and comments that it is a beautiful day. Her undying optimism and desire to prove to the world her independence are instantly cemented. She’s not the sort of character to sit at the back of class and wax lyrical, rather, she takes things in her stride with a positive outlook despite how stacked the world may be against her. “Tohru’s amazing,” Yuki says after realising her living conditions. “Don’t you think Tohru would consider being called amazing an insult?” Is the witty reply from Shigure, because indeed, Honda is not amazing in her own perspective – she is merely doing what she feels she must. Even all her proficiency is smartly explained through a brief flashback and some counter-intuitive narration that is rather deviously clever.
It’s that air of realism that gives Fruits Basket an edge. While a fundamental description of the episode’s points might seem rather pedestrian compared to any other premiere that paints the picture of overwork – right down to the collapse from fatigue – the core of Fruits Basket is in the tone and in the detail. Despite the goofy chibi scenes and supernatural undercurrents, it skirts the edge of melodrama yet plants its feet firmly within a reality that is not so different from our world. Indeed, Tohru’s in a sticky situation, but it’s an entirely believable one, and the fantasy aspect doesn’t just feel deserved, but as if she is the perfect person for every aspect that may entail.
Through that dedication to making the world believable and normal, the emotions feel all the more genuine. Again, it’s not much more than encouraging the audience to feel “do your best!”, but to do so without manipulation is impressive. Tohru’s an orphan, but Fruits Basket impressively blends a comic touch into what could be an utterly bleak dilemma; the argument of who looks after her managed dramedy, and it felt o so natural. Even when we get flashbacks to Tohru’s past, the show is quiet and delicate, but manages to have a sense of humour throughout. When Fruits Basket tips its hand a little to hint at the supernatural offerings, there is a hint of the foreboding hidden in Yuki’s development, but that does not prevent him from interacting with the comedy.
Together, Fruits Basket’s premiere is beautifully orchestrated, building a natural scenario for a fantastic protagonist to shine in. My feelings upon finishing the episode were much lower than right now, since I’ve had a chance to stew over everything it setup. Fruits Basket’s first episode may seem ordinary, a little over punctuated and have some generic centrepieces, but ultimately, there are so many signals that all the pieces are in place to build something quietly brilliant.