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Fruits Basket Season 1 Part 1 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read
You can go back home again.

When you lose the family you’re born to, the family that you choose can be even more important.

What They Say:
Tohru Honda thought her life was headed for misfortune when a family tragedy left her living in a tent. When her small home is discovered by the mysterious Soma clan, she suddenly finds herself living with Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure Soma. But she quickly learns their family has a bizarre secret of their own: when hugged by the opposite sex, they turn into the animals of the Zodiac!

Fruits Basket Season 1 Part 1 Limited Edition contains episodes 1-13 of the classic anime, reimagined and directed by Yoshihide Ibata, plus 3 Art Cards featuring artwork from the Japanese release, High-quality Resin Replicas of the Rat and Ox Zodiac Figurines from Shigure’s home, an Onigiri Zodiac Figure which was created with approval from the manga publisher, and a Faux Wood Stand for the zodiac figures with room for additional figurines to be released at a later date.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in 2.0 form and the original English language track in 5.1 form, both which are done up in the Dolby TrueHD lossless format/ This helps to give it a bit more life and fullness but the reality is that the majority of the show is dialogue-driven that’s supplemented by some fights and occasional moments of chaos, which tend to be center channel based. The series is one that doesn’t have a lot in the way of actual big moments to it or anything but it has fun with the sound effects throughout it with the transformations and the comedic bits with the way the action and antics unfolds. There are cute bits throughout and the mix works some decent placement as warranted but it’s otherwise a fairly straightforward stereo mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2019, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes for this half of the season are spread across two discs in an eight/four format with most of the extras on the second disc. Animated by TMS/8PAN, the series has a really great look where it takes the original designs but spruces them up for modern times and applies a lot of visual details throughout the backgrounds so it all blends together well. It’s a lot more fully realized than the original series was with its somewhat wispy ways and the end result is something more colorful with punches of vibrancy that really stand out. The character designs come across a lot better here as I always felt the original was softer than it should have been and that extra crispness here definitely helps. The show is one that feels as modern as it is in terms of production still captures some of that 90s charm so that it doesn’t forget where it’s from.

Packaging:
The limited edition version of this release is done up quite nicely as we get a bunch of really fun pack-in limited pieces. Done with a soft box to hold it all together, it has some artwork of Tohru on the front while the back under the sell-sheet has the core trio together. There’s some little slotting inside in order to hold things in place for shipment but it makes it easy to store everything together as well. Within one of the box inside we get three of the figurines in their cute transformed mode for a couple of them and these suckers have a bit of weight to them. You could do a little damage with them if you threw them at someone as opposed to a lot of pack-in material that just feels light. In addition to that, we get three really nice art cards showing off the cast and a stand for the figurines as well.

Also inside the larger box is the DVD/BD case which comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork. The set also comes with a Funimation Digital voucher so you can get it on their site. The front cover uses the same artwork as the Japanese side with a great visual of Tohru that’s expanded from the box itself with lots of colorful soft widgets around her. The back cover puts her in her uniform with the deep blue to the side and we get the standard rundown with the summary of the premise, the extras, and the digital copy stripe. The technical grid breaks down both formats cleanly and accurately ina n easy to read way with it being purple on white even with a small font. The case artwork replicates the o-card as we mentioned but it also gets a reversible piece that has a wonderful two-panel spread of the core four together enjoying a meal at the table in Sohma house.

Menu:
The menu design for this keeps things simple with the right kind of elements as the majority of the screen goes for clips playing throughout it. This has a lot of good character moments it to as they unfold across the loop but we also get some good locations showcased. It doesn’t just go for bright and engaging sequences but has enough of the quieter ones as well with deeper colors so that it can present some of the weight that the show has. The logo through the middle works well since it’s a thin if stylish font that fits while the bottom has the navigation, which doubles during regular playback a the main menu. The layout for the navigation is pretty standard stuff and it works well in allowing you to move about with ease both during setup and playback. It’s not the best and brightest of menus but it fits the show veryl

Extras:
The extras for this release are nicely done up with a small chunk of them used as pre-broadcast promotion. The welcome basics are here with the clean opening and closing but we also get five of the Inside the Episode pieces which vary in length but have the cast and production talking about the show across multiple episodes. The big new extra is the 15-minute Tell-All piece that goes into the return f the show and the excitement about it with Caitlin Glass as the ADR director and a couple of the voice actors. With so much of the cast back from the original, it’s a chance for them to reconnect and remember while talking about the differences between the versions.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Natsuki Takaya of the same name, Fruits Basket originally aired in 2001 as a two-cour incomplete series under the direction of one of my favorites with Akitaro Daichi. Studio Deen put the series together in what was roughly the halfway mark of the manga’s run, which went on until 2006 for a total of twenty-three volumes. With some additional tales coming in the last few years that extended the story, we learned in 2018 that a new anime adaptation was coming that was designed to be complete to the original manga run, just with Takaya hoping that her creation wouldn’t adhere to her early designs too much as she felt she grew better as an artist over the years. This series found itself directed by Yoshihide Ibata with TMS/8PAN handling the animation production. While the Japanese side went all-in on mostly new talent for the roles and the creative behind the scenes, the English adaptation largely brought back the same actors so they could reconnect with their characters and be able to play out their entire stories.

This set, coming in at thirteen episodes, represents the first half of the first season. I think we’re looking at sixty-odd episodes by the time all is said and done, so we’ve got a good bit more to go. I have a good affection for the show as it represents an interesting period of my own life but for Funimation, this was one of their early titles that had them breaking out from the pure shonen style shows they were involved in and was used to show they had some range. It’s hard to really bring across just how popular the show was at the time but it was one of the bigger projects that we also had the manga coming out with as well, so it was hugely accessible. And coming at a time when the market was changing more and you had a lot more women coming into shops for the books and the anime drawing attention as well, it was a sign of the strength of the diversity of the market that for many was important. While anime and manga wasn’t a purely male-driven slice of the piece at that point, it had been a huge part of it and shows like Fruits Basket worked wonders to expand it.

The story of Fruits Basket is a very simple one for the most part and as serious as it does get along the way it never loses that core basic. The tale revolves around high school girl Tohru Honda, a bright and energetic person. We’re introduced to her leaving a tent out in the woods where she apparently lives, as she talks to a picture of her mother about her day to come. During her walk through the woods to the school, she comes across a house she hadn’t seen before, and ends up talking to an older man there about the Chinese zodiac and her own youthful feelings about it. When she realizes she has to get going, the situation changes drastically as another younger man appears, and it turns out to be fellow schoolmate Yuki Sohma.

Sohma is the ‘prince of the school’, where he’s the most sought after boy by the girls, has that soft almost effeminate feel and is generally admired by everyone. He’s also of course not taken by anyone and has managed to keep his life simple with zero relationships, to the point where he won’t even hug someone. Tohru’s surprised to see him, but he invites her to walk to school with him, as he and his cousin realize something must be up for her to be out in these woods that are apparently all Sohma-owned.

Tohru’s life begins to change quite a bit from the simple aspect of her walking in a friendly manner with Sohma to school. Several of the girls start to chastise her while her friends stand by. But her life continues on, and as we see how it is after school, the realities truly settle in. Her mother had died some months ago and she had been living with a grandfather until she had to leave due to circumstances. So she lied and said she was living with friends but instead set up a tent in the woods and has been living there while working as a cleaning lady for buildings in the evenings. She’s eventually discovered by Yuki and his elder cousin Shigure.

Going against instincts, the two bring her into their household and give her an open room to call her own until she can get things back to normal. Normal is a word she’ll never know again, as she learns the Sohma’s secret and its relationship to the Chinese Zodiac. Through an accident, she ends up hugging/falling onto one of the guys, which causes a ‘boom/poof’ sound and transforms said male into one of the creatures of the Zodiac. They eventually turn back with varying amounts of time, but of course, end up being naked since they fell out of their clothes. Tohru gets sworn to silence about it, and lives on in the house with the two as well as a new resident named Kyo, an orange-haired young man whose set outside of the Zodiac because he changes into a cat.

Most of this season covers the introduction and working through the first year of school and giving us a taste of the second year as well. The original series, coming in shorter, felt like new cast members were introduced in every episode and there’s almost a sense of that here as well, though the pacing allows it to feel like it’s not quite so rushed and hurried. There are a lot of characters to deal with and it can get a bit overwhelming from time to time, especially once you add in the transformations and the like. There’s also the rush of events that happen, such as working through New Years’ and Valentine’s Day plus the fun of them going to a hot spring inn for White Day itself. These are always useful to highlight the passage of time but it feels like things are less hurried this time around, less rushed, even if they are coming at roughly the same time in terms of episode count. It just feels like the show has more room to breathe as it works through its introductory phase here.

In Summary:
Having rewatched the original series a few years ago I already knew that the work could stand the test of time. And at that time I lamented that it was such an incomplete work and had hoped for a revival as so many series were getting on that bandwagon. With it having turned into reality, there’s a lot to love here. While it’s a fresh production on the Japanese side in just about every way, they still manage to capture a lot of the same things that made so many fall for its charms before. It’s definitely far more visually appealing to me in this form in just about every way and it feels more alive because of it. I’m glad that the English cast gets to see this through to the end and that Funimation put together a great limited edition release here. It’s just a delight from top to bottom and it has me excited for getting to the much larger section of completely new material. There’s a lot to like in the familiar here and how differently its presented, however, and that will spawn plenty of discussion for years to come. This series is a huge gateway show for so many that I hope it finds that position again in the modern sense.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Fruits Basket Tell-All, Inside the Show

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 19th, 2019
MSRP: $84.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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