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Fruits Basket: Season One Part One UK Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

The return of a classic, one part nostalgia, one part updated animation and one part so happy this series is getting the Brotherhood treatment…

What They Say:

After a family tragedy turns her life upside down, 16-year-old high schooler Tohru Honda takes matters into her own hands and moves out… into a tent! Unfortunately for her, she pitches her new home on private land belonging to the mysterious Soma clan, and it isn’t long before the owners discover her secret. But, as Tohru quickly finds out when the family offers to take her in, the Somas have a secret of their own when hugged by the opposite sex, they turn into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac!

The Review:

Audio:
The audio has a HD Dolby Surround 5.1 release in English and a 2.0 in Japanese for the series– I watched the first disc in English and the second disc in Japanese to compare, despite not saying 5.1 the Japanese release was high quality to the point there was no adjustment to the volume, there were no other issues regarding sound quality, echoing, synching with subtitles, etc – the quality is high overall. What is really interesting that the dub uses many actors that were in the original release (which was dubbed late 2002 into 2003, this gets more of a look in the extras) and pretty much sound mostly identical to their original voices despite the obvious aging and changes to their lifestyle – the Japanese on the other uses a whole new cast, which in some voices cases does make a harder adjustment (Ayame, Yuki) whilst some are just darn perfect (Momiji) so as someone who watched the original Fruits Basket in both languages am very happy how it has come out on both ends.

Video:
Officially the anime that has had the latest release and closest to the Japanese air, the UK release was done in November 2019 when the show in Japan first aired in March 2019 – the video is a full screen showing which has no issues synching with the audio or subtitles when watching in Japanese – the new vibrant colours and animation gives it an updated style from the original but still has the charm that the original does – it’s flows beautifully and does feel it is back in the early 2000s but more colourful – it feels a bit more basic in that regard but that doesn’t make the visuals any less appealing and easy on the eye.

Packaging:

There was no packing for this test release however the Blu-Ray Special Edition version of this will get collector’s packaging.

Menu:

On each of the discs, the menu is the same –clips from the show with some catchy music in the background– like most Blu-Rays it has popup menus during the show – on the main menu, however it is basic yet unique as your selection is on a white bar with the selections being Play All, Set Up, Episodes and Special Features. Very basic but eye catching.

Extras:

Even in the non special edition, there are a ton of extras – the first disc is a couple of commentaries, starting with episode 4 featuring Caitlin Glass (ADR Director), Tia Bullard (Kagura) and Jerry Jewell (Kyo). Surprisingly there isn’t much said about Jerry who was the original voice of Kyo in the original dub as well (though that gets saved for some other extras) and they talk about a lot of intricate things with the changes between the two series (leeks vs. chives), that Tia watched the original anime with Caitlin, how the manga hadn’t finished when the original did hence the ending, with this now being the new remake as mentioned getting a similar take to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood compared to the original.

Episode 7 we get Kent Williams (Hatori), Michella Gantz (Momiji), Karen Edwards (Kaya) and my personal favourite, John Burgmier (Shigure) – Michella being one of the new actresses mentions she left Texas when the first Fruits Basket was dubbed (and she was 14 at the time) and wondered if she could have worked on it then, Kent reprising Hatori and what has changed between the years and roles (his son for example plays young Kyo as a great piece of meta) how Michelle figured out her German accent, the Akito cameo and the love/hate relationship between Hatori and Shigure – this one has a bit more of comparing the actors feelings from the old and new but again, this maybe saved more for when a certain leading lady gets a commentary…

Disc 2 had Fruits Basket Tell All – we get Caitlin Glass, Eric Vale (Yuki) and Justin Cook (Hatsuharu) have a short behind the scenes get together explaining their reaction to when they heard Fruits Basket was getting a remake (Eric only knew when someone at a convention asked him if he was going to do Yuki again), the differences between the original characters and the remade ones, the different in performance due to aging (both Eric and Justin voiced the original Yuki and Haru as well), Tohru’s reactions to them and how Eric feels Yuki is a rare reserved character to perform as.

We get more behind the scenes stuff with the Fruits Basket Inside The Episode segments – we get episodes 1, 4, 7, 10 and 13 with pretty much all the actors already mentioned (Still no Laura Bailey yet though…) – brief talks about their characters and the changes as usual with a bit of other things (a mock Eric/Jerry rivalry like their characters), comedy vs. drama, Michella being new to the cast, looking forward to introducing new characters (Rin) and seeing more of Akito, as well as mentioning one character they are looking forward to seeing as a fan favourite (Kisa), and of course John having to mention that at almost every convention even today he gets at least one request to sing ‘High School Girls, High School Girls’ 😉

Lastly, we have the textless opening and ending, but if you have the special edition version, you get some art cards and a rat, cat and riceball figurine set.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Fruits Basket originally aired back in Japan in 2002 – whilst I believe the English dub was done a year later – based on the very popular shoujo manga by Natsuki Takaya, unfortunately when the first anime was done, the manga hadn’t been completed which meant the true story of the zodiac, Akito and what happens to Tohru was never truly come to pass. Now 17 years later, it has what I’ve called the Brotherhood treatment, where the original Fullmetal Alchemist had to do an original story as they had caught up with the manga, but several years later when the manga WAS completed, they did a new anime. Fruits Basket now gets the same treatment (albeit a longer time difference than FMA did) and we get the first 13 episodes, with 26 currently aired as of this date in Japan with the second season due in 2020.

So this set is pretty familiar to those who have seen the original Fruits Basket as a lot of the new stuff isn’t happening yet – that doesn’t make this though any less of a worthy purchase. Thanks to the updated animation combined with a mostly returning dub cast as Fruits Basket had a stellar dub then, and whilst there is a new Japanese cast it is still definitely one of those titles that is a must see for anime fans, whether you are into shoujo style anime, slice of life, and even a bit of comedy and a LOT of surprising drama.

We start with our lead heroine, Tohru Honda, a recently orphaned girl as she lost her mother (with her father’s death prior to this currently unknown) – this doesn’t seem to keep her too down though as she’s trying to make the most of life…

…by living in a tent.

O.K, not the best of starts, but she’s living in a tent whilst her grandfather is doing repairs for his home and family and Tohru, being one of the sweetest characters in anime of all time, didn’t want to bother her friends to stay over, has tried to tough it out for a little while. What she doesn’t know though, is the land her tent is on is Sohma land, where she meets one of her classmates, the handsome Yuki Sohma, and his guardian, the comical but as we learn more deeper than expected (one thing people might be surprised when you compare him to the original is how manipulative and planning he appears to be under that fun exterior) Shigure. The two seem surprised she lives nearby as it is all Sohma land but off she goes to school to meet with her friends Arisa and the awesome Saki (who scares off the Yuki fangirls – he’s a tad popular), and appears to be a normal day at school.

Until Shigure and Yuki discover her at the tent.

Fortunately, they offer her a temporary living at their place as long as she puts in her fair share of chores (as the two of them aren’t exactly the best at keeping the place tidy). Doesn’t help her tent gets caught in a landslide (with Yuki mysteriously able to recover her things) but whilst Tohru accepts the offer, a blonde haired young man crashes through the roof to challenge Yuki to a fight. His name is Kyo Sohma, the other most well known character of the show and just before blood is spilled, Tohru tries to stop him…

…and when she seems to touch him, he transforms into a cat. And then she also accidentally hugs Yuki and Shigure…and they turn into a rat and dog.

Cue the Zodiac curse.

Shigure explains when a Sohma member who has the curse gets ill or hugged by the opposite sex, they turn into their zodiac animal. Tohru being Tohru promises to keep it a secret (though Shigure has to inform the head of the family, which leads to some interesting connotations) whilst Kyo clearly has some sort of grudge against Yuki but seems to be hard pressed to be angry at Tohru, and when he accidentally does spurt things out, he feels incredibly guilty. Doesn’t help when the other two push all his buttons but it seems Tohru is given the OK to live with them and Kyo is going to their school (much to his displeasure)…

The show slowly becomes a bit of a coming of age story with more Sohma’s introduced. We have a culture festival as Yuki is clearly quite reserved and Tohru is helping him come out of his shell, whilst Kyo whilst popular wishes to be more like Yuki in terms of being able to help people more. We get introduced to Kagura, a girl who is very much in love with Kyo (to a violent degree) with the curse of the boar, and the inevitable when her grandfather asks her to come home, but it is clear she, and both Yuki and Kyo prefer her to stay with them, which leads her to being a permanent resident of the Sohmas.

The culture festival introduces two more Sohmas, one of my favourite characters in Momiji (the rabbit), a sweet, over excited young boy who clearly is ecstatic that someone outside the family knows the secret and immediately bonds with Tohru, and the more serious doctor of the Sohma’s in Hatori (the dragon, represented as a seahorse), who Kyo and Yuki warn whilst he’s a good guy, he has the ability to remove the memories of anyone who discovers the secret. So of course he invites her over to the Sohma house alone…fortunately Momiji goes with her, and also Hatori isn’t planning anything to her but warns her not to get too involved with the Sohmas, and says the family is ‘cursed.’ Indeed, when asking Shigure about it, he doesn’t answer her but learning of Hatori’s past with his fiancé, which thanks to the head of the family Akito damaging his eye, he was forced to erase her memory. It is clear there is a lot of deep drama with the Sohmas, and Shigure (and possibly Akito) is using Tohru for their own benefits, we are just not sure of what that is yet…

However it is clear Tohru has an impact on the Sohmas, as when New Years Eve comes, a big day for the Sohmas, with Tohru being left alone for the first time after her mother’s passing, Saki convinces Yuki and Kyo to go back to the home to stay with her, which leads to another Sohma debut, the awesome Hatsuharu (the ox) who is a sweet young man, but he wanted to challenge Kyo to a fight. And it turns out that he snaps into what is known as ‘Black Haru’ where he becomes a raving lunatic. That said, he becomes very comical and does revert to his nice side quick enough, and also quickly becomes friends with Tohru. We also see a double date between Yuki/Tohru and Kyo/Kagura for Valentines’ Day, Momiji inviting Tohru to a hot spring for white day (and learning the very youthful Momiji is actually a year younger than Tohru, Kyo and Yuki so with Hatsuharu will join their school next term) and the big thing of Akito revealing themselves to Tohru and the fact they clearly have a sense of fear in Yuki and it seems Shigure has a plan involving Tohru to help break the curse…with the last major thing being the reveal of Yuki’s brother, the very over charismatic Ayame (the snake) and it’s clear the two aren’t seeing eye to eye, though Ayame clearly regrets a lot of this despite his behaviour and after a dinner date with Tohru, he seems to be trying to make amends…in his own special way of course.

What I always loved about Fruits Basket is how the big cast of characters are all eventually given a soothing feeling via Tohru, but she doesn’t get to the point of being a Mary Sue, as you can tell there are cracks under her surface due to her mother’s death (this seems a lot more obvious in this version compared to the original and definitely follows the manga, there is an ongoing story of a boy with a hat Tohru met when she was young, and it hints it was either Kyo or Yuki) – and also the idea of what Tohru is going to do to help the Sohmas is more strongly hinted as a scheme of Shigure’s, though it isn’t elaborated fully yet. It is pretty much very similar to the first half of the original anime, albeit with some new scenes (a lot of the Kagura/Tohru scenes were expanded on even more so than the manga) and the updated animation.

That said, doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The infamous potential triangle of Yuki/Kyo/Tohru if it does end up going romantic is obviously one to look at as both boys have good qualities that the other is jealous of (we also are not given a totally obvious reason why Kyo hates Yuki bar the fact it is the cat vs. the rat of the zodiac) and both have sweet interactions with Tohru. The other Sohmas also add different dynamics (the beginning of the Ayame/Shigure/Hatori dynamic is in play and Momiji is just pure sugar sweetness that he brightens the scene when he enters…though the preview of the next episode suggests he is about to get some drama….), Tohru’s friends are awesome (especially Saki who maybe my favourite character) and it hits the right mix of comedy, drama, character development and enjoyment that it is one of those anime that is easy to recommend to anyone new to the show.

If for some reason you never saw the original or read the manga, this is a good chance to get acquainted. And if like me, you have done both and want to get the full manga experience we never got in 2004, then definitely go for it.

In Summary:
Fruits Basket 2019 is an update of the original with better animation, extended scenes but hasn’t lost any of the charm the original had. Whilst this arc is more familiar, the best is yet to come and even now there are hints that there is more to the characters than you previously expected (Shigure in particular). Kyo, Yuki and Tohru are a fantastic dynamic and the rest of the cast have their own quirks and drama to deal with, and there is enough of a mystery that you want to see more. Of course, with the bits of comedy added in between there is something for everyone and a definite recommendation for anyone.

Features:

Clean Opening/Ending

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: November 25th, 2019
MSRP: £19.99 (standard) £44.99 (special edition)
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding:  1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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