During this past summer, my friend and admin of The Candid Clark, John Wintroub, introduced me to Fruits Basket (2019), one of the newest slice-of-life animes which became popular among fans of the genre. The first season was fantastic, immediately appearing on my top 10 list of favorite anime. The second season was even better, making Fruits Basket one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Spoilers for the first two seasons of Fruits Basket ahead.
Based off of the manga by Natsuki Takaya and a remake of the 2001 anime adaptation, the first season saw teenage girl, Tohru Honda, move in to Shigure Sohma’s house after her tent in the woods was destroyed in a landslide. Along with Shigure, the house is home to Yuki and Kyo Sohma, who, along with Shigure, are part of the Sohma Family, who all bear the spirits of the Chinese zodiac. Everyone with a spirit turns into their respective animals if they are weak, stressed or come in contact with someone of the opposite sex. Throughout the season, Tohru develops a bond with Yuki and Kyo while meeting many other members of the family.
Season 2 picks up as Tohru, Shigure and the others go on summer break before the next school semester starts. As is the case with the first season, there are many subplots developing the characters, which contributes to the overall narrative. Tohru’s goal this season is to learn how to break the curse which inhibits the Sohmas from loving who they want and live life how they want to. Yuki becomes student council president, even though he is scared to, learning what it means to socialize and confide in others. This is developed through his new friendship with Kakeru Manabe, the student council vice president. Meanwhile, Kyo realizes his feelings for Tohru as he attempts to appreciate every moment he has with her before he is eventually locked away in a cage for being the cat spirit.
Some of this season’s most dramatic and emotional moments come from the focus given to the three characters who either did not appear in the first season or only had a minor role: Kureno Sohma, Ayame Sohma and Isuzu “Rin” Sohma. All three of their stories, along with Yuki’s development, make season 2 an emotional masterpiece.
We are first introduced to Kureno as he meets Tohru’s close friend, Arisa Uotani, at the convenience store she works at. She is immediately charmed by him, and later she meets up with Kureno for a second meeting to catch up. Kureno explains to Arisa how they only met because he was in the area unnecessarily, causing Arisa to publicly lash out at him. Kureno apologizes to her, but after appearing to lean in for an embrace, he walks away, never seeing her again. Wanting to make her friend happy, Tohru confronts Kureno about his feelings for Arisa. He is adamant that he will never see her again after Tohru gives him Arisa’s contact information, but he keeps the slip.
At the end of season 2, Tohru has Momiji Sohma give Kureno a DVD of the Cinderella-ish play that Arisa starred in as the Prince’s friend. During the play, she breaks character, yelling “come see me, dammit,” referring to her frustrations about Kureno leaving her. Upon watching the play, Kureno cries when he hears her yell that. He meets with Tohru in a park to explain that his rooster spirit was broken. After seeing them together, the head of the family, Akito Sohma, forced Kureno promise her to never leave her for the rest of her life However, he breaks down in tears, explaining how he wants to see Arisa again but is unable to. This showed how much control Akito has over the Sohmas and her hypocrisy since she loves Kureno, causing his spirit to break even though she doesn’t want the other Sohmas to love anyone but her. I love Kureno’s struggle, adding to the frustration of Akito’s tyrannical rule over the family. Also, I love the development of Arisa, as Kureno becomes her weak point, leading her to become emotionally vulnerable and unstable. She fell in love with him at first sight, making a usually hard-headed girl feel deep emotions. I love the way season 2 develops them, making me emotionally invested in the outcome of their struggle.
Another character introduced is Rin, who bears the horse spirit. She is introduced as the girl who dumped Hatsuharu Sohma, who bears the ox spirit. She refuses to see him, causing deep sadness for Hatsuharu. She often is found wandering around and refusing to talk with anyone who approaches her. We learn that her parents threw her away since she lashed out after realizing everything was scripted and too perfect. She fell for Haru after he blasted her parents being abusive. However, when Akito learned of their relationship, Akito shoved Rin out of a window, seriously injuring her. To protect Haru, she dumped him, vowing to not become emotionally attached to anyone again.
Rin attempted to find a way to break the curse, even begging Shigure to tell her if he knows a way to do so. Eventually, Tohru finds her and shows her compassion despite Rin emotionally lashing out at her. Rin is wowed by this display of kindness, leading her to work on bringing down her emotional barriers. Watching Rin’s tragic backstory was jarring, making Akito more awful than she already was. It allowed me to see another perspective of the Sohma family, raising the stakes of the story. Also, seeing Haru show love and compassion for Rin, even lashing out at her parents, make him a lovable character who I root for in tough situations. Their development was great and, like Kureno and Arisa, I really want them to end up together.
Lastly, Ayame returned for the second season after having only a minor role in the first season. He was annoying in every appearance in the first season as he forced Yuki, his brother, to bond with him despite their dark past. Because Yuki was abused as a kid, Ayame ignored him, causing Yuki to resent Ayame. He has a flamboyant personality, causing all of his appearances to be chaotic. However, in the second season, he gets more development as he tries to grow closer to Yuki. Yuki, through his journey to understand others, learns to let go of his hatred for Ayame, accepting the differences the two of them share.
This leads to my favorite scene in the entire show in episode 15, “See You Later.” During Yuki’s parent-teacher conference, Yuki’s mother blasts the low quality of the school, proclaims how pathetic Yuki is and states how his future is already decided. As Yuki becomes silent while becoming increasingly emotionally distraught, Ayame shows up during the middle of the meeting. He takes over as Yuki’s guardian while telling his mother to go away and standing up for his brother. As she yells at Ayame, Yuki explains that despite how ridiculous Ayame is, he can depend on him, thanking him for showing up. The relief and happiness I felt when Ayame appeared was beyond almost anything I have experienced in any TV show or movie, a stark contrast to his annoying appearances in the first season. I love the development Ayame and Yuki’s brotherly relationship get, adding to the sheer amount of growth Yuki receives this season.
The growth Yuki gets this season is the best aspect of season 2, just like Kyo’s growth was the best part of season 1. Yuki joins the student council to challenge himself despite his insecurities telling him not to. He builds a bond with all of his student council members, especially Kakeru. Kakeru is a fun-loving, carefree soul, something Yuki is constantly taken aback by. Like with Ayame, he learns to accept Kakeru’s unique personality, even getting to the point that Yuki opens up to him. This allows Yuki to understand and deal with the craziness of Kyo, as he could never understand why Kyo is the way he is. As he opens up and becomes more sociable, he attempts to help out Kakeru’s half-sister, Machi Kuragi, as she appears depressed and lonely. Since he was until recently the same way, Yuki is able to relate with Machi and reach her at an emotional level. Lastly, Yuki is able to stand up to Akito at the New Year’s party, as he is open with her about his desire to stop blaming everyone for his problems. Akito responds to his openness by hitting him with a vase, but, to everyone’s surprise, Yuki takes it lightly, showing his growing maturity. I love Yuki’s journey in season 2 and I’m excited to see more in season 3.
While I’ve mainly talked about the characters of the show and Kishimoto’s exceptional writing, the animation and dub cast also make this show a masterpiece.
TMS Entertainment made Fruits Basket one of the best animated shows I have ever seen. The color palette makes the show’s world feel beautiful and alive. Rarely have I seen a show with such a distinct color vibrancy, making the characters and scenery shine. The characters’ hair colors perfectly display this with Kyo’s orange hair, Momiji’s blonde hair and the gray hair of Yuki, Hatsuharu and Ayame. Their character designs make them distinguishable, which is further enhanced by the writing. To contrast, the animation team’s depiction of Akito’s dark room shows how much darkness Akito carries inside herself. Also, the scenery immerses viewers into this world, highlighted by the stunning sunsets on the beach at the Sohma vacation house. The look of Fruits Basket amplifies the emotional beats of the show even more.
The English dub is one of the best I have ever heard, topped only by My Hero Academia and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) director, Caitlin Glass (Appare-Ranman), put her heart and soul into this dub as shown by the sheer amount of emotion each actor gives in their roles. Laura Bailey (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Soul Eater) is my favorite voice actress, and her performance as Tohru is easily my favorite role she has done. Her soft voice allows Tohru to come across as loving, shy and compassionate. I love how precious Tohru is as a character and protagonist, which is a credit to Bailey’s exceptional work as her voice makes Tohru’s emotional scenes have more impact. Eric Vale, while having a deep and menacing voice in his roles in My Hero Academia and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, does a tremendous job portraying a character who goes from being reserved but blunt to being open and kind. Jerry Jewell is awesome as Kyo, perfectly representing a loud-mouth but caring soul that has many layers to him. Colleen Clinkenbeard is incredible as Akito, giving her a chilling and menacing feel to her. Justin Cook as Hatsuharu, Elizabeth Maxwell as Arisa, Christopher Sabat as Ayame, Brina Palencia as Rin and Ian Sinclair as Kureno are all fantastic as well.
Overall, Fruits Basket is one of the best anime and TV shows I have ever seen. The amount of emotion and character development seen in the show is spectacular, allowing me to emotionally invest in the story and feel strong emotion during the dramatic moments. I cannot wait for the third and final season as I know it will satisfy my expectations.