If you are an anime fan, then you have likely heard the name Fruits Basket in passing and thought it was nothing more than a boring slice-of-life anime. Let’s be real, most popular anime are action-heavy series, like My Hero Academia or Dragon Ball Z. It is rare for slice-of-life anime to gain popularity here in the West because of how mundane they seem to mainstream audiences. This became particularly noticeable when I was recently was asked to list my favorite anime on my friend’s Discord server and not a single person knew about Fruits Basket. Before TMS Entertainment’s 2019 reboot, that would have been understandable, but it is not an understatement to say that Fruits Basket (2019) is one of the best anime ever made. I am sure you’re wondering how I could make such an extravagant statement, so let me explain why I think Fruits Basket is so great.
1. Not just your typical slice of life
Most of the slice-of-life anime I have talked about so far have been relatively normal high school slice-of-life series, like My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU and Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. However, Fruits Basket is slightly different as it contains one fantastical element: some of the characters can turn into animals. Now you JoJo’s fans might say, “well, that’s not that weird, we had a Frenchman that turned into a turtle,” but slice-of-life anime typically do not contain such odd elements.
Several of Fruits Basket‘s central characters are a part of the Sohma family, a family that has been cursed to have its members be born as Chinese zodiac spirits. When embraced by the opposite sex, the Sohmas turn into whichever animal they represent, and their personality traits are often based around their respective spirit. This main conflict would not be so effective if it weren’t for the other effects of the curse. The main zodiac members are forced to stay at the main Sohma estate, never leaving unless specifically told to by the zodiac god. They are also not allowed to fall in love with anyone, as love distracts them from their devotion to their god. That last point in particular is what really drives the primary conflict of the story as Tohru Honda, Fruits Basket‘s protagonist, is adamant about breaking the curse to free the Sohmas from the chains that bind them.
At the beginning of Fruits Basket, Tohru is living by herself, but upon Yuki and Shigure Sohma finding her camping in a tent near Shigure’s house, the two basically force Tohru to live with them, along with their rowdy cousin, Kyo Sohma. However, it isn’t long before Tohru discovers the curse, as she accidentally turns all three of them into their zodiac animals not long after she begins living with them.
2. Tohru Honda (and the rest of the characters)
Speaking of Tohru, she is easily one of the best protagonists of any anime I’ve seen. Tohru is an incredibly kind, loving and care-free individual who works incredibly hard to make her friends happy, hardly ever thinking of herself. You can see this most in how she interacts with the Sohmas, almost never shaming their absurd personality traits, such as Hatsuharu’s bipolar disorder or Ayame’s flamboyancy. She goes out of her way for every character in the show; especially the Sohmas she currently lives with.
Yuki and Kyo are complete opposites of each other. Yuki is a shy boy with remarkably pretty features (giving him the nickname “The Prince” by his classmates). Yuki tries his hardest to stay away from others, especially girls, due to his fear of transforming into the Rat in front of them.
To contrast, Kyo is rude and crass, often picking fights with everyone he comes in contact with, expecting to be treated as the monster his family sees him as. Kyo is unfortunately the cat spirit, who was tricked by the Rat into missing the zodiac parade from the story. Because of this, Kyo is treated as an outsider despite being affected by the curse just like the rest of Sohmas. He blames Yuki for nearly everything bad that has ever happened to him, forcing them to be particularly aggressive toward each other whenever they are in the same room. This often ends in Kyo picking a fight and getting his butt handed to him by Yuki.
Nearly every member of the zodiac has experienced some form of trauma in their life, whether it be discrimination, abandonment, abuse or rejection. The primary person most responsible for this is the head of the Sohma family, Akito, who acts as the leader of the zodiac, bending the rest of the spirits to her will. Every single member of the zodiac must obey Akito’s every whim, often leading to serious psychological trauma, akin to Stockholm Syndrome. This trauma makes every single character extremely relatable and understandable despite their fantastic abilities.
What’s even crazier is this development is not unique to just the Sohma family. Every single character in the show, especially Tohru, has serious trauma that they are forced to deal with in order to mature. Fruits Basket‘s creator, Natsuki Takaya, does an amazing job fleshing out every single character in the show, no matter how large of a role they have. The only other show that manages to handle such a large cast with such expertise is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and it’s my favorite anime of all time. I think I have cried over every single character in this show so far, and that is a testament to how amazing Fruits Basket‘s writing is. This series is a real tear-jerker and every emotional moment feels earned.
3. The English Dub
When I say that Fruits Basket has one of the best English dubs ever, it is not hyperbole. Caitlin Glass has done an absolutely phenomenal job directing the English voice cast of Fruits Basket and it is my second favorite English dub that Funimation has produced (after Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood). The fact that they were able to bring back so much of the original anime’s voice cast is insane. The cast line-up is filled with all-stars, including Laura Bailey as Tohru, Eric Vale as Yuki, Jerry Jewell as Kyo, John Burgmeier as Shigure, Kent Williams as Hatori Sohma, Justin Cook as Hatsuharu and Christopher Sabat as Ayame. Even the new additions to the cast are amazing, such as Elizabeth Maxwell as Arisa Uotani, Jad Saxton as Saki Hanajima, Tia Ballard as Kagura Sohma, Mikaela Krantz as Momiji Sohma, Brina Palencia as Isuzu Sohma, Ian Sinclair as Kureno Sohma and Colleen Clinkenbeard as Akito, are fantastic. The entire cast is phenomenal and the amount of emotional depth each actor gives to their character, no matter how silly they may be, is greater than most television shows I have seen. The second season’s English dub just finished, so now is the perfect time to start watching.
I know I have been recommending slice-of-life anime almost exclusively on the site so far, but if you were to watch one slice-of-life anime in your entire life, this is the one you should watch. Fruits Basket has made me laugh and cry within the same scene multiple times. The whole show is an emotional rollercoaster with some of the best written characters I have seen. I cannot recommend this show enough. You can watch the English dub of the first two seasons right now on Funimation. I implore you to do so.