Reviewby Allen Divers, Mar 11th 2003
DVD 1: A Great Transformation?
After the death of her mother, young Tohru Honda has been secretly living on her own in a tent. Her life changes forever when she stumbles upon the secret of the Sohma family, whose land she has been living on. The secret of the Sohma family is a curse that changes some members of the family into animals of the Chinese Zodiac when they are hugged by someone of the opposite sex. Now, living with the Sohma family, Tohru is in the middle of ancient conflicts between Zodiac rivals as she wears the burden of the Sohma family secret. Despite this, the members of the Sohma family find a new peace thanks to the presence of Tohru.
When FUNimation first announced their acquisition of Fruits Basket, the fans familiar with the series were visibly shaken. Up to this point, FUNimation had concentrated on more male oriented fare with titles such as Dragon Ball, Blue Gender and Yū Yū Hakusho. On the surface, Fruits Basket is a very heavily shoujo themed show, focusing more on relationships and character interaction than action filled battles. The audience at large raised the question, "Would FUNimation have the experience necessary to do justice to this wonderful romantic comedy?"
Despite their experience primarily with action packed adventure shows, FUNimation does a great job with the first volume in their release of Fruits Basket, A Great Transformation. The packaging, the dub and the episode count help create an attractive package to please the expectant audience as well as help to attract new viewers. Fruits Basket is a simple tale of characters making their way through life--who just happen to be afflicted with a curse that changes them into animals of the Chinese Zodiac. While there is a hint of a darker tale, Fruits Basket remains upbeat and cheerful thanks in part to its main character, Tohru Honda. The show features quite an intriguing mix of humor, mystery, and strong characters to create a tale that a wide audience should find enjoyable.
A Great Transformation has all the normal features for a standard DVD release. Featuring the first six episodes of the series, the price of the DVD is a bit higher than the norm for a FUNimation release. The extras contain character profiles, textless version of the opening credits, and a behind the scenes featurette. The featurette is a 25 minute special featuring behind the scenes footage from the creation of the Fruits Basket Anime. Presented in the original Japanese with English subtitles, there are interviews with many of the key personnel that brought the series to life.
Taking inspiration from the original Manga, the artwork and animation for Fruits Basket is very simple in nature. The inspiration for much of the artwork is obviously in the shoujo style as the male character designs are very unique and very bishounen. The designs for the females are similar, focusing more on changes in hair color and style to differentiate the various characters. Colors for the characters and the backgrounds are kept light to help keep up the playfulness of the series. The animation itself is very simple, sticking to the inspiration of the manga. There are quite a few action filled scenes, but most of the animation is focused on character interaction and the occasional site gag.
The English soundtrack for Fruits Basket starts with the original Japanese script and tone and creates a life of its own. While the Japanese cast sets a strong foundation for how the characters should sound, the English cast does a good job of breaking from that mold and creating their own interpretation of the characters. FUNimation is regularly criticized for its limited group of actors, but they do a great job of using the same old voices in new ways. Despite a few oddities in the supporting cast, the main cast for Fruits Basket takes quite a bit of a departure from their previous roles in other series. Laura Bailey comes across well as Tohru Honda, a bit manic yet always cheerful and sunny.
The real magic of Fruits Basket is the tale surrounding the heroine, Tohru Honda. Despite many of the tragedies in her young life, she continues to remain upbeat and cheerful. After her mother's death, Tohru finds herself living on her own in a tent. On her way to school, she discovers that she has actually been living behind the house of one her classmates, Yuki. Yuki and his cousin Shigure soon learn of Tohru's living arrangements as well. Accidentally saving her from a rock slide, they take her in. When Kyo, another family member, arrives, it's then that Tohru discovers the strange curse that afflicts the Sohma family. It falls to Tohru's upbeat spirit to show the members of the Sohma family what it means to have a normal life. Focusing more on relationships and interpersonal conflict, rather than action and fighting, Fruits Basket concentrates more on what is said in the script than what is seen on screen. To keep things light, there is quite a bit in terms of visual humor, such as the first transformations into the animals and the subsequent changing back. And for those who actually want a bit of action with their romantic comedies, the series has a few action scenes, as many of the male members of the Sohma family (and one female) try to sort out most of their differences the old-fashioned way: by fight it out. Overall, Fruits Basket features many strong elements to make it a well told story.
Fruits Basket marks a departure from the action oriented shows from FUNimation's current line up, but FUNimation does a strong job of keeping the magic that marks this show's charm. Despite its heavy shoujo tones, Fruits Basket is a show that can appeal to a variety of audiences. It remains humorous, charming, and even action packed as it reveals its story of tragedy and triumph. Fruits Basket is well worth the effort FUNimation has put into it, allowing the North American audience the chance to enjoy this wonderful gem of romantic comedy.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : A
+ A engaging tale filled with humor, romance, and cuteness
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