This Week in Anime
Fruits Basket's First Season Was an Emotional Rollercoaster

by Michelle Liu & Steve Jones,

The first season of Natsuki Takaya's legendary shojo fairytale Fruits Basket has come to a close. This week, Micchy and Steve break down their favorite moments in the series so far while they wait for season two.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


You can read our weekly coverage of Fruits Basket here!

Steve
Hey Micchy, is this that new Farfetch'd evolution everyone is talking about?
Micchy
I don't pokeyman enough to know what you're talking about, but I'm pretty sure that's Hatsune Miku.
Regardless, I think we can both agree that Tohru is just as tough as either a fantasy battle duck or the Vocaloid creator of Minecraft. Because golly, she's been through a lot.
No kidding! And yet somehow she gets off easy compared to the rest of the Fruits Basket cast, because this show is a boatload of suffering. Tohru might be a bullying target and an orphan, but at least she has the luxury of growing up in a mostly functional household. Not so much for her
furry friends :'D
And even her not-so-furry friends! An entire season has passed since we last covered the show in this column, and with it, a boatload of backstories on a river of tears. But this is also the first time I get to talk about it, which is exciting. Fair warning: I'm what you'd call a Froob Noob, so this is all very new and tear-jerking to me
Boy, you've got a lot coming if you thought this was as bad as it was going to hurt; the Froob manga goes places after the point where this first season leaves off.
You're not the only friend who has warned me
about this.
On the other hand, this season also introduced this guy, so it's not all suffering just yet.
Oh for sure. Fruits Basket's sense of humor is an often-necessary balm for all the other hurt it delivers, so thank goodness for heroes like Ayame. Gotta live your truth.

While everyone else is having an angst-fest, Ayame's just oversharing his woes through impassioned speeches that nobody wants to hear, bless his heart. All the man wants is to make up for the years he couldn't spend with his kid brother, and by gosh he's gonna make sure Yuki knows that.
Ayame actually has a lot of little brother energy for someone who's the oldest. But speaking from experience, there is something very satisfying about making your little brothers' lives a living hell purely because you have both the experience and the know-how. He's a wonderful character.
Ayame doesn't get too many appearances, which is perhaps for the best lest his shtick wear out, but the levity he brings is a nice balance to the emotional heaviness of the rest of the story. He has just enough layers to be interesting beyond the one joke, but as far as Fruits Basket goes, he's as unconditionally positive as it gets.
While we're on the subject of Fruits Basket's lighter moments, I have to bring up not only the best joke in the show so far, but one of the best jokes I've seen this year.
 
 
That scene is absolutely iconic, such a power play on Haru's part.
The punchline is pubes. It's so understated and dirty. It's perfect. And it's made even better in context, because Haru did this for the noble purpose of defending Momiji's right to wear the girls' uniform. I mean, how could anyone deny him this?

Tohru might not get Hatsuharu's dirty jokes, but she truly understands what's important in life, like letting boys be cute as hell if they want to be. Momiji has no time for social standards of masculinity, and I highly respect Tohru for encouraging him. The running thread connecting all of the disparate stories in the season is how Tohru's boundless compassion and acceptance changes the lives of the people around her, and how even the most isolated people react to someone who doesn't hesitate to reach out to them.
While we're on the subject of Momiji, she gives his little bunny head a shoulder to cry on when he needs someone to hear out his own story. Despite his unquestionably tragic circumstances, he's one of the more well-adjusted Zodiac members, but he still needs an empathetic friend to listen and share some of his burden. It's one of the many episodes that made me cry.
Momiji has quite the burden to bear, that's for sure. He agrees to let his own mother forget him so she doesn't have to suffer anymore, taking all the emotional burden onto his tiny bunny shoulders. As much as he understands that it's for the best, he still can only take so much at such a young age. The worst part is that there isn't even someone to blame for his suffering. Some of the other Soma family members suffer direct abuse from their parents or Akito, but the closest thing to a bad guy in Momiji's situation is that his father asked him to make the sacrifice.
It's so sad the way the curse manifests not merely in the characters' animorph abilities, but in how it haunts all these different aspects of their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. Everyone ends up with some degree of trauma through absolutely no fault of their own. It's a poignant metaphor for how real trauma perpetuates through relationships and generations.
A moment as simple and seemingly comedic as Kisa biting Tohru's outstretched hand actually speaks volumes about what her character has been through.

tfw you're so scared that people will hurt you that you literally bite the hand that feeds pets you
Fruits Basket is about many things, but one lesson that keeps coming up is that bullying SUCKS.
That includes physical bullying, of course, but in Froob it's the social ostracism that hurts the most. The victims start blaming themselves for not being tough enough to take the abuse, eventually closing themselves off and refusing to accept help because they've convinced themselves that's what it means to be strong. And when they've pinned all the blame on themselves, it's hard to crawl out of that mindset; when you think you're being picked on more for being unable to handle it, even asking for help can make you think you've failed.
Kisa's situation turns out to mirror Yuki's when he was living with the Soma family, which I think makes both of their stories hit even harder. It's staggering that Tohru's sympathetic words of kindness not only manage to crack Kisa's shell, but also penetrate Yuki's own heart and the YEARS of trauma and self-loathing he's been carrying with him. Fruits Basket consistently touts the power of even small acts of kindness, and I'm getting a little choked up now going over this material in my mind again.
If I haven't been too obvious about it yet, I've been loving my time with Fruits Basket.
All Yuki ever wanted was someone to reassure him that his suffering wasn't his fault, and also cuddles.
Cuddles are powerful.
Given his history, it's interesting that Yuki has enough insight to know he shouldn't blame himself, even if he has trouble internalizing that belief. When he tears into Kisa's teacher for feeding her platitudes, it's such a powerful statement. Self-hatred is one hell of an enemy, and Yuki needs to hear as much as Kisa that it's not their fault if they struggle to overcome those feelings.
 
 
Yeah, that disconnect between knowing and internalizing something is one of the more insidious parts of depression, and it's always great to see a series have enough emotional intelligence to understand this.
Get these kids into therapy, though. They really need it.
Oh my god, the Soma family needs an entire village full of therapists permanently stationed on the premises.
Tohru is a miracle to everyone she touches, but she's just one person, and a recklessly selfless one at that.
That's the thing! Her kindness is her superpower, but she's not a superwoman. And she notoriously doesn't afford herself the same kindness she affords others. This is a pattern I've seen time and time again with truly good and kind people who beat themselves up for no reason at all.

Tohru's self-sacrificing habits will be addressed more often down the line, but for now all we get are glimpses at the vulnerable, self-loathing girl underneath her endlessly cheerful facade. At this point in the series, she's still playing savior to her friends, but that can't hold for much longer.
This gets telegraphed early on with that fable about the traveler who gave up everything she owned to dubious characters until she literally died. It's noble to be selfless, but when it comes at the cost of your own well-being, you just end up hurting the people who love you and want to see you do well.
And people do care about Tohru, though some are worse at showing it than others.
As tactless as Kyo can be, sometimes Tohru needs someone blunt to remember to take care of herself. She doesn't care about her own well-being, but Kyo makes it clear to her that he's upset when she's upset, giving her an outside push to be honest with herself. He could stand to be less of a shit about it, but that'll happen with time.
Truly, we all could use an angry catboy from time to time.
Or an angry bug-dragon-thing boy, anyway.
Suffice to say, I was not expecting Kyo's true form to be a Digimon. Fruits Basket is a deeply sensitive meditation on trauma and empathy, but sometimes it's also a WILD ride.
I'm not sure where Kyo gets the idea that his true form is disgusting when there are definitely people who find him more attractive that way. Natsuki Takaya couldn't predict the rise of monster-f***ers.
Or maybe she knew all along, and she was just giving all of us that little push we needed. Regardless, it makes for one hell of a climax to the season.
Right, wherein Toshiyuki Morikawa swoops in to push the story along.
Whenever he shows up nowadays, I'm so worried he's going to be a weird serial killer, so I was pretty relieved when Kazuma turned out to be a good guy.
All he wanted was to prove to his adopted son that unconditional love does exist—by dragging Tohru into this whole mess, which is admittedly kinda scummy, but he's not a bad dude overall. You gotta admit it's unfair to make Tohru be everyone's emotional support. But I guess he's trying?
Yeah, and he's far from the only Soma bro using Tohru as a pawn in some undefined game. Let the poor
girl rest.
Whatever you do, don't trust Shigure; no self-respecting mess of an adult can pretend to be this put-together.
I would never.
Thankfully, Tohru still has a support network outside of all these wacky Zodiac hijinks. Although I suppose you can't exactly call it a normal one.
She's got tall gf...

...and goth gf.
That covers all the bases! I gotta say, despite the magical animal transformation thing, I somehow wasn't expecting Hanajima to have for-real psychic powers. Those waves are no joke.
Honestly, I'm still not 100% sure Hanajima's psychic power isn't some elaborate joke, but I guess it's only fair that her backstory be as metal as Uotani's.

It's bizarre, but it still manages to be just as emotionally affecting as the rest of the show, which is no small feat. I also love how this scene in particular is shot like a gothic horror story, with the stark lighting and monochromatic colors.

It's also pretty gay.
That it is.
Meanwhile, Arisa's run-in with the past involves a foul-mouthed delinquent girl voiced by Shiori Izawa, which is a brilliant casting choice if I ever saw one.

I only wish Heybot! was as generous about censoring its innumerable double entendres. But yeah, Uotani's story is similarly affecting, and it gives us our best look yet at how awesome Kyoko was at being a mom. It's no wonder Tohru turned out as kind as she did.
Kyoko's an awesome example of this show's core philosophy. As a former leader of a biker gang, she's tough as nails, but she realizes that it's often harder to be kind than to beat people up.
Tohru's confrontation with Digimon Kyo also did a good job of showing how she inherited some of her mom's toughness. Not just in the way she pushes past her injury, but in the determination shining from her eyes as she defiantly embraces Kyo. Tohru is a tough cookie, and I won't let anybody say otherwise.
Or maybe that just means Kyo's a huge weenie.
Or both.
You might be on to something there.
Speaking of intimidating zodiac ladies, I'm itching for you to formally meet Rin the horse girl.
I'm glad I'll at least have a few months to prepare for the suffering to come, but I'm certainly looking forward to more Fruits and even more Baskets in 2020.
When that happens, we can all smile and say:

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