This Week in Anime
The Messy Drama of Fruits Basket

by Michelle Liu & Steve Jones,

The new anime adaptation of the landmark shojo manga Fruits Basket broke new ground this season, moving into plot threads that weren't previously animated. Shigure shows another side, Akito's terror continues to haunt the Sohma family, and more of Kyo's back story is revealed. Micchy and Steve look at how the fluffy romp turned into an emotional rollercoaster.

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.

You can read our Daily Streaming reviews of Fruits Basket here.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Steve
Well Micchy, having now caught up with the second season of Fruits Basket, I think I can speak for the anime community at large here when I say:
Micchy

Isn't it wild to go from "haha the funny romcom about furry boys!!" to bawling your eyes out over one of the most iconic stories about trauma and abuse in shoujo manga? I'm having lots of fun here.
Yeah I mean I certainly knew that Fruits Basket, by reputation, was one hell of a tearjerker, but it's quite another thing to actually digest the enormity of it. One moment we're doing deep emotional excavation on a family full of abuse victims, the next moment Tohru is about to accidently iron a person.
Really, it's the variety that keeps things interesting. Sure you could watch the zodiac members of the Sohma family navigate years of toxic relationships to each other and the family head, but isn't it so much better when a girl kicks down a door for the fifth time?

The best part is that Kagura's far from the only one who'd do so.
It feels like it's been forever since we last talked about this show here (and I mean, last September may as well be a decade ago), and this Basket has so many Fruits in it that there's no way we're going to be able to cover everything that's happened so far this season, but I agree that it's most prudent that we address all the women who would gladly destroy something.
Intentionally or otherwise!

Trust me, girls don't (just) want troubled pretty boys, girls want ex-delinquent women who could tear them in half.
I think we can add some certain enlightened boys to that list as well. At least, I can't be the only one who sees the clear romantic tension between Kyo and Uo here.

Her face here just destroys me.
A thread that will unfortunately go unexplored, seeing as Uo's taste in men is just "Tohru Honda 2.0."
God tell me about it. This line of dialogue is so [thinking emoji] I can't stand it.

Uo...you're so close...
In a more just world Uo and Hana would be married and Tohru's surrogate moms, but Froob is from the mid '00s and almost everybody in it has a terminal case of heterosexuality. Like look the "no touching the opposite sex" curse would be a lot easier to deal with if intimacy with the same sex were a conceivable outcome in the world of mainstream-ass shoujo manga.
Ah well, thankfully the world of fanfiction is as limitless as ever. And despite its het-heavy focus (or, arguably, due to it), it's not like Fruits Basket is wanting for a colorful variety of relationship drama. This season we even get entire episodes devoted to rubbernecking select interpersonal car crashes.
It's not enough that the Sohma kids are emotionally scarred; everybody who comes in contact with them also gets to suffer! Including teacher MAYUKO, who made the absolutely terrible mistake of dating Shigure.

That is the face of a woman who made some life mistakes and knows it.
The mere thought of having Shigure as an ex sends violent shivers down my spine. Can you even IMAGINE the horror of having to live with that skeleton in your closet? I can't. I was pleased, however, to see that the act of him asking another human being out went exactly like I had pictured in my head. I'm just sorry Mayu had to go through this to confirm that.
Shigure may play the part of a mostly-harmless doofus, but this bit of history makes it clear that under his facade of ironic callousness he's an actual jerk through and through. For those who grew up with the whimsical goof from the 2001 anime, the sinister side of him we see here is probably very different!
The dude's got layers! Like, on an admittedly very entertaining level, he is The Messiest Bitch Who Ever Lived For The Drama, and he probably always will be.
And I respect his commitment to stirring up shit. It's another story when said drama concerns the collective trauma of an entire family though!
Yeah he also has some much more serious schemes going on that we're still not fully privy to, and although I kinda ultimately trust he has the best interests of Tohru and company in mind, I still can't help but worry. Even Machiavelli would look at this and be like "whoa dude, maybe slow down a bit? People are gonna get hurt."
I think you'll find that his primary goal isn't to protect the members of the Sohma family, but to stick it to Akito. If his cousins happen to benefit from his scheming it's entirely an accident. Like if the dude really cared about Yuki et al's wellbeing, he'd probably give 'em a heads up before siccing Akito on them.
In between the gags, the constant refrain this season has been "wow, the Sohma family really sucks huh." Like, lest we forget Dad Of The Year here.

Not to mention he's a decidedly unfun flavor of wife guy
Oh, you mean the dude who blames his young son's existence for his wife's suicide and says so to his face? A mother who treated her own child as a threat?
What an infuriating scene. While I'm glad Kyo wasn't there this time to suffer his father's abuse, I do wish he could have seen Kazuma's ice cold burn.
And the worst part of all this is that Kyo's true form isn't all that bad? Yeah maybe it's kind of gross but I assure you, there are plenty of weirdos in 2020 who would be perfectly receptive of a freaky-looking bug monster boyfriend, I'm just saying.
Oh easily. I mean I just finished reviewing a show whose central romance features a guy who turns into a giant dog costume with a slimy hollow meat center. We've crossed that Rubicon a while ago.
And then there's Kagura, who more or less convinced herself to fall for Kyo to make up for the guilt of finding his true form gross.

Even if monsterfucking's in vogue right now (is it?), performative monster thirst benefits no one. Don't be an insincere monsterfucker like Kagura.
I think of all the turns that this season has taken with its side characters, I was perhaps most surprised by the violent boar girl revealing a frank portrait of the harm that metastasized shame can do to a person and those around them. Tho, out of context, these are also big post-COVID moods.
On some level, Kagura's attachment to Kyo started as a way to remind herself that no matter how miserable she feels, somebody else has it worse. She's internalized the shame of being a zodiac member so much that she latches onto him to comfort herself—but she also wants to believe she's above judging others for being like her. It's self-serving, and she knows that. And even if she does genuinely care about him, she realizes she can't let go of her insecurities enough to love him for who he is rather than what he represents in relation to her. Maybe eventually she'll get to a point where she can legit love somebody without using them as a prop for her insecurities but she's got a hell of a long way to go before that happens.
It's a big ol' twisted mess of emotions, and it's this stuff that consistently draws me into the many faces of Fruits Basket. Under the surface, even the gag characters have these vast oceans of complex and repressed feelings that crash into each other in these grand melodramatic swells. It makes for a bunch of smaller, yet still rich stories that blend together into the extravagant opera.
Aaaaaand on the other hand, there's this guy.
Look, Yuki may have had a Big Important Character Development moment grounding his determination to no longer be confined by his past trauma or present emotional crutches, but that doesn't mean he's scot free. Welcome to real adulthood, buddy.
Iirc going forward Yuki basically graduates from the University of Shoujo Melodrama to go onto Shoujo Comedy Grad School while Tohru and Kyo deal with most of the Sohma family drama. Good for him but yeah he's pretty much stuck in dunkass hell until the end of the series.
Be careful what you wish for!

Actually I'm just now realizing that putting Kakeru on top of a pile of fertilizer isn't subtle at all lol.
He has some depth, but most of it's canceled out by his single brain cell. Mostly he's there so Yuki can have normal teenager confidence problems as opposed to severe trauma problems.
It's not as compelling as all the other stuff going on in the narrative, but it's definitely a good move for Yuki, who already has plenty of experience with handling single-celled organisms.It's not as compelling as all the other stuff going on in the narrative, but it's definitely a good move for Yuki, who already has plenty of experience with handling single-celled organisms.
Hey, Ayame's trying to make up for years of alienation! ...by being the most obnoxious busybody possible. Look his intentions are good.

Yuki, probably: please for the love of god leave me alone I'm 16 and need some privacy to jerk off sometimes, okay?
He's awful but I do love him, and thus I do also appreciate that we got to see a bit more of this thoughtful, genuine side. Like a lot of the cast, he's weighed down by past mistakes and desperate to reconcile them, and he ends up exhibiting a lot more emotional intelligence than I would have considered him capable of.

Of course, at the end of the day, he's still an older brother.
Bless his heart, he just wants to commemorate the day his baby brother Yuki held a girl's hand for the first time! That's not deathly embarrassing to a teenage boy at all, nope nope.
Speaking from experience, I've certainly never taken advantage of literally every opportunity at my disposal to make my younger brothers' lives a living hell. That would be monstrous. Seriously tho, the strongest bonds are those forged in the fire of mutual dunkage.
It's good to know that through all the pain, these kids have some good pals to back them up— oh.
I think I can also speak for everyone here when I say: I want that jerk Obliterated.
Akito is a hell of a drug.
On its artistic merits, Akito's presence has slouched masterfully into the spotlight as we finally get toothsome examples of their toxicity. Akito's a staggeringly great antagonist, obsessed with devouring every morsel of happiness these kids have managed to scrounge for themselves.
The kids can't be happy for themselves—they have to be happy for Akito, with Akito, and because of Akito, or they're not allowed to be happy at all. To Akito, every sign of a life outside the Sohma estate is a betrayal, and any attempt to build their own lives they interpret as an act of deliberate exclusion—because how could the zodiac members possibly want something for themselves if not to spite the person who rules them all?
tl;dr Akito is a sad, pathetic narcissist who can't stand that not everyone sees the world in terms as bleak as they do.
Akito's also like a gross personification of the concept of familial abuse, constantly hurting, gaslighting, and emotionally manipulating the entire Zodiac, seemingly just to exercise that power over them. Every one-on-one scene with Akito and someone else leaves me feeling raw, infuriated, and exhausted. That's a good villain!
Yeah, that's the thing! Akito's obviously a mess, but the power they hold over the Sohma family is so tangible that nobody in it can meaningfully fight back. Which is where Tohru comes in—but putting it on one (also seriously traumatized) teenage girl to save an entire family is, to put it lightly, extremely unfair.
To put it very lightly! Like, I admittedly loved seeing her determination to finally take action and break the curse (which I imagine will drive her through the end of the story), but that's something she definitely can't (and frankly shouldn't) accomplish all on her own.

Also, for her own sake, I hope she's better at breaking curses than she is a breaking watermelons.
Eh, just use Kyo's head, I'm sure it's hard enough. Just swing that dumbass catboy at the very concept of the zodiac curse. Maybe take out Akito while you're at it.
I don't doubt the thickness of his head but those fluffy ears might dampen the blow.
On second thought, it might be more efficient to get Rin and/or Haru to kick Akito in the face. Horses can get pretty dang rough!
Oh yeah, I was excited to meet Rin this season, and I'm still kinda waiting to actually meet her, because she's mostly kept to the background so far. Hopefully she has more of a presence in the next cour, because all I've got now is a "I've heard of 'horse girls' but this is ridiculous!"
Well, thus far you've probably seen enough to know that she's 1) extremely not okay and 2) making some god-awful decisions!!!
I mean, she is a Sohma.
True, but even most Sohmas know to stay the hell away from Shigure!!
Oh of course. Trying to beat Shigure at his own game (i.e. manipulation) is going to get her sent to the glue factory if she doesn't wise up.
Steve.
Look, you put a horse in an anime, and there are going to be consequences. I can't be held responsible for that.
You had the choice not to make the joke but you didn't take it. I'm disappointed in you, Steve. I'm not, however, disappointed in the least by the directions Fruits Basket has taken. This is the kind of suffering I crave. Your jokes are another form of suffering entirely.
Oh yeah, with the summer season just on the horizon, Froob is off to the races and ponying up plenty of angst for its mane characters. I can only hope they manage to hoof it away from Akito in the next cour!
Okay now I'm done.
: )

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