Life has been hard for Honda Tooru. Her beloved mother has just passed away in an accident and due to some family issues she's living in a tent in the woods. Not even her best friends know about this as she has vowed to support herself through school life.
One day she stumbles upon a house nearby. As things turn out, it's occupied by Souma Yuki, the school heartthrob (and her classmate), his cousin Shigure (a novelist) and another Souma by the name of Kyou who is constantly fighting with Yuki.
A series of mishaps reveals a surprise about the Soumas. When hugged by members of the opposite sex, they change into animals of the Chinese zodiac! Normally people who find out would have their memory erased, but Tooru is given the chance to keep the secret and continue living with the Souma family.
While the concept of characters changing when touched by something isn't new, Fruits Basket uses something different - the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, plus the cat (as will be explained in the anime). The main characters take after their respective animals: Yuki, the mouse, is quiet and scheming at times. Kyou, the cat, is always at war with Yuki, while Shigure, the dog, is fun and rather carefree. Quite surprisingly, the characters are hardly paired with the animals that you would expect them to be.
The most interesting aspect of this anime is the way the characters are portrayed. Most of the scenes with more than *one* person around will be enough to wrestle you to the floor laughing or play with your emotions like a diabolical programmer on late night shift. Tooru is a little like the typical anime schoolgirl - sweet, not very bright, but always cheery and is a big help around the house. Much of the focus of the story is how she slowly changes the lives of those around her, especially the Souma family. You see, it's not all fun and games being an animal. The Soumas are unable to have relationships with "outsiders" because of their secret and as a result are withdrawn from society. Many episodes deal with the internal struggles that each one of them has - not being accepted by others because of their appearances or actions. Yet, each of them finds hope in Tooru, who is ready to accept them and helps them to change themselves for the better.
One good thing is that the anime rarely relies on the "transformations" and resulting chaos to carry the comedy parts. Instead, it is the character interactions and personality mixes that make it funny. Yuki and Kyou are always fighting, but you'd probably end up smiling instead. Shigure is like a fun-loving kid stuck in a compliant adult body. And the other Soumas introduced later are far from stereotypical and are equally fun to watch. There are even strong bonds between certain characters and the chaos gets even better when they are together. If you were an anime character, you'd have sweatdrops appearing a *lot*. Wait, no. Make sure the drainage systems around you can handle large volumes of water spewing from your head.
Trust me: You'll never look at white snakes the same *ever* again.
While having more than 10 characters may seem like a lot, it's actually quite simple. Rarely is a character introduced "just to fill in the other animals". Each one has a deeper story that is revealed as the plot goes along and you can start to get attached to them as you begin to find out why they act like they do, and what really troubles them. And the good thing is, the whole cast *doesn't* fall in love with Tooru. Yes, they like her a lot but nothing of the romantic sort.
There are many things to be learned from this anime too. Tooru's two best friends, while rather strange, are examples of what friendship really should be like. They always look out for her, especially since they knew her mother, and are her support when she needs them. Tooru also has many flashbacks of her good relationship with her mother and in turn she is good to others.
The art is colorful but rather simple, and so is the animation. Add liberal SD scenes and plenty of sweatdrops and that's Fruits Basket. While more detail would have been nice, but in view of the story and the mood of the show, it fits just fine. Just be ready for characters with some of the biggest eyes in anime, and for bishie guys (beautiful men, I call them ^_^). In fact, some of the characters regularly make jokes about Yuki's "attractiveness" if he were a girl.
Comedy anime really doesn't get any better than this. A great series for anyone looking for good clean fun.
It's funny, generally free of stereotypes and even has a good plot. Highly recommended, though you can subtract one star (just one!) if you don't like stories that seem happy (go watch Evangelion, then). — Enoch Lau
Recommended Audience: No nudity (unless you count being clouded in "transformation" smoke as visible nudity), no sex, no profanity although Kyou may be rather rough at times. It's a clean show, people. The final two episodes, however, may be a bit too graphic and tense for younger viewers, but it's generally suitable for the whole family. There is also one character that may be rather scary to younger viewers, but he seldom appears although he is crucial to the storyline.
Version(s) Viewed: Japanese dialogue with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Fruits Basket © 2002 Natsuki Takaya / HAKUSENSHA - TV TOKYO - NAS - Fruba Project
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