Fruits Basket (2019) Season 1 Part 2 (Episodes 14-25)(Cert 12)

2 Discs DVD/ Blu-ray – 4 Discs Ltd Ed. Combo Pack (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 286 minutes approx.

Release Date: March 2nd   

We resume the story of orphaned schoolgirl Tohru Honda and her cursed housemates of the Soma family, a group of young men and boys possessed by spirits of the animals of Chinese Zodiac who transform into their respective animal form whenever  touched by members of the opposite sex.

The first volume of this faithfully rebooted adaption of Natsuki Takaya’s manga contained episodes that mostly mirrored the content of the original 2002 anime, which featured a divergence from the source in its latter stages; this second half sees a deviation from this parallel, so viewers only familiar with the first animated telling of this story will experience new material, and an alternate take on what they know from before.

Of the newly adapted material, it mostly relates to the backstories of the supporting characters, namely Tohru’s best friends Arisa Uotani and Saki Hanajima, along with more members of the Soma family arriving to complete the Zodiac line-up. Despite the show’s fluffy premise, these episodes are among the darkest yet – at least until the finale – and provide harrowing details of the extreme downside of the Soma curse.

First up is perky half-German, half-Japanese Momiji, who likes to dress in a girl’s school uniform despite being a boy because it makes him looks cute. Momiji reveals to Tohru the tragic circumstances that lead to live with his father after meeting Momiji’s mother and little sister. This revelation certainly a depth to the writing that was only hinted at, based on a simple emotional human logic most of may not be able to understand.

Because Momiji is always so upbeat and cheerful, it is hard to appreciate what the little chap must be going through yet we also wonder why there hasn’t come a moment when this emotional dam will break, and his pent up suffering will coming flooding out. Even though he is older than he looks, Momiji is still a child and has feeling like everyone else, but with this only being the first season of this sage, maybe this is story to come?

Another pertinent theme in these retrospective tales is bullying, with a consecutive run of episodes all containing the feature player as a victim of the cruelty of other kids. One Soma member, a young girl named Kisa, is a tiger but after being tormented and unable to tell anyone, she has been left speechless. Of course, since a primary factor of the story is Tohru’s kindness and acceptance towards the Soma family, she helps Kisa with her woes.

Causing problems for Tohru is uppity Hiro, a rude, stern faced boy and long time friends of Kisa, whose jealousy of her friendship with Tohru leads to a confrontation. But like with the others, there is a deep-rooted cause for this behaviour, though Hiro remains an unlikeable brat all the same once the air is cleared. His natural animal form is a sheep by the way.

Elsewhere, the monkey representative, Ritsu, is another victim of bullying, hence his constant apologising for existing and his cross-dressing, due to the comfort wearing girl’s clothes brings him in helping heal his pain. Interestingly, at no point is this portrayed as a perversion or trait worthy of derision – this wasn’t the cause of his bullying, only his escape from it –  which considering how the others were tormented for less and when this story was originally written, is quite progressive in its attitudes.

In exploring  Saki and Arisa, we have both sides of the bullying coin, with Saki being the victim and Arisa the bully though not to each other. Because of Saki’s waves, an odd supernatural power she was born with, she was accused of being a witch so when one boy suddenly collapsed after Saki wanted him dead, she became scared of her powers and introverted, until she met Tohru of course.

The story of Arisa is different. Having been left with a deadbeat father after her mother ran away with another man, Arisa joined a girl’s delinquent group, earning a reputation for herself. Her idol was the Crimson Butterfly, legendary girl gang leader and, wouldn’t you know it, Tohru’s mother, now a changed woman since she had Tohru. The path to redemption beckons for Arias, she only has to let herself be guided to it, which only her anger and stubbornness is getting in the way of it happening.

Reading this might make you imagine this collection is all doom and gloom, but it isn’t. there are still many funny moments – a trio of wannabe delinquents trying to rile Arisa ties in neatly with her narrative and provides some good laughs – and the usual cuteness of Tohru being Tohru, whilst all hell breaks loose around her. Admittedly, she takes a step back from the spotlight in these episodes but remains a focal point, either as a catalyst to a peaceful resolution of the cue of more mayhem.

Saving the best for last, the last two chapters wander very close to horror territory, with a development that seemingly comes from nowhere yet as jarring as it is tonally, doesn’t detach itself from the show’s overall template. What it does do rather well, is leave this first half of this saga on a curious note, almost a cliffhanger if you will in preparation for what the future holds for the second season.

Due to the overall fluffiness of the show, its fantasy premise, zany humour and shoujo art style, something it embraces with verve and abandonment, it is somewhat rewarding to discover the hidden depths of the writing in how it address urgent special issues. Yes, it can be twee and indulges in the frippery of its genre trappings but in this instance, it is effective in getting its points across.

25 episodes in and Fruits Basket is just starting to warm up. It’s been a charmingly wholesome yet fulfilling ride so far and the next season can’t come quick enough.

 

Extras:

Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 2.0

Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English Subtitles

Disc 1:

Episode 18 Commentary

Disc 2:

Fruits Basket: Interview with Cast & Crew

Fruits Basket: Inside The Episode:

Episode 16

Episode 19

Episode 22

Episode 25

Textless Opening Song

Textless Closing Song

Limited Collector’s Edition

3 exclusive figurines – Tiger, Rabbit, and Dragon

3 art cards

 

Rating – ****

Man In Black

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