Satomi SatouMegumi HanManaka IwamiFruits Basket
Fruits Basket: Season 1 (2019)
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2019: F
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2019
Director: Yoshihide Ibata
Writer: Taku Kishimoto
Original creator: Natsuki Takaya
Actor: Aki Toyosaki, Atsumi Tanezaki, Hitomi Nabatame, Kazuyuki Okitsu, Kengo Kawanishi, Maaya Sakamoto, Makoto Furukawa, Megumi Han, Manaka Iwami, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Reina Ueda, Rie Kugimiya, Satomi Satou, Shizuka Ishigami, Takahiro Sakurai, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Yo Taichi, Yuichi Nakamura, Yuma Uchida
Keywords: Fruits Basket, anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Episodes 1-25
Website category: Anime 2019
Review date: 13 September 2022
Fruits Basket Comparison
I love Fruits Basket. Natsuki Takaya's original shoujo manga (1998-2006) is great and was a best-seller in both Japan and America. It's about a lovable but not-too-bright girl, Touru Honda, who comes to live with a family of shapeshifters. They transform into animals if hugged by a non-relative of the opposite sex. This can be very funny, but the series gradually gets dark. It's had two anime adaptations: Akitaro Daichi's in 2001 (26 episodes) and this one (2019-21, three seasons, 75 episodes). Unfortunately, Takaya famously dislikes the 2001 one. This made me doubt her judgement, since Akitarou Daichi is a genius... but hey, it's an author's prerogative to get prickly about changes. This is supposedly a much more faithful adaptation, not least because the manga's now finished and the new anime can cover it all without having to contrive an ending.
Anyway, I've now watched the 2019 season and, so far, the two anime adaptations are almost identical. No, really. Same plot, story beats and (almost) number of episodes. They cover the same material and end at the same point (Kyou's true form). There are minor differences, though, and I think it's hilariously obvious why Takaya objects to the 2001 adaptation. (I might be wrong, but I bet I'm not.)
The show's core regulars are Touru (infinitely loving and all-accepting heroine) and the men she lives with: (a) Kyou, an irritable cat-boy with the emotional maturity of a toddler on crack, (b) Yuki, a beautiful but cold rat-boy who's jealous of Kyou's ability to be himself with other people and (c) Shigure, bastard who loves teasing people. Poor Touru is surrounded by beautiful men who are in love with her! What should a girl do? (Answer: not realise.)
Shigure's out of contention, because he's ten years too old. The Chosen Boyfriend is thus either Kyou or Yuki... and it becomes obvious from the 2019 anime that Takaya favours Kyou. She throws some bones to Yuki, but his relationship with Touru is static. Kyou, on the other hand, is the Hot-Blooded Damaged Hero Who'll Be Emotionally Healed By The Heroine. (It's a milder variant of the Bastard Boyfriend, who's also disturbingly popular in shoujo.)
The 2001 anime is more frivolous than this reboot... and the main difference is Kyou. Akitarou Daichi's Kyou isn't (as intended by the author) a vehicle for bad-tempered Byronic sex appeal. Instead, he's a comedy idiot. We're laughing our heads off at him. That anime is aware (unlike the original) that someone that uncontrollably hostile and competitive is basically a joke. He's hilarious... but with hindsight I can almost hear the steam coming out of Takaya's ears.
This comedy view of Kyou is so effective, in fact, that it makes it hard for a viewer to switch back into 2018 mode. It makes you laugh at Takaya's Wet Dream Kyou as well.
Considering just these two seasons on their own, I prefer the 2001 one. It's better directed and uses music more iconically. Akitarou Daichi's use of music is practically a trademark. (I nearly said "funnier" as well, but after a slow start the 2019 anime has some brilliant comedy.) I disliked 2019-ep.5, which made Kyou and Yuki actively annoying, while I find 2019-Tooru more exaggeratedly high-pitched and closer to being grating than her predecessor. That said, though, both shows are excellent and we're lucky to have them. The 2019 anime is darker, nastier and setting up worse to come. The trauma comes through more bluntly and is explored more thoughtfully, e.g. the tiger who bites people in ep.18. That's an exploration of the shame, embarrassment and silence of being bullied. Kisa has abandoned human speech.
Then there's the head of the family. Akito's scary in any adaptation, but bloody hell. This is someone who'll stick broken glass in your eye for the crime of being in love with someone.
The 2019 anime has updated Takaya's 1998 art style to be more modern. Returning to the 2001 show after watching that is a bit of a shock, but they're both fine. They're generic for their respective eras. (For what it's worth, Takaya herself requested this style update. The 2019 show will look better to today's audience, but I find the way it draws people's ears distracting.)
The story isn't without awkward bits, in either version.
1. Kagura (all versions) is a crazed stalker who beats up Kyou all the time... for laughs. Such characters were all over the place in 1990s anime/manga, but have since fallen out of favour. That said, though, she's only beating up Kyou, so who cares?
2. Ritsu in the original gets criticised by other characters for cross-dressing and his suicide attempt is played for laughs. Both of these have been fixed in the 2019 version. Unfortunately, though, the change of tone creates a serious issue in the same episode (ep.19). Ritsu has a counterpart in Shigure's agent, Mitsuru. Shigure, being a light-hearted tease, likes to hide when Mitsuru comes looking for him, will pretend not to have finished his manscript, etc. In 2001, this is played extremely broadly. In 2019, it's more realistic... which is a whole world of Not Funny when Mitsuru starts preparing to commit suicide.
Whichever version you're watching (or reading), though, it's good. The changes here (e.g. Kyou's much greater character development) are often necessary for the rest of the story. I think it takes a few episodes for this 2019 season to find its feet, but it soon settles into its groove and becomes one of the best shows of the year.