Review for Fruits Basket (2019): Season Two Part One
I spent a fair bit of time with season 1 of the Fruits Basket remake comparing it to the original release from way back when, as there was a fair bit of overlap with the stories, although there was a lot that was different as well. The original series got as far as 26 episodes before it ended, but this new version is aiming to adapt the whole thing (the final season will be streamed to the world this spring). With Season 1 of the new version lasting 25 episodes, I certainly didn’t expect to do any compare and contrast with season 2, but it turns out there is. I did note that a couple of episodic stories were missing from season 1 of the remake, instead offering more background to the Uotani character (too dark for the light and fluffy Akitaroh Daiichi version). It turns out that those two missing episodes make an appearance of sorts at the start of Season 2, although once again there are some important narrative changes.
You would think that Tohru Honda has a hard life. She was recently orphaned when her mother was killed in a car accident, and had to move in with her grandfather. It got crowded enough when his family moved back in, but when the house had to be renovated, and there wasn’t enough room at his family’s place, Tohru offered to find somewhere else to live. That turns out to be a tent in the forest. But Tohru is resolutely upbeat, and rather than burden her best friends Uo and Hana, she’s determined to keep her promise to her mother and finish high school, even if it means working her way through school, while living in a tent.
The trouble is that she’s pitched her tent on Soma land. Yuki Soma is in her class at school, the elegant, handsome young man who all the girls swoon over, but who keeps a resolute distance from everyone, never letting himself get too close. It turns out that he comes from an extensive and influential family, and they are surprised to learn that they have a squatter on their land. She’s a squatter they wind up rescuing when her tent is caught in a landslide. It also seems to be serendipitous, as Yuki’s house isn’t the most hospitable of residences, and he and his relative Shigure are badly in need of a housekeeper. The offer of a roof over her head seems heaven sent for Tohru, until Kyo Soma returns from a retreat in the mountains, looking to pick a fight with his eternal rival Yuki, and oblivious to his surroundings. In the ensuing mayhem, disaster strikes, and the Soma family’s darkest secret is revealed.
For the Soma family is cursed. For generations, they have been afflicted with a condition that causes them to transform into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Yuki is the rat, Shigure is the dog, and following the legend of the animal that was tricked out of the Zodiac (and the cause of Kyo’s antagonism with Yuki) Kyo is the cat. Now Tohru will have to keep their secret if she is to remain among them. But there is far more to the curse than just the cute animals, and as Tohru lives among them, and meets the other members of the Soma clan, she begins to learn the dark truths and tensions that keep them isolated. But if she has the strength of will, she may just be able to help heal these damaged souls, and in the process find a place that she can call home.
The 13 episodes of Fruits Basket Season 2 Part 1 are presented across 2 Blu-rays and this time Manga Entertainment are doing the honours.
1. Hello Again
2. Eat Somen With Your Friends
3. Shall We Go and Get You Changed
4. I Got Dumped...
5. Wait For Me, Tororo Soba!
6. Are You Really This Stupid?
7. Let the Watermelon Splitting Contest Begin!
8. It’s True, Isn’t It?
9. So Precious
10. Who Are You?
11. All Mine
12. You Cried For Me
13. Sure Thing
Fruits Basket gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these two discs, and it’s a world away from that original 2001 version. The high definition image is clear and sharp, detail levels are excellent, and the animation is smooth. You can really see the benefit of all this in the richness of the colours and the quality of the backgrounds and the settings. Compared to the lived in reality of this show, the original was an impressionist’s distillation. The same can be said for the quality and depth of the character designs.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and 2.0 Stereo Japanese, with subtitles and signs locked during playback. I watched and was happy with the Japanese version, that’s despite me missing Ritsuko Okazaki’s theme songs, Yui Horie’s breakout performance as Tohru Honda, and the original show’s music. The Japanese cast is completely new, and there are some surprising differences when you look at characters like Hatori and Yuki, although not unpleasant. The audio is fine, with no issues to report, and I have to admit that the new theme songs are growing on me, while the incidental music is more emotionally evocative. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos.
You get two discs in a BD Amaray case, one on a centrally hinged panel. There is some nice inner sleeve art. The whole thing is wrapped in an o-card slipcover. You also get a leaflet for a digital copy.
The discs present their content with animated menus, and there is a subtle but cute Zodiac animal motif with the menu selections.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Violet Evergarden.
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for Violet Evergarden – Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll movie.
Fruits Basket: Season 02 FunimationCon 2020 Panel lasts 35:00, and is one of those Covid-safe, Zoom app things with dead internet audio. Have I mentioned how much I can’t wait for this s*** to end?
You also get the textless credits with locked subtitles.
The second season of the remake picks up on the Prince Yuki fan club revisit and the Ayame’s dress shop stories that were in the original series, but I had originally thought had been left out of the remake. But in this case, they also add a lot more of the over-arching narrative and develop the characters so that they don’t feel as disposable as before, particularly the opening episode. Overall, this collection of episodes is just as un-missable as before when it comes to the story and how the characters develop, and I loved every minute of it. Once again, it’s a lot more dramatic, and goes to some dark places in a way the original series never did, but that’s what makes it all the better. And once again, I love the original series!
The first episode revisits the obsession the president of the Prince Yuki fan club nurses over Yuki Soma, but this time it’s placed against the context of the school’s student council, of which Yuki is about to become president, introducing some of the bizarre characters in the council that he is supposed to lead. It’s quickly made clear that the council will be a kind of surrogate family, especially with the Vice President Kakeru, somehow a cross between Shigure and Kyo in temperament. Also this time, the visit to Ayame’s dress shop, once again a chance for the two estranged brothers, Yuki and Ayame to try and reconnect, is weighted by more revelations of their shared past, and the overall dark nature of the Soma family.
We also get to meet the two remaining members of the Soma family, Isuzu ‘Rin’ Soma, a tall, elegant but touchy and defensive girl, whose zodiac form is the horse, and also Kureno Soma, a quiet and offbeat man whose zodiac form is the rooster. Rin’s constantly breaking out of her hospital room, and has a relationship with Hatsuharu that she’s determined to end. She’s also on something of a personal quest as well. Kureno’s first introduced in an episode that develops Arisa Uotani’s (Tohru’s friend) character, as she relates a meeting at her part time job with a man that reminds her of Tohru. He obviously makes enough of an impression on her that she want to meet him again. It’s only later that we learn that he is a Soma, and indeed the one who is closest to Akito. Akito has so much control over him that his personality is almost subdued, which goes some way to explaining his eccentricities when he meets Arisa.
Much of this collection of episodes is given over to the summer trip. The younger members of the Soma clan go off on a summer vacation, inviting Tohru along as well. It’s all fun, games and jolly japes until Akito, feeling left out, follows. Once Akito arrives, demanding clan fealty, all in an attempt to isolate Tohru who Akito feels is meddling in something that is none of her business, and all of the fun is pretty quickly sucked out of the holiday. Akito even goes as far as calling Kyo, demanding that he too pay his respects, something that would never normally happen given how the Cat was left out of the Zodiac. And it’s all to bully them and put them back in their place. Akito is that classic case of someone who suffers a lot of pain, and is determined to share that pain. It goes beyond bullying into a series of abusive relationships, and as is so often the case in families, a word that would mean nothing from a stranger, would cut like a knife from a loved one. And abusive relationships are hardest to break because of what is invested in them, with the hope that one day the abuse would stop, and things would go back to how they once were.
Season 2 takes what was established in the first season, the story and the characters, the relationships between them, and elaborates on them and develops them further. You get a deeper understanding of why this cursed family is the way it is, and it makes for a very effective balance between light, heart-warming comedy and edgy and occasionally quite dark drama. Even their schoolteacher becomes part of the story. Mayuki Shirako is Kana’s best friend, the woman who was in a relationship with Hatori before Akito tragically ended it. It turns out that Mayu also developed feelings for Hatori, but sublimated them for the sake of her friend, and had a brief relationship with Shigure as some sort of twisted compensation. In this collection she connects with Hatori again, thanks to some meddling from Shigure.
Speaking of developing characters, something that was never apparent in the original series, is just how manipulative and cynical Shigure is. He’s moving his family around like chess pieces, hoping that his good nature will let them forgive him. He’s got some sort of plan to deal with Akito, and it’s clear that he’s not above using his relatives to do so. He engineers Akito’s visit to the summer house that almost ends in disaster here. Shigure has a rather nasty side to his character that makes him more interesting than the goofball prankster of the first iteration. Tohru too is more interesting, revealing a vulnerable side, and even depressive tendencies. I remember one weak point of her character in the original was to constantly refer to her mother when it came to the uplifting homilies that she would recite. She’s actually called out on it in this version, which knocks her back a bit. And she doesn’t know quite what to do when she’s asked about her father.
If all you’ve seen is the original series, and were thinking that could serve as a substitute season 1 to this season 2 (the way you might consider leisuring your way through the first half of Full Metal Alchemist before jumping onto Brotherhood at episode 13), it would be completely pointless, as that original series kept the light, fluffy character comedy, and left out the drama. And the drama is really what makes this version of Fruits Basket different, and dare I say it, even better. Either way, Season 2 moves the story on to a really compelling, and well told narrative. The Blu-ray’s pretty nice too.