Tohru Honda’s life hasn’t been the same since her mother’s sudden passing. She can’t really inconvenience her grandfather for a place to stay, so unbeknownst to everyone around her she leads a quiet life in a tent out in the woods. It’s actually kind of a terrifying place to call home, but that’s just the sort of unsuspecting and sweet person Tohru happens to be. Outside of her living situation, school is relatively normal… until she finds herself getting familiar with the home life of one of her male classmates, the popular Yuki Soma. Once she discovers the secret of Yuki, his cousin Shigure, and the rest of the Soma clan, her life will never be the same, and we can now experience it along with her all over again thanks to a brand new Fruits Basket anime.
Living with the Soma clan isn’t weird because they’re a bunch of handsome dudes. They also happen to be cursed with the ability to turn into various animals of the Zodiac, which can be triggered by something as innocuous as a hug. Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for Tohru to know more than she expected about the Somas, but she’s remarkably accepting of circumstances that would send your average person packing immediately. A lot of that acceptance comes from her demeanor, but there’s no doubt her own fractured life plays into the equation in a big way. Her daily existence is complicated, and being thrown into the mix with a wild group of transforming hunks isn’t going to make things any easier. Add in ever-evolving school relationships—from Yuki himself to the fan club that’s totally infatuated with him—and you have a bottomless well of situational comedy and dramatic potential.
We originally saw Tohru’s story unfold when Natsuki Takaya’s manga was adapted into an anime back in 2001. Director Akitaro Daichi’s take on the material at Studio Deen was a staple of the early aughts, from the convention scene to its successful run on home video. If you were an anime fan back then, you at least passingly knew of Fruits Basket. The first anime ran for 26 episodes and ended in 2001, but the manga itself didn’t end until 2006. Thanks to a conclusion being in place and the author’s insistence on seeing a new take on her series, we now have a production featuring all different cast and staff members.
Despite the new coat of paint, the results still somehow manage to be nostalgic in their own way. Per Takaya’s request, the staff at TMS Entertainment gave Fruits Basket its own look this time around, but the spirit is still intact. There’s a distinctly ’90s feel to the episodes, making the 2019 Fruits Basket an interesting mix of old and new. The series has deep hooks in the past, but it stands on its own apart from the original adaptation, especially if you watch it with the new Japanese cast. Those who check the show out in English, however, will get hit hard in the nostalgia bone. Most of the dub cast members are back from the first anime, highlighting the power of early ’00s throwbacks and the very lively fandoms that surround them.
I got a chance to check out the first two episodes around the time of the U.S. theatrical screening, and I came away charmed enough to want to watch more. Fruits Basket is both a relic of a different time and somewhat of a looking glass for a new generation. The comedy holds up pretty well, and the seeds planted for future episodes serve up a promising dramatic hook that should keep it comfortably near the top of the Spring 2019 season.