There’s probably a word for something that is both nostalgic, but also feels brand new. If I ever learn what that word is, that is what I would use to summarize ‘Fruits Basket 1st Season’. It’s really that simple, and that hard to explain.
I remember picking up a rather battered copy of ‘Fruits Basket’ from my public library, when I was a baby weeb. I had just started seriously watching anime (god bless Toonami), and now following up with manga. I was also one of those elitest weebs that I had to consume EVERYTHING, in order to ‘fully appreciate’ the series. Whatever that actually means, so I started reading the manga, and then picked up the original anime.
Which, retrospectively was not… great. The early 2000’s still had incredibly stylized animation techniques, and did their best to be very accurate to the manga. With ‘Fruits Basket’ that technique was both bold, and backfired. At the time, I remember watching and being so pleased that the character design was so well respected. It was later on that I realized the oversized eyes of Tohru were off-puttingly unnatural in comparison to the rest of the cast. There were many other smaller errors, and retrospectively the series is a rather dated piece of shojo.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t love that series. I did, very much to this day. The original ‘Fruits Basket’ was a very important piece in my growing up, and very much shaped who I came to be. The series reminded me and really showed me the world could be much softer then I thought. That people could truly be that kind, and could make the changes after meeting people like that.
I digress. That’s a lot about the original series. My actual point is that many people, myself included were disappointed that the original series didn’t cover the majority of the series. Given the timing, it makes sense that they introduced as many characters as they could, given the content that was available, etc. So many of us ‘Furba’ fans held out the impossible hope that one day, one day it might be picked for a reboot.
So when I saw that the series was getting an actual reboot, like a for real ‘we-are-going-to-cover-the-whole-series’ reboot: I was ecstatic. I was actually mad at myself for missing the original airing date, and when I would get an episode or so behind. That was the magic of ‘Fruits Basket’, I was eagerly waiting for new episodes and actually followed it as it aired.
I already know the whole story. I own the whole original publication in English, re-read it cover to cover without skipping anything multiple times. There’s no major plot points that I didn’t know that were going to be shown. That’s a bit beside the point, because the animation was worth seeing everyone moving at their best potential.
Granted, it’s been about two years since I read the series cover-to-cover, so I believe either Bloom or Lita pointed out some subtile differences. The main one being that the animators decided to swap the order of backstories, opting to do Uotani’s backstory before Kisa’s, unlike the manga. Honestly, as a die-hard I 1) didn’t notice this change, and 2) didn’t mind it even when it was pointed out because the story still had the same feelings and flow as the original work.
I think that’s one of the key components of having the Fruits Basket reboot work out so well. The most obvious was the update of animation. In doing so, they did manage to take some homages to how the original scenes played out. I distinctly remember how surprised I was about Hanajima’s card game in comparison to the original. It was very eerily similar but in the best sort of way.
They updated, but maintained the character’s designs. Tohru still has the largest eyes in comparison to most of the cast, but their design blends in way better then the original. Characters that have distinct palettes, such as Hanajima and Kyo blend better together on screen then before. I’ll never forget how much I struggled to get the contrast and or brightness of my screen just right when watching the original. If it was too dark I couldn’t see Hanajima at all, too bright and Kyo or Momji’s hair would go neon or wash out.
When it comes down to it, the truly important fact the feelings it leaves with the viewer, remained. I was sincerely worried that even with all the updates that the feeling would be lost. The gap between original publication start (1998), the first adaptation (2001), and this first season of the reboot (2019) are pretty large respectively. Trying to capture the magic of a series originally created in 1998, 20 years ago. That’s a difficult challenge to complete.
I have to say though, to TMs Entertainment, they nailed it. Not only did they give the series a much needed facelift, but managed to encapsulate those original feelings. A warm home to return to, the trials and tribulations of high school life, making and keeping relationships, loss, and so much more. The things that originally enchanted a generation of shojo fans, polished and re-presented to us was magical.
Somewhere along the lines, I’m sure there were flaws. Every series has them. For now though, I’m keeping my rose color lenses on and eagerly anticipating what the next season brings.