Fruits Basket is one of the most influential shoujo manga out there, especially to Westerners. The tankobans released by Tokyopop served as the introduction for many of us to Japanese romance stories, and the 2001 anime was massively popular both here and all over the world.
And since remaking classic properties into new anime is all the rage right now, it seems to make perfect sense that Natsuki Takaya’s magnum opus would be next in line. If you’re new to the series or just want a refresher on this hallmark of romance manga, read on to find out what you need to know about Fruits Basket before you watch the remake!
The 2001 Anime
The first Fruits Basket anime is 26 episodes long, covering about 1/3 of the manga’s 23-volume story. It had nice animation and voice acting for the time, but the angular ‘90s aesthetic and somewhat awkward humor have aged it considerably. The main antagonist makes only a few brief appearances, and it only gets to a few important character moments before it ends somewhat anticlimactically.
If you’re a new fan looking for a complex character study, it’s difficult for us to recommend the 2001 anime by itself. It barely has enough time to transition from a high school comedy into the deep and intriguing family drama that the manga is best known for. This is one of the reasons why Natsuki Takaya famously wasn’t a fan of this version and wouldn’t allow her manga to be adapted for quite some time.
That said, this first anime is still worth watching, particularly if you have nostalgia for early English anime voice acting. Laura Bailey (Tohru), Jerry Jewell (Kyo), Eric Vale (Yuki), and John Burgmeier (Shigure) do their best to bring their characters to life, but it’s obvious that the art of anime dubbing was yet young in the early 2000s. Enjoy!
The Manga’s Story Continues
Die-hard Fruits Basket fans will tell you that the manga is the best way to experience the story, since you get to see the characters develop naturally while Takaya improves her art and storytelling over the course of the manga’s serialization. As the characters slowly transition from angled noodle people to realistically proportioned humans with subtly expressive faces, the plot itself delves deeper into each character’s unique struggles and how their worlds intersect with one another.
Akito, who was presented as a one-note jealous villain character in the 2001 anime, shows his true colors as a sympathetic victim once you learn about how his mother Ren despised and manipulated him because of his position as God of the Zodiac. Tohru’s cheerfulness seems to come naturally to her, but once you find out how her parents felt like pariahs among their own families for marrying so young, you’ll realize that her mature and positive attitude is a mask that she uses to impress others and is so deeply ingrained that she can’t quite separate herself from it anymore. If you thought Kyo’s true form was an intense scene, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Our Hopes and Predictions
We still don’t know a lot about the new anime, but Natsuki Takaya is serving on the staff and has told the media that this adaptation has her approval. The art style for the 2019 version seems to borrow more from modern shoujo anime in general than from either of Takaya’s styles in the manga itself. We just hope that this style can capture the same subtlety of expression that Takaya’s smoother art from the later volumes conveys. But with the mangaka’s blessing, we’re sure TMS Entertainment will do the source material justice.
As a fun little detail, the main four actors from the original English cast (listed earlier) are returning to the roles they originated 18 years ago. We’re excited to see how much they’ve grown over the years, and how much more nuance they can bring to these beloved characters now that they’re more experienced. When Tohru and co. reach the end of their journey, we’re glad that we’ll get to see it in the best quality that modern technology and vocal performances can provide.
Whether you’ve loved Fruits Basket since the days of browsing Borders bookshelves in the mall or you’re wandering in as a completely new viewer, we hope that this modern adaptation makes you adore Fruits Basket all the more. It’s a gem of ‘90s and early 2000s anime culture that deserves to be brought back into the limelight to finish the song it started so long ago.
What did you think of our overview? Have you been a Fruits Basket fan for a long time, or are you a new viewer? What’s your biggest hope for the 2019 anime? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!