If I were to give Fruits Basket a tagline, it might be ‘dessert before dinner’. Because the more acquainted you get with the series, you more you begin to realise that all the cake and ice-cream of young romance and new-found friendship is just sweetening you up for a full dish of seriously savoury drama. By the time you’re full up on sugar, you’re not sure how much room you have left for the main course. But then, there’s always a bit of space for something yummy that’s made with love.
This second part opens with Tohru and friends commemorating the anniversary of her mother’s death. As is to be expected with Tohru, far from it being a maudlin affair she partakes in a shrine-side picnic with the Sohmas, Uotani and Hanajima. The contrast in imagery here ends up being a rather accurate foreshadowing of the stories and character arcs to come. Moments of absolute joy in this arc are always closely presided over by a bittersweet fog of loss and regret.
The odd fluff episode comes and goes without much consequence, but sometimes what appears to be fluff at the outset becomes a thrilling and even heartbreaking account of a character’s prior hardships. For anyone who felt deprived of a more in-depth view of Hana-chan or Uotani, or even Momiji, this cluster of episodes will likely bring all you wanted and more besides.
Uotani’s two dedicated episodes, telling of her escape from toxic violence as part of a gang, begin to lean into a prime narrative motif of Fruits Basket as a whole; the power of surrendering to emotional wounds and trauma, as the welcoming of darkness is the only way through to the light. From there, as we’re allowed to look into Hanajima’s struggle with her psychic abilities, and finally the real source of Kyo’s anger, their stories only grow in shadowed beauty.
Even though Tohru still tends to hog the limelight with the same scenery-chewing teary outbursts of part one (no offence here, it’s part of why we love her), this arc is the beginning of Fruits Basket flourishing as an ensemble piece. It brings the supernatural intrigue of the Sohmas’ world to intertwine with the strangeness and wonder of Tohru’s everyday life with her friends, and the result is not only darker but more earnest. If you came to this show with great expectations and found its sugary start line anti-climactic, maybe hang on and give it a second chance.
Distributor: Manga UK
Extras: English dub; behind the scenes; cast and crew interview; clean opening and closing animation