Posted on 25 June 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Fruits Basket (2019)

More than any other episode, this week is where Fruits Basket embraces its two opposing spectrums the clearest: it’s reverse-harem hijinks of highschool life and romance and its dark drama about the Zodiac members. By that light, we can be able to see this adaptation’s quality by this episode alone. For example, this 2019 is at its low point when it comes to comedy. With this kind of over-the-top humor the visual presentation (and editing) have to be snappy enough, Fruits Basket the 2019 instead relies static shots. The 2001 version benefits neatly from Akitaro Daichi’s direction (disclaimer: this writer hasn’t actually watched the original Fruits Basket, but he watched Fruits Basket’s cousin Kamisama Hajimemashita directed by the same director), and this current adaptation just doesn’t have the comedic chops to pull off. The result is that all the hijinks of new Zodiac members joining school, and the Student Council members, fall right flat on the floor.

The drama bit works much better in comparison, though. This week we have a proper introduction of Akito, the head of the Souma family and the antagonist of this show if it ever has one. The most interesting bit isn’t the fact that he meets Tohru face-to-face (in which the show smartly underplays it), but his power towards Yuki that makes Yuki trembling with fear. As we learn from the flashback, he had been mentally abused Yuki to the point of submission, and that he always considers Yuki to be his. There’s some nice conflicts for sure that would be a seed for Fruits Basket overarching act, between the dark, toxic force from Akito and the bright, attentive side from Tohru. In fact, Fruits Basket’s writing strength has always been exploring the gap between what on the surface (mostly the Zodiac’s characters), and their hidden feelings and personality behind that mask.

That is to say I expect a hidden, more vulnerable side of this Akito guy as well. It’s obvious from this week that he brings fears, as well as hatred, to many members of the Zodiac, but he too is suffered greatly. For Tohru, she might be simple and forward, but her determination contrasts nicely to the dark force of Akito. Hence, the best moment of this episode is when Tohru instinctively pushes Akito away from Yuki, because she knows that Akito is hurting Yuki. It’s a nice clash between two extremes, and I can’t wait to see more of this conflict. Just remember Fruits Basket, tone down the over-the-top comedy.

Posted on 17 June 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Fruits Basket (2019)

Fruits Basket gets a bit better this week, though not by a wide margin. This week is a return of Momiji, the most childish character we’ve seen so far in this show (until we learn that he’ll reach high school next year). The White Valentine approaches, and he wants to bring Tohru to the onsen as a thank-you gift. Fruits Basket so far has been, for me, formulaic. Not in a way that it repeats its structure, but more in a way that it uses established tropes for its main events (or is it the one who invited all these tropes? It’s hard to tell but one thing I can say for sure is that it feels dated nonetheless). So a hot-spring/ beach episode would be right in its money. As a whole, I don’t mind this episode as it still provides some solid moments, but I still have that feeling of Fruits Basket padding its material too thin. At this point the trio’s dynamics are pretty much in the balance now, and unless something significant can throw off the balance, they don’t progress as much as they hope to. Drama, after all, is an essential part of character development.

It’s Momiji’s involvement that gives this episode a change of fresh air. While he isn’t the character that I’m particularly fond of (at this moment we just see the childish side of him), his narration regarding the grim story that his class read, remains the best moments of the episode. As per Fruits Basket tradition, one of its strengths is the way it can draw out the emotional tale based on its flashback or story-within-a-story like this one. The content is certainly grim and dark, but it’s the way Momiji reflects on that story that we have a glimpse of his deeper feeling here. It’s not a totally convincing storytelling though, as it OBVIOUSLY allures Yuki and Kyou to Tohru’s current selfless act, but by its own it’s a perfectly fine story that would fit nicely to any Andersen’s sad fairytale classic.

The other nice moment that we don’t see very often, is when Yuki getting loose and laughs at Tohru’s clumsiness. As he remarks “I have never laughed like this even to my parents”, we could see the way his tight upbringing has a profound effect on him, and how with Tohru he becomes much more relaxing and just being himself. That comes with a cost, though, when you think about it, that he will become more emotional dependant on Tohru, and who knows what would happen to him if Tohru’s going away for good. There’s a romance in the air as well as Yuki making a really romantic gesture (that makes our Tohru blushing) before faking it as a joke. Go all the way, dude!

There’s another newcomer to this cast. The frail innkeeper, in a typical Fruits Basket character stock, is a mixture of two extremes. Frail and vulnerable at one moment, aggressive and violent when it comes to Kyou (many characters in Fruits Basket seem to be overtly aggressive towards Kyou alone, huh?). She’s actually a mother of an original Zodiac member, Ritchan the Monkey. I’d say that we will have a proper introduction of this Ritchan pretty soon, probably in the next episode, and I hope that he will be a worthy addition to this ensemble cast.

 

Posted on 11 June 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Fruits Basket (2019)

It’s Valentine’s Day for Fruits Basket, although in this episode the actual Valentine isn’t the main focus. It’s another week of “I wish something major happens” for me. At this point, I have come to believe that follow the manga’s structure stall the pacing for me, as the show pads out its material way too thin at this moment. We need new blood or some compelling drama. This isn’t to say this episode doesn’t provide any dramatic reach. Shigure’s complexity has been planted before in previous episodes, but only this week do we see the extent he’s willing to do to reach his goal. For whatever goal that is we’re pretty much left unknowingly. This episode we only aware of his childhood dream, the dream which still pretty much stay inside his adult self and guides him forward, even if it means that he would hurt the ones beside him, especially Tohru. I suspect the seed that he planted is to allow Tohru to stay over Souma’s house, which in turn change fundamentally both Yuki and Kyou. We also know that he harbors hatred towards Akito, probably for the thing he did regarding Hattori. We don’t know much about Akito’s situation but we can see he’s in pain right now, and Shigure’s hatred can come as far as enjoying Akito’s pain. This is some neat material right there.

Another significant action that Shigure did this week is when he challenges Kyou, and as he knowingly put it later on, he “went too far”. There seems to be an underlying reason that Kyou seems to be in conflict Yuki’s rat status, and that might have to do with Kyou’s violent flashback when he got out of control, somehow. There are still many things left unsaid here, and like what Shigure puts, they are merely a ripple on the water at the moment. Kaguya appears to Kyou for a Valentine double date, but surprisingly we get very little out of that date (which for me is for the better). The only detail that we gathered is an action anime they see in theatre, which ironically have more animation than the actual show.

It’s important to note that all the core cast of Fruits Basket have some sad memories about their childhood that perfectly form their personality and their motivation as they are now, which makes for a meaty drama. And I still consider when it comes to executing the drama, Fruits Basket rank amongst the best of its genre. The problem for me right now is that they need to move on from the status quo, and put our main cast into more conflicts. As of now if they all stay in balance, they have a tendency to become tropey (Tohru is the worst offender), so let’s hope that Fruits Basket will head to some meaty material soon.

Posted on 3 June 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Fruits Basket (2019)

I think I’m not alone when saying that these last two episodes of Fruits Basket aren’t their best material. With the announcement that Fruits Basket is going to have 3 seasons, I can understand why. Episode 8 for instance is where Fruits Basket padded out its material too thin, with all the familiar narrative beats that we already experienced in episode 5 (when Tohru went back to her relative), with a much lesser effect. Episode 9 has different issues, that is in the name of the newcomer Haru. Just to be frank Haru character isn’t that interesting. While I’m not going too far to say that he’s a reverse Kaguya, he does have some similar traits. The way his affection lies towards Yuki (as the episode title clearly shows) is… obsessive just like that of Kaguya, and I don’t think I need another character who involved in constant catfight with Kyou. His most distinctive trait seems to be light/dark Haru, where light Haru is a absent-minded, oddball Haru and dark Haru (triggered by Kyou) is a crazy, hot-tempered Haru, and sadly I don’t find either of these remotely interesting.

There’s one character development that Fruits Basket nails it about his character, however, and that is his flashback towards Yuki. As the original Zodiac tale goes, Haru had always felt shame about the story of Rat using him to finish first in the race, to the point that he harbors a hatred to Yuki, even without seeing him. When he meets Yuki for the first time (and exploded all his insecurity to him), he realizes that Yuki shares the same pain he does, to a larger extend. It fits what we know about Yuki’s character, and it’s sad to see him suffers that loneliness even when he was a kid.

Sadly, that’s the only highpoint I can give to this episode. “Repetitive” is the main issue I have here. At this point the chemistry between the lead trio is solid, but it needs to break its current status quo. There’s only so much if seeing them enjoying their everyday life with Tohru being happy of being housewife and the other two engage in a constant juvenile fights. Speaking of the former, I found the early scene where Tohru buying groceries alone while the two boys waiting outside, doing nothing extremely dated and overtly traditional, which reminds me again how old this source material is. Speaking of the latter, I grow a bit tired of Kyou and Yuki fighting nonsense. Tohru’s character doesn’t fare any better as despite she has a solid character arc, her behaviours, or more like, her humbleness and her oblivion towards others’ feelings, don’t do Fruits Basket much justice. I would love to see the show tries more than just maintaining its status quo.

Posted on 27 May 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Fruits Basket (2019)

Here’s the second of two substitute posts this week. I’m a lot less enthusiastic about Fruits Basket than I am about Carole & Tuesday, though, especially after the former’s most recent episode, which was repetitive and tedious. Flashbacks and recap segments shouldn’t be condemned automatically, as animation is time-consuming and expensive to produce, but a franchise like Fruits Basket should be handled less delicately than it has been thus far. This is its second TV incarnation, for crying out loud – even if the manga had this much hand-wringing from Yuki and Kyou in these chapters, they could have cut some of it in the transition to TV. Their unceasing fixation on Tohru might be romantic in the eyes of young Japanese girls, but I’d label it amateurish, especially when their inner thoughts are so similar across episodes. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Hit the jump to read my take on these three installments of Fruits Basket (I sort of liked one of them!).

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Posted on 6 May 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Fruits Basket (2019)

For me, watching Fruits Basket is like watching a classic play. It’s the show where despite its familiar story beats, it still pulls out a satisfying emotional core because its heart is in the right place. This episode is a prime example of that. I know this will eventually happen, Tohru moving to Souma’s house has always been a temporary plan and it’s only a matter of time before she has to choose between this new family and her own. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, however, as it does just right after the introduction phase. Like a good old play, the plot is fairy predictable, but the lines are there where they needed to be, and the characters deliver those lines with so much weight. Take the scene-stealing character of this week, Grandpa, for example. He serves as a comedic relief; he mostly stays out of his family’s affair but when he decides to jump in, he more than delivers the blow. What makes his speech so great is that not only he points out the assholeness of his family (damn, they’re true bitch), but he allows Tohru to pick the one she feels like home. He might mistake her name to her mother’s, but he sure knows about her more than the rest of the family does.

This is the first time that the titular “Fruits Basket” comes into play, and it further engraves the core theme of the show nicely. The very theme of Fruits Baskets is the feeling of belonging, and the sadness of feeling left out. When Tohru plays the game as a child, she was labeled something that isn’t even a fruit, and thus waiting forever to get called out by her friends. It parallels to her current status where she doesn’t really have anything to belong (up until she knows about Souma’s family). To that extend both Yuki and Ryou suffer from the same sense of alienation. Ryou for not being an original zodiac and desperately try his best to be included, and Yuki for the exact opposite reason, him as a member of the Zodiac that is too “weird” and “exclusive” to even have friends. These main characters more often or not are too aware of their loneliness, and momentarily accepts that as their fate. Tohru has learn a big way to step out of that mindset, and “being selfish” for once. Because, being selfish means she does care about her relationship to both Kyou and Yuki.

It’s also nice to see Kyou and Yuki are both on edge with the departure of Tohru. Although vastly different in their personality, this week is the first time where they share the same things: not only their attraction to Tohru, but also their stubbornness to even acknowledge that they care. This is Fruits Basket as its most emotional satisfying (so far), and I can’t wait to see more of the supporting cast. I don’t know how the original anime handles the material, but this version succeeds because it honors the source material, by understand what makes the source great and faithfully transfer it on screen, even at the cost of the polishness of its production values.

Posted on 29 April 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Fruits Basket (2019)

As a complete novice to an already beloved franchise, I have little to no prior knowledge coming to Fruits Basket. Last week, I was wondering about the direction the show would take, whether it stays focused on the core cast, or it completely shoves them aside, giving more space to the side characters. As it turns out, Fruits Basket does a little bit of both. This week, they introduces another member of the Zodiac family, Kagura, with varying degrees of success. At first, it comes rather unexpected (hence took a chuckle out of me), when it’s reveals the timid, feminine Kagura has a violent side of her. It works for one, two times before the joke gets tired, unfortunately. It works first as an introduction to her character and the extent of which she would go for her affection towards Kyou. It still works as a flashback to informs us how long this affection had been going on. It blows up on itself when Fruits Basket levels it up later in the episode, resulted in ruining the whole family’s dinner.

Granted, Kagura has so much more in her characters. Behind her “charging head first into an issue – her Zodiac’s trait”, she is determined, yet insecure; expressive, yet never deceptive. As much as she loves Kyou and wants to marriage the poor man, she’s still conscious enough to understand Tohru’s good intention. But God, I don’t know what I would feel if she kicks Kyou everytime they are on-screen. With her appearance, we learn something interesting about the Souma’s family as well. They compose of both boys and girls (we’ve seen 4 so far), and as someone mentioned there will be more girls in the mix. Like their boy counterparts, if they get touched by the opposite sex that isn’t in the Zodiac family, they’ll transform into their original form. Before the reveal, I couldn’t have guessed the animal representing Kagura. Turns out she’s a little cutie boar (note: not a piggie), and I think I’m not alone when I say that I prefer her animal form much more than her human one.

At the same time, we still have another great scene between Tohru and Kyou when they’re in the rooftop. What Fruits Basket does best is keep peeling the characters’ personality and we keep seeing different side of them, what makes them who they are, what are their insecurities. This one in particular, we learn how enthusiastic Kyou behaves when he keeps babbling about his Master and martial art in general. Serve as a total opposite to Yuki, Kyou knows what he likes and isn’t shy from expressing it. I’ve heard that the side characters are one important element of what making Fruits Basket an endurable shoujo classic, so I expect more from these Zodiac members. The cliffhanger at the end suggests that it’s time for Tohru to decides whether or not she regards this new family as her own family or not, although I feel it’s a bit too early to delve on that angle. Fruits Basket’s strucutr can be conventional at times given how we can see how the plot going moles ahead, but it’s the adept character writing that makes the cast so enjoyable to watch. As far as this new comer Kagura goes, she’s still a good, albeit my least favorite one so far, addition to the cast. Despite my initial worry, this new adaptation of Fruits Basket has been solid so far.

Posted on 23 April 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Fruits Basket (2019)

I believe it’s safe to say that one of the main concern for this adaptation of Fruits Basket isn’t about the source, but more about whether or not the current staffs have what it takes to bring this classic to life (while at the same time pleases the original author, but that’s beside the point), and after three episodes, Fruits Basket does it considerably well. It knows its main strengths: Fruits Basket develops its characters with insight and sensitivity, making them both multi-dimensional and relatable. These first three episodes focus on (assumably) the main casts: our lead Tohru, the rat Yuki and the cat Kyou, and already within only first few episodes they emerge into characters worth spending time for. As a minor criticism, Tohru’s character isn’t that fleshed out after episode 1, but I understand that is entirely by design. We learn about the Soumas’ circumstances through her point of view, thus it’s always more about the boys she interact with, rather than herself. But it helps that 1) the premiere did more than enough about her backstory, especially when it comes to her current situation and her relationship with her Mom (which I reckon to be her guiding light throughout the series) and 2) she’s still a pretty damn solid lead who we constantly learn more about her personality through her narration and the way she interacts with the Soumas.

And Fruits Basket did a magnificent job to flesh out both Yuki and Kyou characters. One fun bit of useless trivia, the Vietnamese Zodiac (which is a variation of Chinese Zodiac), has Cat within the Zodiac in place of the Rabbit, so we Vietnamese pretty solved this Rat-Cat dilemma (another trivia, many Chinese people think that “Rat” isn’t an accurate translation, “Mouse” is a better term). Throughout these episodes, you can see their personalities play out, but the trick of it is that we can see their inner insecurity after peeling their projected image. For Yuki, he’s the perfect model student with a calm demeanor, however underneath that he’s too aware of the distance between him and the rest. For Kyou, he’s desperate to get into the circle, at the same time is short tempered. They serve as a total opposite to each other, in which they never see face to face about the other’s action. Yuki tries his utmost to be free from the circle he’s in by attending a co-ed school, whereas Kyou doing anything in his power to get in. Yuki thinks before acts, yet keep people in the distance. Kyou is a ticking bomb, yet make friends without much problems.

In fact, one has something the other lacks, and in the process of learning more about these two, Tohru learns that they are jealous of each other’s ability. Yuki afraids that if people find out about his secret, they would be “sickened”. That proves to be wrong as Tohru doesn’t really mind about that, and accept him for who he is. Production-wise, Fruits Basket so far is only competent. It holds the story so far, although nothing really stand out much in terms of delivery. At first, I was skeptical of the use the Zodiac transformation smoke (in which some source says that it’s live action filtered in), but now I feel it fits the show well. The smoke adds to the weird (and to a small degree, deadpan) effect. I’m not sure if this is the end of Yuki – Kyou conflict so that we can move one to other members of the Zodiac, but I’m fine with whatever direction Fruits Basket will go next. The structure might be conventional so far, but the complex character writing more than delivers. At least, there are some characters that make a brief introduction in these episodes, and I expect them to deliver as well when it comes to their turns.

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