Anime, Shows

Fruits Basket’s Season 1 is Problematic

Anime Review (with spoilers):

Fruits Basket Season 1 (2019 version)

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 stars

Trigger Warning: Discusses topics such as suicide and abuse

Overview

Pros

  • Deals with grief better than it does other serious topics
  • Attractive animation
  • Beautiful artwork
  • Likeable main character
  • Creative name
  • Inventive concept
  • Good foreshadowing of later seasons

Cons

  • Deals poorly with serious topics such as suicide and abuse
  • Has a character that fulfills transgender stereotypes and then seems to undermine their identity
  • Often overly dramatic and emotional
  • Beats you over the head with the message sometimes
  • Plenty of tell not show

Warning! Spoilers below!

Review

Let me start by saying that I love Fruits Basket. I do think, however, that the first season was not the best. It definitely improved in the second and final season. Several aspects of Season 1 were problematic.

The protagonist of Fruits Basket, Tohru Honda, is an orphan who recently lost her mother in a car accident. Because she cannot yet live with her grandfather, but does not want to burden anyone, she implies to her extended family that she has a place to stay. In actuality, she is living in a tent with her limited belongings. Yuki discovers her, and after some deliberation she is permitted to stay with Yuki, Shigure, and Kyo Sohma. While at their house, she finds out their curse as members of the zodiac. When a member of the zodiac is hugged by someone of the opposite sex, or becomes overly stressed, they turn into their zodiac animal.

Of course, she manages to turn Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure Sohma into their respective animals–a rat, a cat, and a dog. Over time she learns more about the Sohmas and their eccentric way of life, and becomes almost a member of their family.

The name “Fruits Basket” comes from a game for children in which each child is named after a fruit, and when the name of the fruit is called, the child switches positions. When Tohru was young, she played this game and was given the name “rice bowl.” She didn’t realize initially that this was because the other kids don’t want her to play. She waits in vain for her name to be called but it never is because she is not named for a fruit.

This game becomes a sort of metaphor for her relationship with the Sohma family. At first she feels like she doesn’t belong, but after Yuki and Kyo bring her home after her relatives are rude to her at her grandfather’s house, allowing her to stay with them, she feels like she is the rice bowl finally chosen.

The animation is well-done, and the art style is beautiful, especially the backgrounds at times.

The intros and outros are beautiful and thematic–I really enjoyed them as the music really fit the anime. (Check out the links at the bottom of the page to see them.)

The main character is sweet, nonjudgmental, and good-hearted. She is not perfect–she’s relatively clumsy, for instance–but she is close to it. She manages not to be completely unrelatable though.

The foreshadowing in this series is excellent–I noticed details in the beginning that finally were explained and handled in the third season.

My main complaint with Fruits Basket is that it handles serious topics such as suicide at times without suitable respect. Shigure’s editor suggests she will commit suicide multiple times and it is treated as comedic even though she is experiencing a lot of anxiety intentionally caused by Shigure. At different points she pulls out a box cutter and a rope, showing her intended method of suicide. Ritsu Sohma also almost commits suicide, but their character is ridiculed by Shigure and seems to be a character not taken seriously at almost any time by the show itself.

The way it deals with abuse makes more sense later, but if I had just watched Season 1 I would have been appalled by the careless way people talk about Akito’s abuse of the members of the Sohma family. No one is willing to stand up to Akito. It is so frustrating. It is all explained later, however, so I may have to give this a reluctant pass.

Ritsu Sohma

Ritsu Sohma is played like a trans character, but they are hard to read. Looking more into the manga, it is suggested that they dress like a woman in order to feel less pressure from society. But that seems odd. Women do get a lot of pressure from society too. I don’t know. But they definitely come across as trans. Then having Tohru hug them and change them…it just felt that this whole episode with Ritsu could have been done so much more sensitively. I truly feel that the way Ritsu was introduced and treated was a major misstep for Fruits Basket.

Granted, this is an emotional and dramatic show and that is fine. But yeesh, sometimes it was over the top. Not every emotion needed ramped up to a breaking point. Oh my gosh, it was cringey on occasion.

It was obnoxious when Fruits Basket did too much “tell” and not enough “show.” Writers are often told to “show, not tell,” and it would have been better if this advice had been followed in Fruits Basket. For example, at one point a character is used to explain how another character is jealous–hitting viewers over the head with the point. That happens on multiple occasions.

What I have to say about this season is, regardless of whether you like it or not, stick with it for later seasons. It gets better. The best parts of Fruits Basket are kept and the problematic aspects are weeded out for later seasons. The drama stays pretty constant but the other issues are for the most part corrected in Season 1 and 2.

I will say that the series has at least two points where it shows suicide attempts fairly graphically. It also shows multiple methods characters actually use or intend to use.

If you have watched Fruits Basket Season 1 and have any thoughts or opinions to share, feel free to comment.

Links

Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255

If you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek help from a professional.

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