The first adaptation came out nearly two decades ago, and to be honest, I never really watched it. I had a friend who was crazy about the manga though, so I ended up skimming the anime. Most of my knowledge about the story and its characters came from her crazed rants, and even then, many of those memories are lost to the passage of time. I don’t remember much about the finer details of the plot anymore, so I’m treating this remake almost like it’s a new show. Almost. Obviously, there are certain details you can’t forget… like how most of the adults suck, but we can pick the story apart when the time comes. So what is the show about? Well, like a lot of harem anime (reverse or otherwise), the protagonist ends up in a situation where they get to live with members of the opposite sex. But there’s always a twist: you can’t touch the pretty boys in this anime or they’ll revert into their infinitely cuter animal forms… so uh, what’s the problem? But fine, fine, it’s a “curse.” It’s a curse born from a cruel prank. Apparently, the cat was supposed to be a part of the Chinese zodiac, but the rat did him dirty. And as a result, this family that our heroine will soon acquaint herself with has been dealing with said curse. And of course, her parents are always out of the picture, so she can do whatever she wants. Hell, our protagonist’s parents are literally dead. I guess it’s time to talk about Tohru.
On paper, our heroine Tohru is a sweet girl, but something bothers me about her. Something really bugs me about people of her ilk. You know how job interviewers always ask you to talk about your biggest weakness? And of course, interviewees are rarely honest when answering that question. Yeah, you want me to tell you about my crippling insecurities? Probably not. But Tohru’s the type of girl would say, “My biggest weakness is that I care too much, and I work too hard. You really gotta tell me to stop sometimes, or I’ll work myself to death!” The girl is extremely optimistic and selfless to the point of absurdity. She confronts every single day with the brightest smile despite the fact that she’s lost both of her parents. Even when she’s being bullied at school, the girl doesn’t have a single mean bone in her body. Last but not least, she also lives in an ant-and-slug-infested tent. Why does she live in a tent? Because she doesn’t want to be a burden on her grandfather! Tohru even pays for her tuition! Wait, doesn’t she have friends? Yeah, she does. But she doesn’t want to burden them either!
The biggest eye-rolling moment for me is when we hit what is supposed to be the emotional peak of the first episode. She’s come down with a fever, and not only that, her tent just got buried beneath a small landslide. Even so, she tells Shigure (I’ll get to him in a bit) that she has experienced a deeper, greater pain in the past. What’s the biggest regret of the young girl’s life? On the morning of her mother’s tragic death, Tohru never got the chance to say, “Itterasshai.” Yep, that’s it. Why wasn’t she able to? She was asleep ‘cause she had studied too hard for a quiz last night. And since then, our heroine has been beating herself up over this. She feels as though she didn’t prioritize her mother properly. I get the feeling that this is supposed to strike a deep chord with the audience, but it just really solidify in my mind the fact that Tohru is too perfect. Her flaws end up not being flaws at all. Later in the series, I’m sure other characters will tell her, “You need to care more about yourself!” But I can’t see this as genuine. It’s one of those, “Ugh, if I gotta have a weakness, I’ll pick this one.” Meanwhile, everything else about her sets her up as prime waifu material. Great work ethic, great cook, and endless amount of empathy for everyone around her. Uh-huh.
You might argue that Tohru just has to be this way, because you need that sort of selfless benevolence to care this much about the Somas and all their drama. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First up, we have Yuki, the rat. I have a coworker who think rats are the bee’s knees, but for the most part, society don’t generally have a positive view of rats. Nevertheless, Yuki is the prince of his school. Handsome, intelligent, graceful, blah blah blah. He even has a fan club of his own — a fan club that strives to keep anyone from getting too close to their prince. Well, therein lies the problem. Like with Tohru, the story tries to take Yuki’s strengths and turn them into weaknesses. Being a prince means that people will worship the ground that you walk on, but the downside is that you’ll always feel as though you’re on a pedestal. You can’t form genuine friendships. He’s already deprived of intimacy thanks to the curse; he has to reject everyone lest they find out about his animal nature. The fact that he’s so popular serves to isolate him even more. He’s charming on the surface, but there’s a certain iciness to his character once you get up close. So as you can imagine, Tohru is the sort of girl who will come along and shatter those barriers. Honestly, I don’t remember how her relationship with Yuki will play out, but I’m sure he’s one of the prime contenders for her affections.
I just want to quickly talk about Shigure, the dog. Again, I don’t remember much about the overall story, but I do remember him not actually competing for Tohru. As such, his archetype is easily dismissed. Right off the bat, Shigure seems like a carefree, lazy joker. He may be a pretty boy, but he’s not husbando material. Hell, the dude can’t even keep his house clean. This ultimately works out in Tohru’s benefit, since they can employ her as a housekeeper. But in the end, he’s not a viable candidate.
Since the rat screwed the cat over, it’s only natural that the latter ends being Yuki’s rival for Tohru’s love. Unfortunately, there isn’t really much that I can say about Kyo. After all, he only gets introduced at the very end of the episode. But look, we’ve all been down this road before. One of the main love interests always has to be a hot-headed prick who repeatedly pushes the heroine away despite her best efforts to bridge the gap between them. She just wants to love him, but he’s a man fraught with issues! You can bet your ass trust is one of them! And thus we have our fixer-upper. Can you see why he’s a cat? Can ya? If Tohru needs to hop Yuki’s fence, she’ll have to tear down Kyo’s wall. To be fair, a lot of us do love cats despite their apparent coldness towards us. I adopted my cat from the shelter seven years ago, and she was actually gentle towards people. She wasn’t a lap cat, though. She was and still is a bit skittish. It took a couple years before my cat felt comfortable enough to just snuggle up to me on her own. Nevertheless, we’re talking about an animal. I don’t mind dealing with this sort of behavior in a pet, but I would be exhausted trying to be in an actual relationship with a person who is like this. I guess what I’m saying is that in some ways, I can understand the appeal of bad boys, but in a lot of ways, I just don’t.
So how do I feel about Fruits Basket in 2019? Eh, I suppose it deserves some leeway for the uninteresting characters because the source material is relatively old. And yeah, yeah, it’s not about how they start out. Rather, it’s about their ensuing character development and how they confront their problems. Whatever. We’ll see if the drama holds up. In terms of visual fidelity, the series has certainly received one hell of a facelift in the remake, so at least there’s that.