Wholesome is a relatively easy feeling to communicate, but true warmth is much harder to show. Luckily, FRUITS BASKET manages to convey both episode after episode. All the while, gentle mixes of humor, love, and slow development make the show incredibly pleasant. Each moment within the show feels like a deep dive into the people on screen. As far as anime go, this tends to be a shortcoming for many. If there’s any development at all, it tends to either be forced or stem from major events like trauma.

FRUITS BASKET is particularly impressive not only for its development but by how it makes development happen. Rather than rely on major events or a grandiose plotline, character interactions and conversations allow everyone to progress mutually. This is what makes the anime so palatable. Additionally, the characters on the show are all compelling and interesting. I don’t feel disdain toward anyone a few weeks into the season.

There are tons of things that make this anime great, but here are a few things we think make it a must see this season!

1. A Twist on Family Dynamic

FRUITS BASKET follows high school student Tohru Honda. Following the untimely death of her mother, Tohru moves in with her grandfather. However, Tohru feels like a burden. Her grandfather is living on a pension, and most of her family are unsure who would be capable of supporting her long-term. Tohru decided to take that responsibility into her own hands. To that end, she lives in a tent and supports herself by working part-time after long days at school. But, everything changes when she meets a popular classmate, Yuki Soma, and is invited to move in with his family. The Soma family has a gaggle of young men living in the house, but that isn’t what makes it interesting.

Tohru reacting bashfully to the Soma's offer for a room in FRUITS BASKET.
Tohru as the Somas offer her a place to stay | Image: Crunchyroll

Each member of the Soma household is possessed by a different spirit of the Chinese zodiac. When twelve members of the family are weak, stressed, embarrassed, or hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they transform into their respective zodiac animal. Tohru slowly comes to realize that the Soma’s curse is more complicated than just mere inconvenience. The animals of the zodiac have particular meanings. For the Soma’s, being a real member of the zodiac is important. Even more, finding their own particular meaning within a strange existence is something tangible and clearly imperative to the family.

Some Somas feel constrained by the “real” status they have. Others who don’t have that status desperately want it. Many anime talk about finding yourself, but FRUITS BASKET is miles ahead of them. The story combines the inherent uncertainty of adolescence with familial dynamics. In doing so, the resultant show takes a familiar setting and weaves a bright tapestry of less than familiar introspection into it.

2. Strong Core Characters Want the Best out of Each Other

Tohru is a conduit for many of the relationships between other characters in the Soma clan. Kyo and Yuki Soma, for example, are cousins who quarrel constantly. But Yuki always tends to win, whether it be in a test of strength, coolness, or general character. This conflict gets another mythological layer once we learn about their respective curses.

Old folk tales say that the cat lost its potential spot because of the rat’s trickery. Kyo is cursed by the cat, an animal who lacks a position in the Chinese zodiac. Unsurprisingly, Yuki is possessed by the rat. The result is that the conflict between Kyo and Yuki’s spirits manifests in their daily lives. Kyo is originally a headstrong yet kind presence. Yuki is distant, being careful not to get too close to anyone and reveal his curse.

But for both Yuki and Kyo, Tohru is a breath of fresh air. Rather than react negatively to their curse, Tohru embraces them. Most people who discover the Soma secret have their memories forcibly wiped. Tohru is the first to earn the family’s trust and avoid erasure.

Tohru and Kyo speaking in FRUITS BASKET.
Tohru and Kyo connect | Image: Crunchyroll

In terms of personality, Tohru is awkward. But, she excels in boosting the morale of others. Kyo is headstrong but kind-hearted and incredibly loyal. Yuki is cool to the point seeming distant but refreshingly caring. Even between just these three main characters, their interactions create mutual tracks of growth. Each person in FRUITS BASKET has a web of relationships, all of which come together in a brilliant mosaic on the screen.

3. Fitting Art with a Light Aesthetic

The art style of FRUITS BASKET is a point of contention for a lot of viewers. On the one hand, it is different from the original anime. On the other hand, the light, colorful style suits the story and characters. The animation evokes a slice of life, shoujo aesthetic and fits the relationship focused storyline like a glove.

The music is also different than the 2001 version. It carries the same lightness to match the aesthetic. The music emphasizes each moment rather than just conveying it. Sadness carries slow piano notes in the background. On the flip side, triumphant moments of connection carry bright crescendos of wind instruments and violin. These elements of art blend together to create a unique, flowing presentation.

Tohru's detailed facial expression in FRUITS BASKET
Just one example of careful expressive detail | Image: Crunchyroll

FRUITS BASKET excels at making these combinations perfect. Eyes are bright and detailed with gentle music to fit touching scenes. If you look carefully, you can even watch as light dances across a character’s eyes during deep conversations. It’s a level of detail many anime don’t bother with. But FRUITS BASKET shows this detail really pays off.

4. Empowering Themes of Personal Growth

Perhaps the most important element in FRUITS BASKET is growth. The notion of inclusion in the Chinese zodiac is a good frontline for what the series really tries to capture. Being recognized as popular, legitimate, or even real isn’t some inherent good, and this anime makes that quite clear.

What really matters is living a life that truly embodies who someone is. For Tohru, this comes from her mother’s wisdom. Her mother encourages her to find herself and prosper. Tohru has to reconcile her old life with her current reality following her mother’s death. For others like the Soma clan, managing their curse is the important part.

Tohru musing over her mother in FRUITS BASKET
Tohru thinking of memories of her mother | Image: Crunchyroll

In either case, each episode looks at different personal struggles and resolves in conversation. By the end, everyone has learned something and is all the better for it, which is something incredibly nice to watch. It’s empowering to both the characters and the viewer to be part of this experience.

Strong and Deep Stories from FRUITS BASKET!

All in all, this is a fantastic anime that will make your spring worthwhile. It’s quite popular, but many people might not bother checking it out. To those of you who stick to shonen, or won’t watch anything without action, this is still worth your while. If anything, anime like FRUITS BASKET create an experience and a narrative that sticks with you rather than merely entertains you.

Featured image courtesy of Crunchyroll.

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