Blu-Ray Review: Fruits Basket – Season 1 Part 1

The classic story, which is also available on Blu-Ray via MVM Entertainment, gets a remake in the form of a newly animated series and courtesy of Manga Entertainment UK the first half of the first season is available in the UK on Blu-Ray. What did we make of the series, and in turn this Season 1 Part 1 Blu-Ray release of Fruits Basket? Well let’s take a look.

Synopsis:

After a family tragedy turns her life upside down, 16-year-old high schooler Tohru Honda takes matters into her own hands and moves out… into a tent! Unfortunately for her, she pitches her new home on private land belonging to the mysterious Soma clan, and it isn’t long before the owners discover her secret.

But, as Tooru quickly finds out when the family offers to take her in, the Soma’s have a secret of their own‚ when hugged by the opposite sex, they turn into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac!

Our View:

Adapted from Natsuki Takaya’s Shojo Manga of the same name, and a re-imagining of the classic series animated by Studio Deen (of which is also available on DVD and Blu-Ray via MVM Entertainment), comes TMS/8PAN’s animated series Fruits Basket that has been refreshed and revitalised for a new generation of anime fans, and it looks gorgeous. It goes without saying that fans of the original series, and in turn manga, will love this fresh perspective of the classic tale; with newly animated presentation combined with the familiar voice cast of the original.

Fruits Baskets follows the journey of 16-year-old high school student Tohru Honda who finds herself living outside in a tent after a set of unfortunate events. These events are not only emotional but give Tohru a deeper backstory than most characters within a drama series such as this; and further information about her difficult upbringing is continuously drip fed throughout. Despite this rather depressing lifestyle that Tohru has been dealt, she continues to live the life of an ordinary high-school student, by attending school during the day and working a part-time job at night to pay her own way.

This, rather abnormal, lifestyle soon dives into the mysterious after the Soma clan discover her on their land. This fateful encounter leads Tohru to begin living within the Soma clan, in exchange for cooking and cleaning within the household, but more importantly it leads Tohru to discover the mysterious secret that the Soma clan have been keeping. That secret is the fact that key figureheads within the Soma Clan are representatives of animals from the Chinese Zodiac and whenever they hug a person of the opposite gender, who isn’t a Zodiac figurehead, will find themselves transforming into the animal they represent.

The discovery of the Soma’s secret initially causes concern, but with Tohru’s word of secrecy the Soma’s, of which consist of Shigure (Dog), Yuki (Rat) and Kyo (Cat), begin to live a relatively normal life within the household. This normality sees Tohru doing chores will gradually learn more about Yuki, who coincidentially is the most popular guy at school, and Kyo who is considered an outcast and potentially hated by other Zodiac members. As the story progresses, especially within this first half of the series, we are introduced to more members of the Zodiac, each with their own quirky personality and charm, as well as the difficulties that they have to overcome whilist being a member of Soma household.

For the most part Fruits Basket – Season 1 Part 1 offers a mixture of drama mixed slice of life and comedy elements, but the further we progress forward through the episodes the more darker the storyline becomes. For instance the key figurehead of the Soma familiar, Akito, soon begins to take an interest in Tohru while Yuki, who wants to leave the Soma household behind due to a terrible upbringing, shares his own concerns and disinterest in Akito and how he manages the household. Naturally I am expecting these to lead into a more sinister storyline that will see Yuki and Kyo, as well as potentially other Soma members, risking their lives in order to protect the status quo. A teaser of this, in some capcity, does happen throughout the episodes that are included.

As someone who is new to Fruits Basket then my experience is somewhat mixed, with the animation quality and presentation being better than most anime releases of late. Similar to Kyoto Animation the animation quality and presentation, on selective scenes, is visually stunning but the overall pacing and presentation of a lacklusture story leaves much more to be desired. What is the goal, the objective or the endgame? In my mind there doesn’t seem to be one other than keeping the status quo and learning more about the characters Tohru interacts with; but at the moment this is only half of the series. Fruits Basket is visually appealing and emotionally sound, but to me it lacks something.

Extras:

Manga Entertainment are once again using disc masters authored by Madman Entertainment, which are based upon the FUNimation masters, as such we receive all of the same supplementary content as other English speaking regions. In this case fans will find English Cast commentaries and English Cast Interviews along with textless songs and trailers for Australian related releases.

Due to Fruits Baskets being a recreation of a previously animated series the English Cast Commentaries, and English Cast Interviews, are actually really insightful as FUNimation recast some of the same voice cast as the original anime series. Loathe or love it, it does mean that fans of the original cast will feel at home with this new series; but when it comes to the Commentaries and Cast interviews we see the English Cast, and ADR Directors, provide insight in what it was like working on this variation of the series compared to the previous series.

That’s not the only insightful feature either as the English Cast Commentaries sees Script Writers and Directors highlight differences that were made during the localisation; such as the change from Leak to Chives. Basically if you watch Fruits Basket dubbed then these commentaries and interviews will add a bit more depth, and a behind the scenes look, at the localisation and English dub production of the series; but more importantly than that it shows that the team responsible for the English Dub production took great care in staying true to the source material.

The final selection of supplementary content meanwhile is the usual selection of textless opening and closing songs, which took awhile for me to actually like due to their slow paced nature, and trailers for other anime releases. As the discs are based on an Australian release the trailers are tailored to Australian markets, but its always nice to see them included. Overall it is a well rounded selection of bonus features but it would have been nice to see more from the Japanese production and promotional side; or deeper exploration – and comparisons – with the original series.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50, BD 25
Region: B
Running Time: 3:10:56 (Disc 1), 1:59:20 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DolbyTrue HD 5.1 (English) & DolbyTrue HD 2.0 (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Fruits Basket – Season 1 Part 1 invites viewers to re-experience the story of Tohru Honda and her interactions with the Soma family through a freshly animated series that rekindles the excitement of the original while attempting to draw in new fans. Whether this succeeds is dependent on how much you enjoy the story and its characters, but those already familiar with Fruits Basket be familiar with the story, while newcomers will find an oddly comical but emotional story line filled with deceit, heartbreak and trauma.

With this first half viewers are introduced to Tohru Honda, a seemingly average high-school student that finds herself homeless as a result of her mother’s death and family members moving, and the Soma clan, a group that have close ties to the Chinese Zodiac with members of the clan being cursed. This chance encounter sees Shigure (Dog) and Yuki (Rat) help Tohru in living accommodation in exchange for somewhere for household chores, but in doing so their Soma Clan secret is let out. From here Tohru, Shigure, Yuki and Kyo attempt to lead an ordinary life while learning more about each other and the difficulties that they must overcome to lead that normal life.

This story line continues until the later stages of this release which sees other members of the Zodiac, and in turn the Soma clan, introduce themselves – which causes some concern for Yuki and Kyo – especially when the Akito, the head of Clan, makes his presence known. An interesting story indeed, with some beautifully crafted scenes and lovable characters, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere other than displaying mindless banter between characters. By the third episode the troubles with Tohru seem to be resolved, so everything else just seems like filler.

Overall Fruits Basket – Season 1 Part 1 delivers the first half of the series in consistent quality with an entertaining selection of bonus features, that remain true to the source material and delivers that nostalgic vibe with returning voice cast for the English dub. Fans of the original will adore this new variation of the classic tale, while potential newcomers will find a slice of life styled story with a mysterious vibe that’s definitely worth checking out just to see what it’s all about.

Score: review-stars-4

Fruit Baskets – Season 1 Part 1 is now available on Blu-Ray in the UK via Manga Entertainment UK.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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