Fruits Basket Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, June 24, 2004
Release Date: Monday, June 07, 2004
What They Say
The Sohma family is cursed. However, this is no ordinary family curse. When a member of the family is embraced by a person of the opposite gender, they transform into an animal of the Chinese Zodiac! The Sohma's managed to keep thecurse private for generations, but when a young girl stumbles upon their secret, life at the Sohma house changes forever. Conflict erupts as Zodiac rivals clash in this most unusual household. Young Tohru Honda must promise the secret will remain her own, or face the consequences!
Includes episodes 7 - 12.
The second volume of Fruits Basket arrives, and quickly shows why it's one of the most refreshing, and best, series currently being released.
I listened to the Japanese track for my main viewing, as I really enjoyed the Japanese voice actors on the first volume. This stereo mix is pretty basic but serves its purpose, since the show is mostly dialogue-oriented anyway thanks to the relative lack of action (with plenty of odd sound effects). I noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
I spot-checked the English track, and continued to enjoy the performance. I also noticed no technical problems with the track. This is a dub that I'll definitely revisit in full when I come to watch the series again.
One way in which FUNimation continue to win me over is that they're the only company left now who consistently dub all the opening and ending themes to their anime, and accurately at that. Fruits Basket is no different, and when it could've been easy to massacre a beautiful song like the opening "For Fruits Basket", they pulled it off really well. The dubbed end theme is very good, too. While I love the Japanese versions, I actually enjoy the English versions too, which is a great thing to be able to say.
Despite packing six episodes and several special features on this dual-layer disc, the video quality is very, very good. I noticed no artifacting at all, and very minimal aliasing throughout the show. Even in the darkest areas, there was no noticeable macro-blocking during regular playback. Colours are vibrant and the picture is nice and clear; it really is a great looking disc.
As with most of their shows, FUNimation also went the extra length here, providing alternate angles for the openings, endings and next episode previews. This means that you can either watch the translated, English credits in the opening, or the original Japanese opening with kanji. Likewise for the ending, and the text on the next episode previews is replaced on the English angle but in kanji on the other. My only gripe would be the lack of translated credits on the English angle for the Japanese cast - I don't particularly appreciate having to look up the cast names online.
Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, bigger than the white font used on the US discs. They're generally good with only a couple of grammatical errors that I noticed.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
The menus are a straightforward affair. The main menu has a lovely picture of Yuki in a widescreen format, and against the background of the Sohma house and the fading images of characters, with the sakura petals blowing, it looks quite cinematic. This time is a blue flower pattern. Episodes numbers run across the bottom to jump straight to an episode, with the "setup" and "extras" options. The two sub-menus are static but use a nice, suitable font for the selections. The menus really fit with the warm style of the show.
The superb selection of extras continue on this volume. First up is a nice interview with Akitaro Daichi, running just over 12 minutes, in which he gives a good insight into how he feels about the show, what it was like working on it and what it was like working on a show adapted from an ongoing manga series. Aya Hisakawa gets the interview treatment in the next extra which runs just about 15 minutes. She gives her thoughts on playing Yuki and also tells of some of her experiences with the role.
The next extra also runs about 15 minutes, and discusses the eyecatches and "ka-ching wipes" that are seen throughout the episodes. After a brief rundown of who draws them and how, we see each with an explanation of what they are. It's a little bit strange, but still a very nice addition. To cap things out we have a textless version of the beautiful opening, as well as some text-based character profiles.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After I did nothing but gush over the first volume, I was eagerly anticipating the second as soon as I knew it was on its way, almost like a little kid. I expected more of the same – a great character piece that continued the heart-warming story from the first volume. And it didn't disappoint in the slightest. If you hated the first volume (but how? why?!?) then there probably isn't much to interest you here, as it is indeed mostly more of the same. But for me that is a refreshing change, especially for the UK market as we continue to see more and more diverse genres being released. Fruits Basket is a relatively slow show that works at its own pace, but for me it really hits the mark.
This volume features six episodes that continue to follow Tohru over time as she lives in the Sohma house, finding out more about her new "family", and meeting even more of the Sohmas. The first episode on the disc introduces us to Momiji and Hatori, two more of the clan, who come to school to visit Yuki and Kyo on the day of the school's culture festival. While Momiji is fun loving and mainly just wanted to meet Tohru (and try to impress her), Hatori's reason for visiting is more unclear, as he only says Akito sent him to check up on them. Nevertheless, the class' onigiri stand is a huge success, thanks in no small part to Yuki dressing up in traditional women's clothing.
Hatori's intentions soon become clear, though, as he summons Tohru for a private visit to the Sohma estate. This only gives her troubling thoughts, as she believes Hatori may want to erase her memories as he has done before. Instead, he asks her to leave Shigure's house, saying that she will only cause problems and heartache if she stays. But her resolve is clear, as her housemates have now become her new family, and she simply can't leave them. But it turns out that Hatori's reasoning relates to his own somewhat tragic past. Then, as New Year rolls around, Tohru plans a nice dinner for everyone at home. Sadly she finds out that the Sohma boys can't make it, because they have to return home for the celebrations. Despite her reassurance, Yuki and Kyo quickly realise that they can't leave Tohru alone at such a sad time of year.
Not content with the zodiac members introduced so far, the New Year brings another member of the Sohma family into the fore, this time Hatsuharu, who amusingly has come a long way just to have a fight with Kyo. Then it's time for Valentine's Day, which means problems for Yuki and Kyo, as all the girls in school want to give them gifts and hugs, but even more interesting is the gift that Momiji wants to give Tohru a month later for White Day (in Japan, the women usually give men gifts on Valentine's Day, while the men give their gifts on White Day) – a trip to a hot spring!
With each episode Fruits Basket flies by, and even with six on a disc I find myself eagerly anticipating each, and eager for more once I've watched them all. The balance reached between comedy and drama is perfect, and it just makes me love the show more and more. One episode can be a heart-wrenching tale that includes the tragic backstory of a character, as is the case with Hatori and his girlfriend whose memory he was forced to erase. But then that's counter-balanced by amusing comedy, like in the New Year's episode, as the whole gang are together cleaning Shigure's house and causing plenty of trouble and hilarity as they do it. And then each episode always has some heart-warming moment of tenderness, like Yuki and Kyo realising that they can't leave Tohru at home alone at this time of year, and then Tohru's sweet reaction when they return home for her.
While the show follows the manga closely, it's clear that director Akitaro Daichi (who I'm a big fan of) and the screenwriters worked very hard on the balancing act, and it comes off extremely well.
With each episode it's also a great joy to see how all of the characters have grown and changed. While they all retain most of the traits they started with, it's clear that the experiences we are watching are changing them, and it's really nice. Yuki and Kyo continue to go at it, but clearly they both have feelings for Tohru. Neither is good at expressing them, though - Yuki keeps to himself while Kyo tends to lash out. It is often clear that there are things bothering Yuki, and hopefully we'll find out what his issues are as the series goes on, but he obviously cares for Tohru as he goes out of his way to make sure she's OK. Even Kyo, who rarely shows his feelings to anyone, opens himself up to Tohru every now and then, like when they have a discussion on the roof at school, and when he accepts her Valentine's Day chocolates.
Tohru herself is a fantastic character, too, always being so strong and kind for everyone else's benefit, and always staying true to herself and what she thinks her mother would like her to do. She's so sweet in her interactions with the other characters that, despite her occasional naivety, you can't help but love her. The rest of the Sohmas are always an interesting bunch. Shigure provides much amusement, as does Momiji, while Hatori and to a greater extent, Akito, bring a sinister air to things, even if Hatori's past reveals his reasoning. Hatsuharu is completely wild with his split personality, and is a blast when he fights with Kyo.
It's a testament to the writing that all the characters, even the more incidental ones like Tohru's friends, manage to be well fleshed-out to such a degree that it's wonderful just to watch them interact. Few series manage to tackle such a large cast of characters with such results, as usually the supporting characters end up falling by the wayside, but one of this show's biggest strengths remains the characters and how entertaining they are.
Fruits Basket is a completely absorbing show for me, that I sit down to watch and before I know it, it's all over. The characters are superbly written and fleshed out, and the stories captivating, making it a delightful slice of entertainment. The presentation from MVM and FUNimation is top notch, with six episodes and great extras at a nice price. There's little to complain about here, and I would wholeheartedly recommend this series to, well, anyone. It's fantastic and just crying out to be enjoyed.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Interview with Akitaro Daichi,Fruits Basket Room #1 – Aya Hisakawa,Eyecatch Featurette #1
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
Running time: 145
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fruits Basket