Fruits Basket Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Release Date: Monday, August 09, 2004



What They Say
As the one year anniversary of her mother's death looms on the horizon, Tohru Honda is forced to take inventory of her life. Over the past 12 months she remained strong and focused despite her personal tragedy by becoming a valued member of the well known but mysterious Sohma household. But with the arrival of a new school year comes even more turmoil. Tohru soon discovers that the love and care she gives others is exactly what she needs in the most difficult time of her life...

Includes episodes 13 - 19.

The Review!
The third volume of Fruits Basket hits the streets, and continues to be one of the most consistently superb series currently being released.

Audio:
I listened to the Japanese track for my main viewing, as I really enjoy the performances from the Japanese voice actors. 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 performances. 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 the anime they release. Fruits Basket continues the trend, 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.

Video:
They may pack seven episodes and several special features on this dual-layer disc, the video quality is 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, though in episode 18 when the insert song plays toward the end of the episode, the timing and display goes a little up the creek.

Packaging:
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

Menu:
The menus are a straightforward affair. The main menu has a picture of Kyo in a widescreen format, and against the background of the Sohma house and the fading images of other characters, with the sakura petals blowing. This volume's pattern is pink. 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.

Extras:
The superb selection of extras continue on this volume. Fruits Basket Room #2 features an interview with Tomokazu Seki, the voice of Kyo, which runs about 15 minutes. Once again Yui Horie does the questioning, and Tomokazu Seki has a lot to say on his feelings of Kyo and how he approaches playing him. It's a really enjoyable interviews.

The next extra also runs about 15 minutes, and goes through the eyecatches and "ka-ching wipes" that are seen throughout the latter half of 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I loved the first volume, and loved the second, gushing over both in my previous reviews. Now we've arrived at the third volume, and with much anticipation I popped it in my player. Seven episodes later, and I can do nothing but gush once more. For Fruits Basket is simply a joy to watch, and I can't help but be engrossed by the series and it's wonderful cast of characters. I've said it before, but it's really refreshing to see this series released in the UK, because it really does signify a maturing market for anime, when we have such a slow-paced and character-driven series released.

This third volume has a further seven delightful episodes, spanning a wide array of events. The opening episode begins with the start of the new school year, which sees Momiji and Hatsuharu enrolling in school. Tohru decides that she wants to pay the newcomers a visit, and takes Kyo along with her. Yuki eventually joins the foray, with the student council president arriving too, taking exception to the colour of Hatsuharu's hair, amongst other things (which doesn't go down too well). More importantly, the episode brings the first meeting between Akito and Tohru, and sees Tohru witness the fear Yuki has for him first hand.

The next episode sees the arrival of another member of the zodiac, Ayame Sohma. He takes the form of a snake, and after an interesting encounter with Tohru, we get to see his relationship with Yuki, and it's not pretty! We do get some nice insight into how he really feels when he speaks with Tohru, though. The new year also brings the anniversary of Tohru's mother's death, and so she, Uotani, Hanajima, Yuki and Kyo visit her grave and have lunch there. It brings up some memories but also brings out feelings towards Tohru, in particular from Uotani and Hanajima. Later, Tohru also learns the heartbreaking secret behind some of the mothers of zodiac members.

The remainder of the volume gives us a trip to the Sohma cottage with pretty much all the male Sohmas and Tohru, as well as introducing us to the tiger of the zodiac, Kisa Sohma, and showing us why Tohru is one of the most mature young girls most people could know. We also see a hilarious episode which sees the Yuki fan club try and outwit Hanajima to get to Tohru, and several people have to go through make up exams in school.

The beauty of Fruits Basket continues to come across here, with the balance between heart-wrenching drama and perfect comedy continuing. Each episode seems to carry some tragedy in its story but rather than seem downbeat, there always manages to be something uplifting, usually through Tohru and her outlook on life, that often brings a tear to my eye. Fruits Basket is a really emotionally charged show in that regard, which I would generally love, but when you add in the comic relief it never fails to bring a smile to my face. Often such a shift would throw me off the emotional balance and pull me out of things, but with this show it strikes a perfect chord and always fits the characters. The hilarious exchanges between Yuki and Hayame, Ayama and Shigure, Tohru and Kyo among others are wonderful to watch.

The show really gives off a great "family" feel between the characters, as they get along, and sometimes bicker, but at the end of the day they're all there for each other, and this is another aspect of the show I really continue to enjoy. Watching the relationships between the major players grow and change is great, because they're all developed so well.

Tohru is one of the most inspiring anime characters I've ever seen. She's just such a wonderful person with the most positive outlook on everything no matter what odds she faces. Her relationship with Uotani and Hanajima displays this perfectly, because both of them realise how kind and caring she is, and how she brings out the best in them. Likewise, she always looks for the best in people herself and is just so uplifting and caring. Watching her with Momiji when he tells her the story of how his mother rejected him was wonderful, because all she needs to do is hug him and somehow it makes things seem better. In the episode introducing Kisa, her actions and talks with Kisa were just so wonderful, in particular in the scene with Kisa's mother present when she explains why Kisa probably isn't speaking. She's so understanding and it just makes her a wonderful character to watch.

Yuki and Kyo aren't in the forefront of this batch of episodes all the time, yet still we see plenty of growth in their relationships with Tohru. It's especially noticeable in the episode where everyone goes to the Sohma cottage, and the pair walk with Tohru and are silent, and she thinks there's something wrong. But all they can say is that they've both got used to having Tohru around, and both clearly like her and feel that she brings out good points in them, though they might not admit it. When they start bickering again you can't help but think things are suddenly right in the world again!

The new characters introduced also bring out some interesting character traits, especially Ayame. Seeing his relationship with Yuki in particular brings out even more reason for Yuki being so introspective, but it's great to see Tohru encourage him not to give up, because Ayame clearly wants to make things right between them. Akito also brings out another side of Yuki, though this one is fear. Seeing Yuki's fear was really quite disturbing, but I'm hoping we get to see more of the Akito and Yuki story before the series ends.

If there's one problem with Fruits Basket, it's only that there's such a large cast of characters to serve, and that cast is ever growing. It's an interesting situation because all the new characters introduced are wonderful, and have great backstories and fit in wonderfully. It's just that because there're so many of them, it becomes hard to service them all, and so some get pushed to the back. We don't see quite so much Shigure or Hatori, for instance, though what we do see, especially with Ayame, is pure golden. Even Yuki and Kyo aren't quite so at the forefront here, but it's a minor quibble given the quality of writing and that the stories we do get are excellent. It continues to be a testament to the quality of the show that all the characters are so well fleshed out and that even new characters are wonderful to watch, and that you sometimes miss characters that aren't always there.

The animation quality again remains consistent in this volume, with the show looking really vibrant and bright (with a lot of whites coming through a lot of the time, giving an almost dream-like feel). The music also deserves a special mention, as it fits the scenes perfectly, from the incidental background music to the insert songs used at during the more dramatic moments. When the opening theme kicked in at the end of the episode where Momiji tells Tohru about his mother, I found it very emotional. It's a really great soundtrack.

In Summary:
I really can't get enough of Fruits Basket, with every episode being completely engrossing and an absolute joy to watch. The characters are simply wonderful creations, and all credit should go to the creators of the show for adapting the manga so well and balancing the drama and comedy pretty much perfectly. The release is great value, with seven episodes on this disc alone, and the presentation from MVM and FUNimation is superb, with a wealthy array of extras, all for an excellent price. While it's unlikely to win round those who only like action-oriented shows and can't take a character driven show with a slower feel, it is a nice change of pace from the usual UK releases, and I couldn't be happier that the show is being released here. In fact, my only disappointment is that the show will be over with the next volume. I really can't find anything to dislike here, and so can't recommend Fruits Basket enough.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Fruits Basket Room #2,Eyecatch Featurette #2

Review Equipment
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: MVM Entertainment
MSRP: �19.99
Running time: 170
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fruits Basket