Fruits Basket Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Release Date: Monday, September 20, 2004
What They Say
To say that Tohru Honda's life in the Sohma household has been difficult would be quite an understatement. She has learned to adapt to a constantly changing environment, to selflessly put others before herself and to courageously face her own inner demons. But even despite all the trauma and heartache, Tohru will discover a reality far worse than any nightmare when she learns Kyo's shocking inner secret. Tohru heads toward the crossroads of her fate. Which path she takes will determine how much she has truly learned about others, and herself...
And after several months, probably the best series released in the UK this year comes to an end, packing a huge emotional punch.
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.
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, though I dislike that the signs are subtitled in the same colour as the text; it gets a bit confusing.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
The menus are a straightforward affair. The main menu has the cover image of Tohru, Yuki and 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. Essentially, it's the same as the other volumes bar the image, with the pattern being green this time. 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, each with a different image (but no music), and a suitable font is used for the selections. The menus really fit with the warm style of the show.
The great selection of extras from the Japanese release continues on this volume. Fruits Basket Room #3 features an interview conducted by Yui Horie, the Japanese voice of Tohru, this time with Ryotaru Okiayu, who voices Shigure. This one lasts close to 15 minutes. It's another really enjoyable interview with some great banter and interesting views on the characters.
We also get the textless opening, which features either the English dubbed version or the Japanese original. It's great to watch to soak up the beautiful song. Finally, we have the return of more character profiles and also an image gallery with poster illustrations from various promotional pieces.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sometimes you watch something and it moves you. Sometimes you watch something and realise it was an amazing piece of television. Sometimes you watch something and realise it's a masterpiece. And all three, and more, apply in spades to the emotionally draining yet still energetic and comic final volume of Fruits Basket.
Having loved the previous volumes, it's really difficult to be objective about the series now. So I'll just come out and say upfront. If you don't like shows with little action, or lots of dialogue, or a heavy focus on the characters and their feelings, then Fruits Basket isn't for you. You probably won't like it based on your tastes, and would be better off picking something else instead, so shuffle along and find something like Ninja Scroll. But then, presumably if you felt like that you wouldn't be reading a fourth review of a series you're not interested in. So with that preface out the way, I'll say that I love these characters. To go all squeally fanboy for a minute, they're awesome. I am really into them. So this volume plays out so perfectly for me, it's really hard to put into words.
This volume features seven packed episodes, including Yuki visiting his brother's shop, to try and find out more about him. There's plenty of comedy here, but what's really good about it is the realisation that Yuki comes to regarding Ayame, that he will never see eye to eye with him on everything but he has to learn to accept him. We also witness the return of Kisa Sohma, and with her Hiro Sohma, a young boy who really likes Kisa and is totally jealous of Tohru and how Kisa feels about her. While Kisa treats Tohru really badly she never gives up on him, and he soon realises that he may be hurting Kisa by acting so mean.
The third episode here is somewhat surprisingly devoted to the Yuki fan club, in particular the lead member, Motoko. She's about to graduate at the end of the year, being a year older than Yuki, and finally has a chance to confront him and figure out her feelings as she meets him in an episode which features very little of the regular cast members, but is a really nice look at Motoko's character and the way Yuki inspires people (for better or worse). We then get to meet Ritsu Sohma, who is the child of the crazy Sohma hot spring owner. Ritsu has a bit of a secret, which is quite shocking to Tohru but still, she manages to help encourage Ritsu to overcome the issues that he's faced since his childhood.
While they are all really good episodes in their own right, and feature some good character development, the focus is surprisingly shifted away from the core group of characters for a lot of the time. It may seem a little strange, but it's a final chance to give Tohru and Yuki a bit of development with the help of some other characters and situations to deal with. But for the final three episodes, the show switches back to the core cast of Tohru, Yuki and Kyo for the final dramatic and totally gripping arc.
It's really difficult to talk about without giving too much away, so while I'll try there really could be spoilers here so be warned if you're planning on watching the show. At it's core, Fruits Basket is a series about Tohru Honda, a girl who has just lost her mother and has a pretty tough time, but always tries to look positively on things because it's what her mother taught her, and the influence she has on the people around her. It really shows just how having good people, with a positive outlook and who are always loving and caring around you can help you in life, and it's no more evident than in these final three episodes.
The final arc centres around the return of Kyo's master, Kazuma Sohma, who is not a member of the zodiac but is the person that took Kyo in. His grandfather was also the cat of the zodiac, so he knows how people felt about his grandfather and how he was treated like an outcast (including by Kazuma himself), and he felt for Kyo so took him under his wing. Kyo clearly has a strong bond with Kazuma, and wants to return to live with him. But Kazuma has other plans, and has known about Tohru and how Kyo feels about her. While Akito is continually jealous of Tohru and her interaction with Yuki and Kyo, Kazuma decides to make Kyo face his fears whether he likes it or not, by revealing to Tohru his big secret - the true form of the cat spirit that possesses him.
Kyo's biggest fear, and the reason he wants to leave, is that despite how much he likes Tohru, and even Yuki below the fašade, is how scared he is of what she will think of his true form. He's seen everyone else's reaction, and felt the rejection from his mother, Yuki and everyone else who has seen him in his true form. It's a story that is just set up for a huge emotional pelt, which is something it really delivers on. It's orchestrated perfectly in episode 24, as we find out just enough information to know what is going on, and get to see a bit more of what makes Kyo tick and why he is the way he is. We also get to see more of Akito starting with this episode, and come to understand his feelings a little more giving the sacrifice he will eventually have to make, despite having never had a choice in the matter.
While there are just so many outstanding moments throughout these last three episodes, it's perhaps the penultimate episode that packs the biggest punch, and is just a tour-de-force of emotion. It centres almost entirely on flashbacks to Kyo's childhood and what Tohru will do having seen Kyo's true form. It's the ultimate test for her with regard her involvement with the Sohmas, and it's just a beautifully constructed episode from start to finish. I have to admire a creative team, headed by one of my favourite directors Akitaro Daichi, that can produce such an amazing range and depth of emotions as we see here. They manage to show us exactly what Tohru is thinking and feeling with her saying very little, but through her brief and harsh encounter with Akito in the forest, and an encounter with her friends. The scene at the graveyard with Hana-chan and Uo-chan was one of the most memorable in the series for me, as watching them fight for Tohru both in their own way was really harsh and yet beautiful at the same time. There was a similarly excellent scene with Kagura and Yuki, as she makes him realise that it's not just Tohru that needs to be with Kyo now. The flashbacks to Kyo's past are the icing on the cake as they really show us the reasons why Kyo is the person he is.
The final episode surprised me in that, while providing the wrap-up to this aspect of the Kyo story, they also took it in a slightly unexpected direction for me. Seeing Yuki and Tohru face off with Kyo was really powerful, and what I loved most was that all the characters kept their integrity and weren't forced to say or do things that were out of character. Tohru admits that she was scared, but that honesty is exactly the right thing at the time. It was really a wonderful scene for me that cemented these characters as some of my favourites in any TV show, because they weren't compromised and stayed true to form and provided some amazing drama. Going to see Akito was a bold move for Tohru, and yet it really hit me when she decided to go despite Shigure's warning not to just how much she has grown while living with the Sohma's too. She has definitely managed to be herself, as her mother wanted her to, and she has also become a little more bold, but it's for the better. Though I initially thought that maybe it would lead to a rushed ending, the visit was one of my favourite parts of this final arc and provided a nice cap to the series.
I won't go on any more about how well I thought the final episodes worked, both as the end of the anime series and as a story in their own right, because I think I've gotten that across. Fruits Basket, from the very first episode, has been a series that is truly amazing for its characters, and that trait stayed with the series right to the very end. Watching them all, their nuances and interactions with each other, has been really insightful and a complete pleasure, and they've all grown so much in their own ways that looking back it really has been a fantastic journey, and it shows that you don't need an amazing on-going plot to carry a series when you have characters as strong as these.
I am so glad that MVM and FUNimation didn't give up on releasing this series in the UK. It's not your typical series that would usually be released, as it's so character heavy and isn't the sort of show that will have cross appeal to major action fans. But it's made it out here in full and I couldn't be happier, because it's the best series I've seen this year and if it hooks you, it will hook you with it's spectacular cast of deep, meaningful and energetic characters that are truly wonderful to watch. It has the added benefit of being a really good release in terms of value for money, being released on just four discs with excellent production quality. Fruits Basket is a joy to behold, and it's truly been a pleasure to watch. Fantastic stuff that gets my highest recommendation.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Character Profiles,Fruits Basket Room No. 3,Illustration Gallery
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
Running time: 170
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fruits Basket