Fruits Basket Vol. #1 (of 4) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, September 02, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What They Say
After the death of her mother, the only parent she had ever known, Tohru moved in with her paternal grandfather. Not wanting to be a burden, she began working as a housekeeper in order to help him supplement his modest savings and to pay her own way through high school.

Tohru has been living in a tent for a few weeks while renovations are being done on her grandfather's house. On her way to school, she meets a boy named Shigure. The two are in the middle of their conversation, when who should appear but Shigure's cousin, Yuki Souma ? the cutest and most sought-after boy in Tohru?s school! Since they?re going to the same place, Yuki offers to walk Tohru to school.

Later that day, Tohru and Yuki cross paths once again. Seeing that she is clearly exhausted from a hard day of school and work, they take her back to their house and give her a comfortable place to rest. In the morning, Tohru awakens to the offer of a job and a place to stay. She accepts, and she is just being shown to her new room when another boy comes crashing through the ceiling. This stranger tries to pick a fight with Yuki, so Tohru wraps her arms around him in order to restrain him. Poof! He turns into a cat. Naturally, Tohru is shocked. In her confusion, she clings to Shigure and Yuki for support. Poof! They turn into animals as well ? a dog and a rat.

The Review!
The first installment of a show that nobody would ever have thought Funimation would even think about a few years ago, they take the material and step up to the plate with it. And it looks like a grand slam to me.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show features a good stereo mix, but it?s not a mix that?s real active in general as this is a very dialogue based show with only a few ?action? moments here and there. Dialogue is crisp and clear and the opening and closing sounds sound excellent.

We listened to the English track in a few places and found that to be about the same level of quality, which is solid but not terribly active. One of the things that Funimation does that I love is they dub the songs, and the one for this release is fantastic. I?ll hold out hope for an actual soundtrack release someday.

Fruits Basket is the first use of the dual layered format for Funimation and by all indications, they?ve mastered it just fine. There?s a full six episodes of show here as well as a twenty five minute extra and numerous menus and other little bits. And it only uses about 7.5 gig of space out of the 9.x or so available. In terms of the transfer, it?s just about as flawless as I can find it to be on my setup. Colors are beautifully saturated, aliasing is extremely minimal and cross coloration is only noticeable in a few areas during pause/step movements. Like past releases, the opening and ending sequences display an angle based on menu selections, so if you select Japanese with or without subtitles, you?ll get the original logo and original untranslated credits. Selecting English with or without (close captioned) subtitles, you?ll get the English translation of the credits and the English logo as well as the English opening song.

The first cover for this four volume series features a nice if somewhat bland looking piece, where we have Tohru in a nice pink dress set against a yellowish background as some cherry blossom petals blow across the cover. The back cover features a few animation sots and a summary of the shows premise. The discs features and extras are clearly listed as well as the basic production information. The insert provides another shot of the front cover without the Funimation or DVD logos while it opens up to provide summaries for each episode as well as two screenshots of each. This is a good package all around.

The menu layout is done in a fake widescreen feel, with the bars at the top and bottom being filled with soft red and pink flower colors while the center area features character shots and the actual selections. While there is nice relaxing instrumental music playing in each menu, there?s no actual animations slowing anything down, which allows for nice fast access and load times.

There?s a surprising amount of extras here when considering that there?s already six episodes of the show itself. The first is the character profile section, which goes over the main cast members that appear in these episodes. And like other Funimation shows, you can select between the character and the voice actor, with pictures for both. Unfortunately it?s not the Japanese actors as well, but I still check out each English actors credits and bio. A textless version of the opening song is included, which contains the original logo within it. And breaking from tradition of other studios, they let soft subtitles of the song play along, which I like very much. The big extra here though is a twenty-five minute Japanese featurette of Behind the Scenes footage. This covers an immense amount of ground from introducing the shows concept, the original author and series conceptual designer to Akitaro Daichi himself. It was a real treat to see him talk extensively about things, as I continue to find his work among the most compelling out there these days. This extra is a huge goodie to have here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story of Fruits Basket is a very simple one, at least so far into the first six episodes. The tale revolves around high school girl Tohru Honda, a bright and energetic person. We?re introduced to her leaving a tent out in the woods where she apparently lives, as she talks to a picture of her mother about her day to come. During her walk through the woods to the school, she comes across a house she hadn?t seen before, and ends up talking to an older man there about the Chinese zodiac and her own youthful feelings about it. When she realizes she has to get going, the situation changes drastically as another younger man appears, and it turns out to be fellow schoolmate Yuki Sohma.

Sohma is the ?prince of the school?, where he?s the most sought after boy by the girls, has that soft almost effeminate feel and is generally admired by everyone. He?s also of course not taken by anyone and has managed to keep his life simple with zero relationships, to the point where he won?t even hug someone. Tohru?s surprised to see him, but he invites her to walk to school with him, as he and his cousin realize something must be up for her to be out in these woods that are apparently all Sohma-owned.

Tohru?s life begins to change quite a bit from the simple aspect of her walking in a friendly manner with Sohma to school. Several of the girls start to chastise her while her friends stand by. But her life continues on, and as we see how it is after school, the realities truly settle in. Her mother had died some months ago and she had been living with a grandfather until she had to leave due to circumstances. So she lied and said she was living with friends but instead set up a tent in the woods and has been living there while working as a cleaning lady for buildings in the evenings. She?s eventually discovered by Yuki and his elder cousin Shigure.

Going against instincts, the two bring her into their household and give her an open room to call her own until she can get things back to normal. Normal is a word she?ll never know again, as she learns the Sohma?s secret and its relationship to the Chinese Zodiac. Through an accident, she ends up hugging/falling onto one of the guys, which causes a ?boom/poof? sound and transforms said male into one of the creatures of the Zodiac. They eventually turn back with varying amounts of time, but of course end up being naked since they fell out of their clothes. Tohru gets sworn to silence about it, and lives on in the house with the two as well as a new resident named Kyo, an orange haired young man whose set outside of the Zodiac because he changes into a cat.

It would be wrong to say that during these first six episodes that there?s not real plot to it, but it?s very much a simple slow moving series as we get to know the primary characters and their ways. Tohru adapts quickly to the lifestyle of the Sohma?s and she ends up becoming a pretty integral part of the family as she makes herself useful around the household. There?s also the obvious slow growing affection between Yuki and Tohru without it being thrown heavily in our faces from both sides of the coin. The way the group dynamic works, particularly with Kyo and his cat tendencies, play out wonderfully.

One of the things that?s said during the featurette is that they wanted to make a show that would make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Amazingly enough, Fruits Basket accomplishes that and with style. The look of the characters, the cute and simple look of their transformed versions as well as the great dialogue between them all is a huge asset to the show and helps it rise above other shows who?ve done similar themed things in the past.

Fruits Basket is an easy recommendation for those looking for something that doesn?t involved big end of the world issues or the ultra cloying cuteness of some other shows. This one is just a whole lot of fun and will likely be lapped up by every Daichi fan out there. I know I?m pretty hooked.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Textless Opening,Behind the Scenes Featurette

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 19.98
Running time: 123
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fruits Basket