Younger fans won’t remember, but back in the day (2004-09) there were two manga series that could always be counted on to top the best-seller charts: Naruto, and Fruits Basket. And when I say the best-seller charts, I mean of all books, not just graphic novels. In 2007, Fruits Basket 16 was #15 on the list of USA Today Bestselling Books (the highest any manga had yet reached) and Tokyopop announced over two million English copies in print. That’s a lot.
These two series were behemoths, but while one got multiple anime series, movies, video games, and merchandise galore, the other had just a 26-episode TV series and only a few pieces of merchandise. In fact, more official merchandise for the anime was released in the US than in Japan. (If you bought an “import” pin or poster at a convention, chances are good it was a bootleg.) After Tokyopop ceased operations, the manga’s print status languished despite continued reader demand.
Funimation, who holds the rights to the TV series, campaigned hard for a second season, but author Natsuki Takaya was adamant: there would be no more animated Fruits Basket. If you looked at it from her point of view, it was quite understandable. While the TV series was both funny and heart-warming (how could it not be with Akitaro Daichi at the helm, known for Kodocha and Nurse Angel Ririka),it played a little loose with her canon, especially the ending.
If you’re familiar with her other works (and if you’re not, I suggest starting with Phantom Dream, then moving on to Tsubasa: Those with Wings), you’ll know Takaya carefully plots out her stories. A scene that initially comes across as fluff turns out to be of key importance later on. Lines spoken offhand have deep backstories. She is an incredibly meticulous author. The anime prioritized humor, but while Fruits Basket certainly has its humorous moments, the story as a whole is not a funny one. It made perfect sense that Takaya would be dissatisfied with the series even though so many fans loved it.
Of course, a less-than-faithful adaptation alone doesn’t mean a series deserves a remake (else we’d be getting remakes by the dozen each year), but Fruits Basket was and is something special. The manga has a lot of great things going for it, like an endearing cast of characters, touching romance, carefully plotted mythology, and a satisfying ending, but it’s not unique in those. No, where I think Fruits Basket stands head and shoulders above the crowd is the compassion it shows for all of its characters. Not just the heroes. Not just the “villains.” Everyone. Even you, the reader.
Fruits Basket is a series that reminds you that you, too, deserve to be loved. That you don’t need to do anything but exist. That kindness is a quality anyone can have, and that kindness is invaluable. That people aren’t weak for wanting someone to love them, whether it be romantic love, paternal, or friendship. That we are strongest when we have someone to love and protect. And perhaps most importantly, that even if we love someone, that doesn’t give us the right to make that person love us forever in the way that we demand. Love can’t be forced or it turns into a perversion of what it was meant to be. Sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes very big mistakes, but we can grow past them and do better in the future. Those mistakes and regretful past experiences make us who we are today. Change and growth are inexorable.
I’ll miss some things about the old series – Ritsuko Okazaki’s (RIP) songs, Yui Horie’s and Tomokazu Seki’s voice acting, the pacing that kept both the jokes and drama coming on fast – but it’s not like it’s going anywhere. It’ll always be on my shelves, waiting for me to watch it again. But soon, my DVDs and manga volumes will have a new friend. And each one will be able to see the onigiri on each other’s back.
-Lisa Marie Cooper
Long-time Right Stuf fans may recognize Lisa as Marie from the Anime Today podcast or as the OG RightStufSpecialsMinion on the Anime News Network and Fandom Post forums. Her non-anime articles can be found at PositivelyEditorial.com, where she offers tips and insights into business writing.
Life for 16-year-old Tohru is turned upside down when she suddenly loses her mother. Without a home and unwilling to burden her friends, she’s stuck living in a tent. But what she doesn’t realize is she’s on Souma family property and her life is about to get even more complicated when she gets caught up in their big family secret!Add to CartLearn More