Part of the reason that anime remains so sustainable and consistent is that it’s formed dependable genres to fall back on over the years. Harem and reverse harem anime are incredibly plentiful and plenty of shows find a creative twist on the formula, but still end up feeling derivative in the end. Fruits Basket attempts to reinvigorate the concept with its story of Tohru Honda, a precocious orphaned teenager who shacks up with the Soma family and proceeds to change their lives for the better. The Soma family are an eccentric, yet kind, lot. The family’s biggest secret is that they suffer from a curse where the twelve members of the Soma family will turn into one of animals from the Chinese zodiac when they’re hugged by a member of the opposite sex or undergo extreme stress.
In execution, Fruits Basket feels the most similar to Ranma ½, which is a very hard mark to try to surpass. Fruits Basket is still one of the better examples of this formula, largely because of the affable, authentic nature of Tohru and the Soma family. The previous take on Fruits Basket back in 2001 hit all of the necessary marks, but it soon became a shell of Natsuki Takaya’s manga and wasn’t even able to fully complete his story. This new anime adaptation of Fruits Basket learns from its previous mistakes and is better in every way, including the DVD/Blu-Ray set that’s been put together for the series.
This set does a commendable job in both the audio and video department. The series’ original Japanese language track is presented in its original 2.0 form and the show’s English language dub is available in 5.1 form, both of which are presented in Dolby TrueHD, which guarantees a lossless and fuller quality to the show’s soundscape. This sound mix is most impressive during moments of the characters’ transformations or special effect audio cues are required, but this isn’t exactly a series that’s overly complex when it comes to its sound design. The video for these episodes remains in the show’s original 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080p, which allows the animation work done by TMS/8PAN to truly come to life and gets the most out of it, even if the character designs are admittedly simple.
The 2001 adaptation of Fruits Basket was 26 episodes total, but the 2019 reboot promises to take its time and adapt the entirety of Natsuki Takaya’s manga into a 50+ episode anime. Directed by Yoshihide Ibata this time around, the first season alone is 25 episodes and this DVD/Blu-Ray set looks at “Part One,” its first 13 episodes, which are spread across four discs. The menus on these discs are perfectly serviceable and attractive, but they’re hardly memorable or anything special. Clips from the episodes play throughout the menu loop and they actually highlight some of the better moments, rather than stuff that’s been cut together for old promos. Nothing here is too over the top, but at the same time, it really doesn’t need to be. Crowded menus can sometimes be overwhelming and keeping it simple guarantees that these discs are easy to navigate through and look attractive.
The packaging for the set itself is also minimalist in nature. It’s a basic paper box that showcases Tohru and conveniently carries the set’s discs and supplemental goodies. On that note, this Limited Edition set also includes three appealing art cards that contain artwork from the series’ Japanese release that features Tohru with different members of the Soma family. The most fun add-on in this Limited Edition release is three resin zodiac figurines that resemble a rat, ox, and ongiri. They’re highly adorable and there’s also a cardboard stand (or “faux wood,” take your pick) for these zodiac figurines to sit on, which includes space for future figurines that will be released in the upcoming Limited Edition sets. These are all superfluous bonuses, but they’re a lot of fun.
There’s an obvious amount of love present in the entire reboot of Fruits Basket, especially with the bulk of the 2001 series’ dub cast returning to voice their characters again, but now the bonus of over a decade’s worth of hindsight to the roles and experience to their careers. That love translates over to this set’s lot of special features and bonus extras, which are arguably one of the strongest areas of this DVD/Blu-Ray release. Most of Funimation’s home releases try to include some kind of extras and the anime dubbing industry has just become so much more responsive to the fandom that there are regularly glimpses behind the production curtain on both their website and YouTube channel. That being said, the Fruits Basket set goes above and beyond the standard and contains lots of goodies that are sure to please both fans of the series and those interested in the production aspects of the voice acting industry.
The Fruits Basket set contains the standard anime bonus features, like a textless version of the opening and closing themes. Inside the Episode featurettes are provided for episodes one, four, seven, ten, and thirteen, but it’s worth pointing out that these interviews with the cast and crew have previously been available through Funimation’s resources, yet it’s still nice to have them here. The new material for this DVD/Blu-Ray set includes the “Fruits Basket Tell-All,” which is a 15-minute feature that breaks down the return of the series and the level of passion that the show’s cast brings to the project. This feature primarily looks at Caitlin Glass, the show’s ADR director, but it also touches base with some of the major voice actors and it allows them to reminisce over their old experiences on the first version of the show and how far along both Fruits Basket and the anime industry have come since 2001. There are no major revelations provided here, but it’s still a very enjoyable look at the show’s production and that the people involved are just as big of fans as the audience. The entirety of the special features on this set clock in at 95 minutes, which helps gives an indication of their depth.
There are also audio commentaries for episodes four (“What Year is She?”) and seven (“Spring Comes”), which are really nice addition here. Commentaries are increasingly becoming lost in the shuffle through the years and even though four or five commentaries would be more satisfying, the team picks two important episodes to focus on and they don’t just regurgitate the same conversations or details that come up in the other special features. Some of the biggest pieces of Fruits Basket and production trivia are contained in these episode audio commentaries.
The Fruits Basket Season One Part One Limited Edition set goes for just over $60 on Funimation’s online store, as well as other digital outlets. This isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s relatively fair for what Funimation has charged for their previous releases and there’s at least a good deal of special features and fun, extra materials to help justify the price tag. Other than the price, there are really no drawbacks to this release for the anime’s first collection of episodes. Fans of the series will be very pleased with the amount of love that’s put into the set, there’s enough extra content to hook in newcomers, and the included goodies are enough to entice audiences who may already have a subscription on FunimationNow or Crunchyroll. For those that are looking to re-experience the joy of Fruits Basket or check it out for the first time, the Fruits Basket Season One Part One Limited Edition DVD/Blu-Ray set is the best way to do it.
However, if somebody gives it to you as a gift, just be careful about hugging them back…
For a more in-depth analysis of the content within Fruits Basket’s first season, check out our review of Fruits Basket’s first season here.