Fruits Basket: Volume Four
Tohru has now been living with the Sohma family, twelve members of which are cursed to transform into a Zodiac animal when hugged by the opposite sex, for a year now, gradually changing their lives with the strength of her optimism and kindness. Looming in the shadows, however, is the figure of Akito, unstable head of the Sohma family, and suggestions of a darker side of the curse that Tohru isn’t aware of. The strength of the ties build through the show are tested one last time in the final volume of the anime, covering episodes twenty through twenty-six, adapted from the popular shoujo manga by Takaya Natsuki.
Fruits Basket wraps itself up with a powerful climax that answers several questions, and yet leaves many others unresolved.
The first episode of this volume wraps up the subplot involving Yuki and Ayame, as Ayame invites his brother and Tohru to see his clothes shop, and they take the first shaky steps towards something like a mutual understanding. It was well done, and the fact that the resolution between them was presented as a thoroughly imperfect beginning was refreshing and felt very genuine. Another episode addresses the Yuki fanclub girls once again, this time actually taking steps to provide its president with character depth; it was interesting to see her traits of vanity, selfishness, and paranoia–up until this point presented solely as comic relief–turned around and viewed with an almost tragic and self-reflective lens, and the show pulls it off without a hitch.
Even at this late stage in the show, more new members of the Sohma family continue to be introduced; unfortunately, this round of characters–Hiro and Ritsu Sohma and particular–didn’t do much to impress me, as their function seems limited to appearing so that Tohru can solve their problems in a single episode. The way Tohru was able to provide inspiration to the despondent members of the cursed family before was believable due to being carefully developed and presented as a gradual, but critical change; in the episodes featuring Hiro and Ritsu, it seems all Tohru has to do is smile and provide some kind words within a short time of meeting for them to reflect and begin to turn around their lives.
For the final three episodes, the tone of the show takes on a dramatic shift with the arrival of Kazuma Sohma, Kyo’s martial arts master and surrogate father, as Akito moves forward with his plan to reveal Kyo’s secret to Tohru and drive her away for good. A constant downpour of gray rainfall paints this last arc, establishing the atmosphere as Tohru finally is forced to question if she’s prepared to tackle and accept the full weight of the Sohma curse, and the family itself faces the threat of losing her for good.
In particular, the final sequence with Uo and Hana is extremely powerful and communicates the depth of the love between the three friends to the point of being bittersweet; Tohru coming to terms with seeing Kyo’s secret, with Yuki’s help, is also a wonderful scene, and for all that his new character elements (conflicted feelings towards both Kazuma and his own mother) were hastily introduced, Kyo’s final development was handled well.. Once that situation has resolved itself, however, Tohru requests to see Akito so that they can talk face-to-face at last–and the way that is tied up is lacking at best, as for all that Akito’s menace was built up throughout the series, it seems that all it took to get him to calm down in the end was Tohru’s same teary eyes and empathetic words that we’ve seen a dozen times before.
Fruits Basket also unfortunately shows the limitations of being adapted at the time the original story it was based off of was still incomplete; many of the questions foreshadowed in the buildup towards this final arc remain unanswered, such as the reason Akito has such deep interest in Yuki, or the implications of the suggestion that Tohru may be the key to breaking the curse once and for all. Although the show acknowledges that life will go on, and the future is uncertain, it leaves the feeling that there is much, much more story left to tell, which I suppose is where the manga enters the picture.
The English language track remains impressive. The central four characters in particular handle the emotional content of the final episodes excellently. One specific note is that Ritsu’s voice actor was an interesting choice that isn’t bad, and still fits his character, but creates a somewhat different impression from the original Japanese.
The first half of the disc’s contents invoked mixed reactions; it’s difficult to be compelled at this point by Tohru’s magical ability to inspire the Zodiac members with a few key words and a smile, and the new characters introduced didn’t have the time to be developed much beyond stock figures for her to further demonstrate this talent at. However, the dramatic closing arc with Kyo was done very well, with several powerful scenes, although soured a bit at the end with a rushed closing with Akito that wasn’t particularly believable. Nonetheless, Fruits Basket remains a cut above many other shows and is absolutely worth watching.
Sound and video quality is as high as ever. Extras feature an entertaining round of interviews with the English cast, the final Fruits Basket Room feature with Ryotaro Okiayu, the Japanese voice of Shigure, and a nice collection of Fruits Basket illustrations. The profile list has also been expanded for the final volume.
Overall Score: 8.5