In which I rant a lot about Fruits Basket

(Unstuck in book 3. Except this is procrastinating. Haha.)

Trapped in the house by an ice storm, I called off the day job and spent much of today a) finishing a crocheting project (my poor, exhausted hands!) and b) binging to the end of Fruits Basket 2019, which I can’t help but think of as Fruits Basket: Brotherhood because I’m a dork.

The original Furuba was one of my favorite anime series in the early ’00s. Even then I had an inkling of its weak points, which time has not been kind to — but I have to say, I really enjoyed the remake. This series has always been a bait and switch: the initial concept is goofy and it looks lighthearted, but 80% of the original story is a steamroller of trauma, and the main focus of the show is generational trauma and abusive family dynamics. Nearly every character has a Dark Backstory and a boatload of trauma, and most of the arcs are about each of them finding their way through it, both separately and with one another’s support.

The first animated version dropped off after the trauma just got started, so the balance was off, but this one rolls on right to the end. That last season is a lot of yelling and crying, and all the emotional payoff from all the trauma before it. They get allllll the way through Akito’s often infuriating story. Momiji gets his chance to grow up and be awesome. Rin exists, at all. My dark horse fave Machi exists, at all. (uh, no pun intended w/r/t Rin) The animation is beautiful, even/especially in a series that’s mostly just talking and flashbacks and characters running after one another and passing out in the rain.

However. Yes, the initial goofy-ass concept, covering up all that trauma, still pivots on an annoying hook; and the remake, like the manga, still sets up a handful of characters who might do something interesting with that annoying hook and then pulls all its punches by the end. To put it bluntly, it queerbaits like a show that was originally made in the early ’00s, and only a little less than the original did. Not so much in the shipping sense, but in that some of the characters seem to sidestep the very, very hetero opening concept, but the story never does anything interesting with that. It wasn’t too surprising that the original didn’t, but the remake doesn’t either, in the interest of adhering to the original. And that squandered setup is much more obvious now than it was 20 years ago.

If I may rant about a particularly irksome bit: They ALMOST left Ritsu on a good note. ALMOST. It feels like a lot happened between Ritsu’s second-to-last and last appearances, and there just wasn’t time to cover it, so the character’s motivation is a complete freaking mystery. Dramatic Haircut, giving away personally meaningful belongings, what happened. If the story is suggesting that this had to happen to create a happy ending, fuck that right into space. It would be better to just skip it, or have Ritsu and Kagura hanging out doing absolutely anything else on earth. Including nothing.

[I don’t think I’ve ever read Furuba fanfic, but now I have half a mind to find a nice genfic where Ritsu gets to keep the long hair and pretty clothes and date Mitsuru and the two of them can be chaotic neurotic messes together. <3 I’m going to believe that happened.]

On the plus side, the remake cut out THE most pointless romantic match-up in the endgame. Just one, out of the approx. 8 in the Defensively Heterosexual Hoedown that caps off the series. There’s a couple of lines and a couple of jokes referencing it, but it doesn’t actually happen. They left in the second most egregious and pointless one, though. (Mind you, I can buy the concept of a bisexual/pansexual Ayame, absolutely. But there’s no setup for that ship. Hill, die, etc.)

And yeah, I knew it was coming; this series hits all the right buttons with trauma and squanders every last shred of queer subtext it sets up. Always did. Still does. And I still loved it. I laughed, I cried, I laughcried. It does some things well and some things not-well. Like most stories do.

Now that that’s done, next on my Series to Watch Solo list is either ODDTAXI or Fairy Ranmaru. Which have absolutely nothing in common except that they’re fairly recent, available on my streaming services, and not up my spouse’s alley. (Joint viewing in the anime sphere right now is Aggretsuko. Fenneko remains my favorite, and I really like the slightly loosely translated dub. The end.)