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Fruits Basket vol.4

read our review of Fruits Basket
- volumes 1 + 2
October 2004 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Fruits Basket: Volumes 3 + 4

director: Natsuki Takaya

175 minutes (PG) 2004
MVM DVD Region 2 + 4 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Orphaned high school student Tohru has been taken in by her schoolmate Yuki and his boisterous household of cousins - all members of the Soma clan, under a curse that causes them to turn into animals from the Chinese zodiac when embraced by someone of the opposite sex. This makes life interesting enough, but the curse has a darker side, personified in the clan's embittered leader, who thinks the Soma are better off avoiding contact with normal people. He sets out to drive the self-effacing Tohru away, but she may be the only one who can convince the young and volatile Soma to accept themselves, and each other...

Fruits Basket is one of the oddest anime I've ever seen. With its sometimes-cloying emphasis on friendship and acceptance, and endless shy crushes, it seems to be aimed at a preteen audience. But then there's the older cousin who's obsessed with schoolgirls; the boy who's always dressed as a girl because he thinks he's not assertive enough to handle being male; and, in volume three, Yuki acquires a long-lost elder brother who makes Quentin Crisp look like Rambo, and owns a shop that sells, urm, recreational uniforms. Personally, I'm all in favour of pushing social boundaries, but be warned: if you buy this for your kids, you may be asked some interesting questions afterwards.

This aside, it's an agreeable enough watch - indeed, through most of volume three, it's almost too agreeable, with endless interior monologues about how everyone feels substituting for real drama. Endless new relatives turn up (how many animals are there in the zodiac anyway?), there's a lot of screaming and shouting, the house gets wrecked, sad flashbacks tell stories of paternal rejection and relationships wrecked by the curse, and Tohru's relentless niceness saves the day.

There are a few high points - a sombre but uplifting episode as Tohru marks the anniversary of her mother's death; and, in one of the best episodes, the obsessive schoolgirl gang that adores Yuki take on one of Tohru's friends, only to end up convinced that she's a witch.

Things finally pick up in the last three episodes of volume four, when Tohru discovers that feline cousin Kyo, one of her closest friends, suffers from an even more severe form of the curse. Throughout one long rainy night, the relationships in her surrogate family are tested, fractured and re-made, challenging the power structure of the whole clan in the process. This is the sort of thing that will engage adult viewers, and a bit more of it wouldn't go amiss.

So, series three and four are a mixed bag but if you can handle the combination of the warm and fuzzy and the truly odd, well worth a look.

DVD extras are brief: each disc has the opening sequence without text, character profiles, and a fascinatingly formal interview with one of the series' stars or creators.

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