Despite most things in her life going wrong, Touru is an upbeat and cheerful girl. Due to circumstances, she ends up living in a tent. A popular classmate finds out her secret on his way home from school, and offers to let her stay at his house until she can move back in with her grandfather. The family however is not amused because they too have a secret. Whenever any of them are hugged by the opposite sex, they turn into an animal of the Chinese Zodiac. The Souma family has another issue as well. One animal was never included in the zodiac, the cat; which is considered cursed. As everyone in the house is male, eventually Touru finds out the truth but keeps their secret. Slowly Touru wins over each of the family members. Solving the curse of the cat is something that has never been done in all the past generations of the Souma family, but there's something special about Touru that wins people over, and may finally give the cat peace.
Fruits Basket is typical for a reverse harem kind of shoujo anime. The zodiac thing is thrown in to keep it fresh, which mostly works, but Fruits Basket is a little weak in the basic areas. Touru has two love interests named Kyo and Yuki: neither of which are memorable. Touru herself seems the most likable of the bunch, but her apologizing and trying to please everyone all the time got old with me. In the end she was kind of... meh. The side characters are a colorful bunch I liked much more. Not just the zodiac members, but Touru's friends and rivals (in the Yuki fan club). I'm irked that the most awesome character by far would have been Touru's mom judging from stories about her, but unfortunately we only get recollections of her because she's dead. Yes, this is another anime full of teenagers without parents.
The story maintains a decent pace but oddly avoids any big plot developments until the very end. I'm grateful for that, because Fruits Basket is at its best when it's light and weird. I'll also admit that I just totally didn't get the end drama. Touru goes uncharacteristically off the deep end for something I didn't think was a big deal. And from there the end gets kind of weird. Fruits Basket is also inconclusive. It wraps up some parts reasonably well, but is left wide open for a finishing movie that was never made. It's strange that an anime would take its time for most of the story, then rush towards the end but not finish everything.
The dub manages to be watchable, but just barely (depending on your tolerance of awkwardness). Laura Bailey as Touru has an unusually fluttery voice that makes for an interesting performance. At normal levels it's fine, but as soon as Touru is supposed to be very.. "excited" her voice squeaks and goes all over the place. I'm alright with that, but I could see how it might be very annoying as well. I'd be inclined to recommend the subtitled version.
I liked Fruits Basket, but just couldn't love it. Despite being indifferent at the beginning, I warmed up to it after episode 15 or so. For a shoujo anime it's alright, but it mainly gets by because it's cute.
Student 1: That girl's pretty cute huh?
Student 2: She kinda looks like an airhead.
Student 1: Yeah, just my type. I bet I can talk her into going out with me. I don't do so well with smart girls.
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