It’s no secret that Fruits Basket’s first season was my favourite anime of 2019. Amidst a year of slaying demons, drinking with Vikings, getting lost in space, and escaping an orphanage, it is the deceptively quiet story of one girl’s grief and growth that most affected me. Through its masterful mix of lightheartedness and drama, Fruits Basket’s first season re-cemented itself as a seminal work brought to life through TMS Entertainment’s masterful re-adaptation. Two episodes in, Fruits Basket’s second season looks to continue this trend while building upon and evolving the first season’s themes through shifting the focus from how we move forward from who we were towards figuring out who we are.
For those unaware, Fruits Basket follows Tohru Honda, a 16-year-old high school girl who, after the death of her mother, lives in a tent in the woods. She soon meets Kyo and Yuki Sohma, members of the prodigious and historical Sohma family, and the two invite Tohru to live with them. From there, the series explores Tohru’s relationships with Kyo, Yuki, and the rest of the Sohmas. Each member represents one animal of the Chinese Zodiac and, when they are weak or embraced by someone of the opposite sex, they turn into that respective animal. Mix in some delightful comedy, heartfelt relationships, and genuinely affecting serious moments, and Fruits Basket asserts itself as something eternally special.
This second season charts the aftermath of Kyo’s self-reconciliation as he tells Tohru the truth about his Zodiac curse. The final two episodes of the show’s first season are among the most heart-wrenching and impactful of any anime I have ever seen, and the weight behind them remains as the first two episodes of season two take on a decidedly lighter tone. Fruits Basket’s first two episodes of its second season use levity and a return to the status quo to help both its viewers and characters recover from the emotional climax of last season while also preparing us for twenty-three more episodes to come.
The season premiere, “Hello Again,” moves the focus away from Tohru towards Yuki and his ongoing, one-sided relationships with the girls at school. Dubbed “Prince Yuki” due to his good looks and regal demeanour, he’s amassed a fan club of adoring girls, chief among them being Motoko Minagawa.
What’s remarkable about Fruits Basket’s treatment of Motoko is how it simultaneously plays into the trope of stalkerish, awkward, obsessive admirer of Yuki while also, before the episode’s end, deftly deconstructing that very archetype. Much of the episode balances Yuki’s insecurities regarding his stoic, aloof nature as he tries to break out of his shell with Motoko’s own struggles with loving Yuki and knowing that he is forever out of her grasp. Regarding the former, Yuki’s growth from the series’ first episode shows just how competent Fruits Basket is at moving characters through their character arcs without forcing them. Where much of the first season focused on Kyo, this check-in with Yuki reminds us that Tohru’s empathy not only soothes those who define themselves by aggression but softens the seemingly impenetrable shells in which we shelter ourselves.
Ironically, it is also Tohru who sparks Motoko to take action regarding her love for Yuki. After a botched attempt at flirting, Motoko flees in embarrassment. Kyo catches up to her, and though their conversation is brief, it highlights how Motoko is more than a simple gag, villain-esque character. She openly acknowledges how, in fabricating an image of Yuki he could never possibly live up to, she can never stand on equal footing with him. It is a struggle we all face, that of reconciling who we want someone to be with who they actually are. Motoko conflates this internal conflict with recognizing Tohru’s role in begetting Yuki’s newfound openness, struggling to resolve the growth of the one she loves with her own self-stagnation. In this reflection, she implicitly recognizes how her obsession not only harms her relationship with Yuki, but her relationships with her friends, herself, and her potential friendship with Tohru. In this way, choosing to focus the second season’s premiere not on Tohru or the larger Sohma family but on an outsider grants us a window into this season’s themes of not just growing into oneself, but becoming into a world in which we must reconcile ourselves with those we surround ourselves with.
Fitting, then, that the second episode explores Tohru’s anxieties about her future. Though the bulk of the episode explores Kyo’s relationships with his adopted father, Kazuma-sensei, and his estranged father, it is in the extended scene of Kyo and Tohru discussing the future that the series lays bare its path forward. Kyo expresses his worry that his status at the Cat Zodiac will limit him from inheriting Kazuma-sensei’s dojo, struggling to live above what tradition prescribes for him. Where the finale of the first season saw Kyo begin to embrace his monstrous side with the help of Tohru, here we see how he’s now starting to think about what that embracing means for the rest of his life. In letting his guard down, what does Kyo invite in, and where will that invitation take him?
Running parallel to Kyo’s self-reckoning is Tohru’s admittance that the future terrifies her. Save for a few key moments, much of Fruits Basket up until this point is defined by Tohru’s empathy and unending optimism – her bright demeanour creates the space for the Sohmas to grow. Here, however, that façade breaks down: she admits feeling as if she needs to stay constantly cheery lest she let down her friends and her deceased mother. She breaks down into tears, the weight of the world suddenly crashing down onto her in a wave of existential uncertainty. Like with how Fruits Basket deconstructs Motoko’s obsession with Yuki as unsustainable, it does similarly with Tohru’s willful ignorance of the future and refusal to let herself feel. Her tears represent her fears of the future, her fears of letting down Kyo, Yuki, her school friends, the larger Sohma family, and Kyoko, the late mother whose presence never fades. It is an emotionally resonant scene through how it so perfectly captures the existential worry we all fear as we stand on the precipice of the world, on the edge of ourselves.
It is Shigure, however, whose words act as a panacea for future-borne dread. Entering the scene at its emotional peak, he soothes Tohru and Kyo’s worries through an analogy to laundry: when we’re so focused on the unending pile of dirty clothes ahead of us, we miss what’s at our feet. He tells Tohru that it is okay to worry about the future; we all do. But we can’t let that worry define us – we can’t let fear cloud the endless potential of our present. We don’t have to think about the things that make us anxious – they will resolve themselves. It is by focusing on what we can reach that we stave off overwhelming doubt.
The world is a scary, uncertain place right now. The mountains of laundry around us seem impossibly high, like we’ll never emerge from them. We move forward, however, by looking down at our feet, by realizing where we are standing right now. Fruits Basket’s second season comments on our current sociocultural climate by reminding us that everything will be okay in the end. After only two episodes, not only has it already asserted itself as my favourite anime of the year but the one most salient as we all try to reckon with our larger world.
Shigure reminds Tohru that, yes, sometimes anxiety will set in no matter what we do. Those moments are valuable, too, though. They remind us of our aliveness, of our passions and dreams and hopes and worries. And it is okay to let ourselves feel what we need to feel – we just need to take a break, too. Read a book, go for a walk, play a video game, or, as in the episode title, go “Eat Somen With Your Friends.” Everything else can wait.
Title: Fruits Basket 2nd Seaon
Based on: 1998 manga series of the same name written by Natsuki Takaya
Produced by: TMS Entertainment
Director: Yoshihide Ibata
Streaming on: Crunchyroll and Funimation (US)
Episodes watched: 2
This article is part of a series where my fellow AniTAY authors and I offer our thoughts on various shows from the Spring 2020 season. For the previous entry, click here:
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