Read in scanlations. Wow, was that a sucky translation. There were a couple key moments where I really couldn't understand what anyone was talking about. Nevertheless...

WARE SPOILERS

OMGWTFBBQ )
Read in scanlations. Wow, was that a sucky translation. There were a couple key moments where I really couldn't understand what anyone was talking about. Nevertheless...

WARE SPOILERS

OMGWTFBBQ )
This is the one about the dysfunctional cursed family and the genki girl who s/a/v/e/s helps them. Which tells you something about what kind of story this is. If this was an American cartoon, by the end of the first five episodes we would know exactly how the curse was placed in the first place (Help, I'm channelling Bernadette Peters!), how it can be broken, and exactly what it does. The series would be about Tohru's attempts to break the curse, and by the end of the series, she would have broken it.

None of this happens. Nor is it suggested that it will. Nor did it bother me that it didn't. This is a fairy tale as it might have been told by Anne Tyler, in which the curse is a lens by means of which we can focus on the small tender moments which might otherwise pass by unnoticed. There are certainly big dramatic scenes, including a doozy of a three-part conclusion, but the show is really about the little acts of kindness and the quirky bits in the corners, the complex and unspoken loves and fears and false fronts which make up our emotional landscapes.

In one episode a handful of the characters go for a weekend at someone's lakeside cabin. Hatori, a young man aged by sorrow and responsibility, falls asleep on the sofa with a magazine abandoned on his chest. The others, when they notice, are surprised and touched that he would trust them enough to sleep in front of them, and Tohru runs to get him a blanket. It's a brief moment, but it captures a feeling I've often experienced but only once before seen described in fiction, the tenderness one feels toward the vulnerability of a sleeper as seen by the waking. (Dorothy Sayers has a lovely scene of Harriet Vane watching Lord Peter sleep by the river in Gaudy Night.)

The ending brings together all the elements developed throughout the series, of the way the curse keeps revealing more and more layers of horror and emotional devastation, all the myriad and complex relationships between Tohru and the Sohma family and Tohru's friends and the memories of dead relatives, and the theme of the show, which is love versus fear. It's very moving, and open-ended in a way which is far more satisfying than closure.
This is the one about the dysfunctional cursed family and the genki girl who s/a/v/e/s helps them. Which tells you something about what kind of story this is. If this was an American cartoon, by the end of the first five episodes we would know exactly how the curse was placed in the first place (Help, I'm channelling Bernadette Peters!), how it can be broken, and exactly what it does. The series would be about Tohru's attempts to break the curse, and by the end of the series, she would have broken it.

None of this happens. Nor is it suggested that it will. Nor did it bother me that it didn't. This is a fairy tale as it might have been told by Anne Tyler, in which the curse is a lens by means of which we can focus on the small tender moments which might otherwise pass by unnoticed. There are certainly big dramatic scenes, including a doozy of a three-part conclusion, but the show is really about the little acts of kindness and the quirky bits in the corners, the complex and unspoken loves and fears and false fronts which make up our emotional landscapes.

In one episode a handful of the characters go for a weekend at someone's lakeside cabin. Hatori, a young man aged by sorrow and responsibility, falls asleep on the sofa with a magazine abandoned on his chest. The others, when they notice, are surprised and touched that he would trust them enough to sleep in front of them, and Tohru runs to get him a blanket. It's a brief moment, but it captures a feeling I've often experienced but only once before seen described in fiction, the tenderness one feels toward the vulnerability of a sleeper as seen by the waking. (Dorothy Sayers has a lovely scene of Harriet Vane watching Lord Peter sleep by the river in Gaudy Night.)

The ending brings together all the elements developed throughout the series, of the way the curse keeps revealing more and more layers of horror and emotional devastation, all the myriad and complex relationships between Tohru and the Sohma family and Tohru's friends and the memories of dead relatives, and the theme of the show, which is love versus fear. It's very moving, and open-ended in a way which is far more satisfying than closure.
Of all the perky teenage girls in manga and anime, who maintain a near-pathological optimism in the face of anything from romantic rejection to the end of the world, go to absurd lengths to avoid upsetting others, and who are so damn nice that starts seeming like a super power, Tohru Honda may take the cake. After her mother dies, she moves in with her grandfather and some unpleasant auxiliary relatives. But when they need to remodel the house and ask her if she can stay with friends for a while, she decides it would be easier on everyone if she just moved into a tent in the forest and didn't tell anyone. Of course.

However, the usual sort of complications which attend living alone in a tent in the woods intervene, and Tohru ends up moving in with the Sohma family. She knows one of them, Yuki Sohma, from school, but not well: she's just an average girl with two close female friends, and Yuki Sohma is so kind, handsome, and popular that he has his own fan club at school. (I'm told that this actually happens in Japan.) The other members of the Sohma family are Shigure, a friendly but distinctly passive-aggressive novelist, and another boy Yuki's age, Kyo, who studies martial arts with the hope of someday being able to beat up Yuki, who in addition to all his other stellar qualities knows kung fu.

But secrets lurk beneath the happy sweet surface of the Sohma family. They are under a curse in which they turn into their animal from the Chinese zodiac when they're hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Because of this, the entire family, whose other members start to make appearances after the first few episodes, is actually troubled and dysfunctional and sad. But nice. Very nice. Almost as nice as Tohru.

This is a very funny show which uses some similar fourth-wall breaking techniques and imaginative uses of the medium as were seen in KARE KANO, though the tone and pace of FRUITS BASKET is nowhere near as hyperactive. An episode which introduces the first female member of the Sohma family was too farcical for my taste, but otherwise the mix of humor and human feeling was just right.

FRUITS BASKET mixes up-front declarations of love and loneliness with more subtle emotional undercurrents to create an atmosphere which is easier to experience than describe. Nothing awful has happened so far, unless you count the off-screen death of Tohru's mother, and the characters are very kind to each other, and yet there's something about them that seems terribly sad, in that paste-a-bright-smile-over-your-broken-heart way so characteristic of many of my favorite anime characters.

I'm not sure if the Tohru-Yuki-Kyo thing will develop into a real love triangle, or if it will stick with Tohru+Yuki4Ever, but there's more real romantic tension at the moment than in most shojo anime I've seen, where it's perfectly clear who the heroine really loves. I hope it goes with the triangle, as Yuki and Kyo are equally likable and attractive and troubled, but in completely different ways, and Tohru is drawn to both of them, but in completely different ways, albeit in both cases with an element of "I can heal your secret inner pain."

Oh, and I think I'm in love with Kyo. That, or I _am_ Kyo.
Of all the perky teenage girls in manga and anime, who maintain a near-pathological optimism in the face of anything from romantic rejection to the end of the world, go to absurd lengths to avoid upsetting others, and who are so damn nice that starts seeming like a super power, Tohru Honda may take the cake. After her mother dies, she moves in with her grandfather and some unpleasant auxiliary relatives. But when they need to remodel the house and ask her if she can stay with friends for a while, she decides it would be easier on everyone if she just moved into a tent in the forest and didn't tell anyone. Of course.

However, the usual sort of complications which attend living alone in a tent in the woods intervene, and Tohru ends up moving in with the Sohma family. She knows one of them, Yuki Sohma, from school, but not well: she's just an average girl with two close female friends, and Yuki Sohma is so kind, handsome, and popular that he has his own fan club at school. (I'm told that this actually happens in Japan.) The other members of the Sohma family are Shigure, a friendly but distinctly passive-aggressive novelist, and another boy Yuki's age, Kyo, who studies martial arts with the hope of someday being able to beat up Yuki, who in addition to all his other stellar qualities knows kung fu.

But secrets lurk beneath the happy sweet surface of the Sohma family. They are under a curse in which they turn into their animal from the Chinese zodiac when they're hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Because of this, the entire family, whose other members start to make appearances after the first few episodes, is actually troubled and dysfunctional and sad. But nice. Very nice. Almost as nice as Tohru.

This is a very funny show which uses some similar fourth-wall breaking techniques and imaginative uses of the medium as were seen in KARE KANO, though the tone and pace of FRUITS BASKET is nowhere near as hyperactive. An episode which introduces the first female member of the Sohma family was too farcical for my taste, but otherwise the mix of humor and human feeling was just right.

FRUITS BASKET mixes up-front declarations of love and loneliness with more subtle emotional undercurrents to create an atmosphere which is easier to experience than describe. Nothing awful has happened so far, unless you count the off-screen death of Tohru's mother, and the characters are very kind to each other, and yet there's something about them that seems terribly sad, in that paste-a-bright-smile-over-your-broken-heart way so characteristic of many of my favorite anime characters.

I'm not sure if the Tohru-Yuki-Kyo thing will develop into a real love triangle, or if it will stick with Tohru+Yuki4Ever, but there's more real romantic tension at the moment than in most shojo anime I've seen, where it's perfectly clear who the heroine really loves. I hope it goes with the triangle, as Yuki and Kyo are equally likable and attractive and troubled, but in completely different ways, and Tohru is drawn to both of them, but in completely different ways, albeit in both cases with an element of "I can heal your secret inner pain."

Oh, and I think I'm in love with Kyo. That, or I _am_ Kyo.
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