I love Fruits Basket but…
…I wouldn’t exactly say I’m a fan of Kagura (Rie Kugimiya/Tia Ballard). In fact, she probably ranks as one of my least favorite characters in the series. Mind you, I don’t hate her per se. She has her place in the cast and her arc does go in a pretty intriguing direction later on. Even so, this character didn’t always click for me and a lot of that disconnect has to do with her introduction.
All the violent mood swings Kagura exhibits just doesn’t do it for me. The performance is there, I think Rie Kugimiya’s knack for tsundere characters translates really well here, but the routine gets stale very quickly. The very first 180 gets a laugh out of me but I chalk that up more to shock humor and Tohru’s reaction and less Kagura herself. By the time Kagura pounds Kyo through the upper floor of the house, I’ve grown tired of the routine already. And not that Fruits Basket is the most realistic anime out there but there’s so only so much destruction Shigure’s house can take before suspension of disbelief is broken.
Comedy aside, I’ve always took issue with Kagura’s personality. Connecting her aggressive impulses to the Boar zodiac is kind of a nice touch but that hardly makes up for how badly she treats Kyo. You can make the argument that Kyo is too mean towards her but it’s hard to fault him when his self-proclaimed bride’s form of affection is beating him up. It’s not an abusive relationship in the most technical sense but it’s getting there. I wouldn’t mind it so much if it wasn’t for the fact that barely anyone is faintly aware that this relationship is a recipe for a disaster. Shigure and Yuki hardly bat an eye and even tell Kyo to be glad that at least someone likes him. Tohru is maybe more aware of the issue but only marginally so and she suffers the same pitfall as everyone else. It just feels wrong to me.
Oh and before you ask: yes, Kagura is crushing on someone she’s related to by blood. Just don’t think too much about it…
The one slight bright spot pertaining to Kagura’s introduction is maybe her interactions with Tohru. I won’t lie, it is touching when the two ultimately become friends. Kagura eyes Tohru as a rival for Kyo’s heart but even she can’t bring herself to dislike her. It just goes to show what kind of effect Tohru has on others. I wish I could say the same about the inverse though. It is an interesting angle to have Tohru be jealous of Kagura’s love towards Kyo but it doesn’t really work given the rather violent context behind it. Then there’s the part at the end where Tohru tells Kagura she wants to be more like her in how she’s able to see the best attributes of a person she likes. Really? This is Tohru we’re talking about; she’s very perceptive as is. Plus, and I’ll say this as spoiler-free as possible, when you learn more about Kagura, this scene doesn’t quite have the same meaning as it does now.
For me, the highlight of this episode is the rooftop scene between Tohru and Kyo. That’s almost entirely due to Kagura being largely out of the picture but the chemistry between these two really is brimming with charm. To think that not too long ago, Kyo struggled to talk to Tohru. Now, he opens up to her about martial arts and cracks a genuine smile when she attempts to show a punch of her own. The one nitpick I have is Tohru coming to Kagura’s defense by saying it’s great that someone is so in love with Kyo. It just doesn’t work when the subject at hand is Kagura. Then again, maybe we need to look at the context differently. It’s very deliberate that Tohru is the one who convinces Kyo to join everyone for dinner, succeeding where Kagura fails. Who’s to say Kyo is thinking of Kagura when Tohru talks about having someone who loves you dearly?
Whatever the case, there’s some other threads to keep an eye on. First, Kagura mentions that Kyo has a “true form” and judging by Kyo’s effort to shut her up, it can be inferred that she’s not referring to his Cat form and this is something Kyo doesn’t want Tohru to now of. Second, in a scene where Shigure tries to calm down an upset Kagura about Kyo, Kagura tells him that he doesn’t know what it’s like to love someone who doesn’t love you back. In response, Shigure says he knows the feeling all too well. As I’ve said in past posts, watch the space when it comes to this guy.
Third and finally, Tohru gets a call from her grandfather. I will admit that the scene is perhaps a little too dramatic than it needs to be. You see Tohru gasp and drop her library books and it really gives the impression that something bad happened to her grandfather. To be fair, the news Tohru receives is indeed bad. The episode refrains from giving the full details but what is clear is that Tohru has taken her time with the Somas for granted.
English Dub Comments
Looking back, I don’t really like Meredith McCoy’s performance as Kagura. I think she’s good in Dragon Ball and Fullmetal Alchemist and as far as Fruits Basket is concerned, she did a terrific job singing the English cover of “For Fruits Basket”. It’s just that Kagura demands two distinct voices due to her mood swings and I just don’t think McCoy fully captured that. That said, I’m a little surprised to see Kagura recasted, especially since McCoy still does voice work and for Funimation no less. 17 years have passed since the original dub. I wouldn’t mind seeing how she might approach voicing Kagura now.
At least Tia Ballard is a good replacement. The way her voice goes from shy and meek to aggressive and gruff really fits Kagura and the two voices sound a lot more distinct from each other compared to McCoy’s performance. It’s more or less how I imagined Kagura sounding like when I read the manga. The only downside is, well, it’s Kagura. If only the writing was there to back up the performance.
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3 thoughts on “Fruits Basket (2019) – Ep. 4”
As I mentioned during my own blog post for this episode, I also loathe Kagura. It has always bothered me how, not only does nobody call her out on her behaviour, they even try to excuse it (offering her “love” for Kyo up as a feeble excuse). It’s tempting to waive Kagura’s violent behaviour by saying that Furuba hasn’t aged all that well, but it was published in the 90s, not the 50s, so… Kagura is the only thing about Furuba that I do not like.
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20 years is still an old enough age for certain quirks or cliches to come across as dated. Maybe Kagura’s shtick was funny back in 1998 but how people collectively feel about that kind of aggressive behavior has changed since then, especially in the last few years. In general, I think Kagura is just a character Takaya never fully figured out (except for maybe towards the end of her arc) and both anime adaptations are just stuck with her, clueless as to how to improve on the character.
I suppose that there’s no “easy fix” for Kagura… Cut her and people will complain (not to mention that we’d be down a zodiac member), tone her down, and I’m sure people would complain about that too!