So for the record, this episode of Fruits Basket adapts Chapters 9 and 7 of the manga and in that specific order too. First, you have your obligatory culture festival scenario and next, you have Arisa and Saki finding out about Tohru’s living situation and visiting the Somas like mothers making sure their daughter isn’t living with an ill-suited boyfriend. The transition between Part A and Part B is seamless enough but it’s still obvious that you’re watching two chapters taped together in an effort to speed up the process of adapting the manga. And frankly, I don’t get why the order in which these events happen is in the reverse. It’s not damaging or anything but Part A is better suited to flow into the next chapter/episode and Part B makes for a strong follow-up to the chapter/episode before this one. I can only assume Ibata wanted Tohru’s bedtime scene with Arisa and Saki as the episode’s climax and to be fair, that isn’t a bad idea on paper.
Naturally, some sacrifices are made in abridging the materials. Of the two parts, I’d say the culture festival fares better. Some of its content was actually moved earlier to Episode 3 so in this case, trimming things down in Episode 6 doesn’t feel too criminal. It’s when Arisa and Saki visit Shigure’s house that I kind of wish we weren’t skimming. You don’t necessarily need all the gags where the Somas transform by accident but not having them feels weird. With or without prior knowledge, you’d think something of that sort would happen at least once. More importantly, it’s a shame that you don’t get to hear Arisa and Saki elaborate on how they met Tohru like you do in the 2001 anime. We’ll still get to that eventually but a hint or two would’ve nice, especially since one really has to wonder how Tohru became so close with a former(?) yankee and a psychic(?).
That all said, I wouldn’t go as far as to call this episode rushed. It still paces at a steady rate and even with stuff cut out, everything that’s essential to progression is left intact. That’s one thing I can give Fruits Basket (2019) credit for. It so far hasn’t burned through material like Banana Fish or the early episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood did.
A highlight of the culture festival plot is Yuki donning a dress as per the request of his upperclassmen, resulting in his class’s booth garnering a ton of attention. It’s still an amusing sight but I’ll admit that hearing him say boys don’t like being called cute feels pretty dated now. Really, you probably could write Yuki’s character without bringing up his effeminate appearance. His insecurity is more about how closed off he is from others and less that he’s not manly enough. It’s not like his classmates care one way or another anyway. Even the guys in his class think he looks great in a dress. I still liked the part where Tohru helps Yuki stomach the embarrassment by articulating how being called “cute” by someone is a show of affection. Once again, it goes to show that Yuki feels more at ease when Tohru is by his side.
Oddly enough, two members of the Soma family pay a visit — a young boy named Momiji (Megumi Han/Mikaela Krant) and the family doctor, Hatori (Kazuyuki Okitsu/Kent Williams). We’ve already seen Momiji before but this episode gives him a more extensive appearance, even revealing his Zodiac as the Rabbit. The fact that he willingly hugs Tohru and transforms actually says a lot about him. Considering his young age and the stigma of the family curse, Tohru must be a breath of fresh air. Here you have someone who knows the secret and is accepting of it, giving Momiji the rare chance to be in his Zodiac form without feeling ashamed. That he risks hugging Tohru in the middle of a public event implies how he longed for an opportunity such as this.
In contrast, Hatori is the more suspicious of the two visitors. Yuki particularly acts hostile around him as Hatori is apparently the one who erases people’s memories whenever the secret of the curse is out. That alone puts Tohru at odds with him and it only gives her anxiety when Hatori requests her presence at the end of the episode.
Even with stuff cut out, this episode still provides the first real look at Tohru’s relationship with her two best friends. You really get a sense that Arisa and Saki care deeply about Tohru. They can’t replace Kyoko, they know they can’t, but they nevertheless vowed to look after their friend to the best of their abilities. So when they find out that Tohru has ended up in the care of the Somas, they’re taken aback. They worry if they weren’t good enough for Tohru. But as Yuki and Kyo point out, Tohru isn’t the kind of person who’d ask for help and will even try her darnedest to make light of her own problems. That assessment also ends up earning Arisa and Saki’s trust. They realize that the Somas get Tohru and value her presence just as much as they do.
That line of dialogue about Tohru not asking for the moon is new as far as I can tell and it’s a great angle to take with her personality. Tohru is so selfless that even if she desired something as outlandish as the Earth’s moon, she still wouldn’t ask for it. What really makes the line work though is how it’s repeated in the next scene in which Akito tells Shigure that he would seek out the moon for himself. That alone effectively hints at what kind of person Akito is and what kind of decree he exercises as the head of the Soma family.
Finally, I can comment on Tohru’s baseball cap. I’ll be frank, Fruits Basket (2019) went overboard with how many times it sneaked that object into the frame, hinting at its importance. Having a cameo in the first episode and the OP is fine but having it show up in every episode? At that point, it just stops being subtle. The cap is extremely important though as it’s a memento of Tohru’s, worn by a boy who helped her get back home when she got lost one time. The question now is the identity of the boy. Kyo appears to be a likely candidate considering that he eavesdrops on Tohru’s recount the very second he hears about the cap though this scene does make a rather deliberate cut to Yuki…
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