Just when you assume you’ve sobbed your last tear for Fruits Basket, the franchise returns to dampen your eyes once again with Fruits Basket -prelude-, a prequel film featuring Tohru’s parents and connecting them to the relationship that is most central to the series. While arranged somewhat as a compilation of episodes about Kyo alongside an original long episode, it’s nonetheless a creative and moving film, and a reminder once again of how Fruits Basket relays a significant message of hope to its audience in a way that is both unrelenting and transformative. And with a stellar English voice cast and director at the helm, dub fans in particular are in for a treat.
The film is intended for established fans of Furuba, who won’t be lost by the first half-hour of the film, which is mainly recap material tracing Kyo’s path toward forgiveness, but with new scenes mixed in that establish his connection to Tohru’s mother, Kyoko. As the movie flows into the original material focusing on Kyoko’s relationship with her husband-to-be, Katsuya, the decision to pad the beginning with flashbacks feels less and less a cheat and more and more like a brilliant bit of structuring, as the relationship between Tohru’s future parents is less impactful when shown in isolation; the decisions they make ultimately pave the way for how Zodiac—and particularly Kyo—are freed.
It’s a treat to see Kyoko at approximately the age of most of the main characters in the series proper, when she was still a member of a biker gang and before she matured into the woman who would become perhaps the greatest mom in anime. Her relationship with Katsuya begins when she’s being disciplined at school in the same room where he’s awaiting his assignment as a student-teacher. Kyoko is lonely, and gravitates toward the strange but kind Katsuya; she later discovers that he’s lonely, too. While they’re drawn to one another, Katsuya never takes advantage of Kyoko, instead guiding her as she learns to rise above the feelings of worthlessness that she carries from a poor relationship with her parents.
This new storyline stays true to the core theme of the main series, showing again that even the most tangled, abusive, and desperate curse can be broken by kindness, love, and grace. More specifically, the film emphasizes how abusive parenting can imbue a curse and how loving parenting can break it, while also showing the same to be true for marriage. Kyoko’s parents stand as the worst models in both parenting and marriage, but by focusing on Katsuya and Kyoko and their uplifting relationship, the film sounds a note of hope that the children do not need to remain bound and defined by the failures of the parents.
Even so, a curse can be heavy, and may take years and many false starts before it breaks. It may not even happen until the next generation or the one after that. Kyoko ponders more than once during the recaps, “I wonder how much time it’ll take for you kids to find your answers.” Though she is never able to see the finish line for her daughter and Kyo, Fruits Basket -prelude- shows both the beginning of the relationship between Kyoko and Katsuya and those “answers” thanks to the connected recaps. Ultimately, the love Kyoko and Katsuya gave to one another and to Tohru is what inspires their daughter to show the Zodiac the kind of love that will free them, and which will also break the curse on both Kyo and herself.
None of the information in this film is new. There are no great reveals or hidden surprises. We already know this story. It’s all about seeing it develop, including through the acting. Lydia Mackay and J. Michael Tatum give powerful performances as the central couple that complement one another perfectly. Mackay exhibits her range, voicing Kyoko convincingly in all her moods and ages: both young and older, angry and calm, fearful and in love. Meanwhile, there’s a quality to Tatum’s voice and delivery that dub fans will recognize from his many other works and which he uses to great effect as he imbues a great deal of meaning into the whispered dialogue for the retrained Katsuya.
ADR Director Caitlin Glass knows how to coax complex performances out of her actors, and she does that here with Tatum, Mackay, and the rest of the cast. The actors vary their inflections deftly, saying their lines in such a way that synchronizes with the animation while also adding emotional complexity to their performances. A depth is achieved here, and it’s owed to Glass’s direction.
The work by the actors and crew complements a story that knits Katsuya and Kyoko’s relationship more closely together with Kyo and Tohru. It results in something beautiful and provides one last chance to revisit a tale that is able to explore the depths to which curses can afflict us and the hope that is borne out of grace, in a way so few other anime have. Fruits Basket -prelude- is more than a prequel—it’s a movie that does the great favor of challenging us to be the givers of love to a broken world.
I know you may not want to cry anymore, Furuba fans, but this is a film you must watch. And if you by chance still haven’t watched Fruits Basket—well, it may be time to binge before heading to theaters for -prelude-. Just make sure you have enough tissue on hand for your poor eyes and heart.
Fruits Basket -prelude- will show in select movie theaters in the United States and Canada on June 25, 28, and 29, subtitled and dubbed in English. The film will also debut in the United Kingdom, dubbed only, on July 20 with tickets going on sale June 24.
© NATSUKI TAKAYA.HAKUSENSHA/FRUITS BASKET PROJECT