Back in 2019, Fruit basket was rebooted with the intention of more accurately adapting the manga of the same name. The series ended in 2021, but there are still more Fruit basket stories to tell. A new movie, Basket of Fruits: Prelude, is playing now in select theaters. This film tries to focus on the romance between Katsuya and Kyoko, Tohru’s parents. While it could have been a sweet animated slice of life that might appeal to old and new fans alike, it’s unclear what story Basket of Fruits: Prelude wants to focus on, and the focus on the age gap between Katsuya and Kyoko leaves audiences more concerned than the content.
Basket of Fruits: Prelude tells the story of how Katsuya and Kyoko met, revealing more about Kyoko’s troubled past with her school, family, and gang, as well as the romance that blossomed between her and Katsuya. Before that, fans of the series will get a recap of the anime’s ending, specifically focusing on Kyo and Tohru’s relationship. The recap feels like an attempt to catch new viewers up on what’s what, but it’s done in a way that raises more questions than answers, throwing the reader right in the middle of a narrative. And longtime fans will likely find the review quite redundant, as it takes almost 30 minutes to get into Kyoko’s story.
Kyoko is an interesting and complicated character. The original series perfectly captures its complexity. The show made it clear to audiences that she was an amazing but flawed person. A film about his past should be a home run, but this prequel struggles to live up to its own potential. The movie mostly focuses on how the two feel about each other, and while shojo anime is no stranger to interior monologues, it works best in a series, where fans can spend more time with each other. the characters, and there is a better balance between showing and telling. However, in a condensed movie like this, the romance feels more obligatory than organic.
The interior monologues undermine these partnerships, which is a shame as the animation is so beautiful. Much like the 2019 anime, there is a romance to this animation style. It’s smooth and soft. Everything around the characters seems to reflect their inner feelings. This atmospheric approach really works in the film’s favor, and it’s a perfect way for fans to see why these two fell in love with each other. however, all of this storytelling makes the romance feel less authentic.
Along with that, there’s the matter of the age gap between Katsuya and Kyoko. The substantial difference turns what could have been a sweet romance into a predatory relationship. Kyoko is in middle school when she meets Katsuya, a student teacher who is soon dropping out of class to enter the job market. No matter how you cut it, Kyoko was a child and Katsuya was an adult in a position of power. The film even highlights how the age difference and their relationship are not acceptable by society. There are jokes about a Lolita complex and how Katsuya blames Kyoko for being born later than him, and perhaps most damning is Katsuya admitting he didn’t act sooner because that she was in middle school, but he planned to hold her regardless. The number of red flags surrounding the couple is downright alarming, and the film dares to romanticize this predatory relationship and compare it to Tohru and Kyo’s.
There are so many ways to accomplish what the movie wants with Katsuya and Kyoko not to mention an adult falling in love with an underage student. For example, he could have been an upperclass student and a teacher’s assistant who notices Kyoko’s pleas for help, and the plot would be pretty much the same. It’s such a shame because one of the most compelling and heartbreaking moments in the film is how Kyoko deals with Katsuya’s death and its impact on her parenthood, but the foundation of their relationship is so chilling that it undermines this strength of the film.
Focusing primarily on Kyoko’s past in a gang and her time as a single mother might have been enough for a movie on its own, and there also might have been some interesting parallels between her and Kyo as strangers who finally find a sense of security and home. thanks Tohru. The film even attempts to compare Kyoko and Kyo’s stories, but Katsuya’s pacing and problem overshadows that.
Fans and critics were thrilled to Basket of Fruits: Prelude. Kyoko’s past is as intriguing as Tohru and Kyo’s future, but it’s all overshadowed by central relationship issues, and the constant storytelling doesn’t help. At least fans are getting a brief epilogue dedicated to Tohru and Kyo. But unfortunately, this movie proves that some things are best left in the past.
Fruits Basket: Prelude is playing now in select theaters.