I suppose I should note that I am referring entirely to the anime – I don’t think I’ve even so much as flipped through the manga.
I recently found Fruits Basket on Hulu, and decided I’d give it a go – I’d seen the first eight or nine episodes several years ago (prior to its American release, so it really was a decent amount of time ago), but never managed to wrap it up. I’d seen these episodes courtesy of a friend who had episodes burned to CD’s, but in those days of sludgy internet connections, it didn’t manage to quite catch our interest enough to justify the dozens of hours required for more episodes. Anyway, the version available on Hulu was dubbed, and I was looking for something to “watch” that didn’t require me actually looking closely at the screen because I needed to mend some of my clothes, fold laundry, clean my room… etc. So when I saw it, I had a “Well, why the hell not?” moment.
I somehow managed to blitz through eighteen episodes of it in about three days, even though I was deep in the heart of finals.
But then I slowed to a trickle; I felt kind of like I wasn’t actually enjoying the show, but had simply kept watching because a. I’d already started, and b. it was good for “watching” when I was performing dull tasks. But something was nagging at me – there was just something missing here, or something that was preventing me from truly enjoying the show. Without other things to do, I just really didn’t feel like watching it any more. I felt a bit puzzled – there didn’t seem to be anything objectively wrong with it, and I knew it was quite well-liked with many people. Yet from around episode twelve, something had begun picking at me from the back of my skull.
Then it hit me – Tohru is boring.
Seriously. What is there really about this girl? Let’s see… well, we know she’s an orphan because her mother died recently. And she is good at cooking and cleaning. And she’s nice. And she’s not extremely bright. But she wants to finish school because her mother wanted her to. And… uh… she’s nice… and… um…
Hmm. She kind of smells a hell of a lot like a Mary-Sue. She’s very bland, ultimately, and she just happens to fall into what is essentially a reverse harem set-up. I mean, think about it – what does Tohru like? What are her hobbies? But, hey, maybe cleaning and laundry are supposed to be her hobbies…
I was kind of shocked when I realized this considering that one of the things people like to talk about in regards to this show is how good the characterization is. I might be able to agree with that as far as some of the other characters are concerned, such as Yuki or Kyo, but it just feels absent from Tohru. If I didn’t know better, I might be forgiven for thinking this was based on an otome game, not a manga. Tohru’s lack of characterization, combined with the fact that she doesn’t seem to possess any “real” flaws (her variety of dumbness is of the type intended to be charming, after all, not irritating) makes her just seem like a self-insert character.
Now, I’ll admit that this is purely from the anime – maybe this was a case of adaptation decay, after all, and in the manga she’s better-rounded and not so Mary Sue-ish. In fact, I would hope so, given that the anime only scratches the surface of the narrative as I understand it.
Anyway, I’ll probably force myself to finish off Fruits Basket (I’m twenty-one episodes in, after all), but I don’t think I’ll really be able to get past the fact that Tohru herself is so dull. Ah well…