AA coda to an immensely popular manga and anime series, Fruits Basket. Prelude takes away the supernatural elements from its preceding iterations but aims to keep their emotional lyricism. The first half-hour of this “prelude” functions as a recap of the series; this lengthy prologue revisits how Tohru Honda, a sensitive orphaned girl, falls in love with Kyo, a teenage boy who is cursed to transform into a cat when touched by a member of the opposite sex. These events are fascinating enough to be told over the course the series but can become tedious when presented in such a short format. For newcomers, it will be difficult to find the highlights of their relationship. This is also true for loyal fans.
But when Fruits Basket: Prelude finally kicks off its narrative thread, which follows the life of Tohru’s mother Kyoko, who dies in a car accident, becomes serviceably engrossing. The romantic elements might raise some eyebrows – Kyoko and Tohru’s father meet as student and teacher in a junior high school – but Kyoko’s transformation from a lost delinquent to a doting mother is rather movingly done.
Still, considering that Kyoko’s story only takes up about two-thirds of the running time, the whole enterprise feels like careless fan service. The decision to split Tohru and Kyoko’s struggles into parallel lines is an odd one, and a missed opportunity. Considering the way Kyoko faces abuse and neglect from her own parents, Fruits Basket: Prelude could have probed further into how intergenerational trauma informs Tohru’s own identity now that she is building a family with Kyo. This film will not only frustrate existing fans, but it will also fail to convert new followers.