“A Gift Wrapped in Pandemic Paper and Offered in Pieces,” or “Meaning without Consequence: My Pandemic Experience with Fruits Basket”

It’s finally time to sit down (or lie down as the case may be since I’m laying in bed while typing this paragraph) and try to tie my experience with Fruits Basket into a neat little bow. I don’t know how to explain the sort of meaning it’s held for me over the past year and a half—a gift so bizarrely wrapped in pandemic paper and offered up in pieces—but I’m certainly going to try. Now that the series is over, nothing holds be back except my own blogger’s block and an odd unwillingness to peel back the layers Fruba helped hold together during one of the most anxiety-inducing times of our lives. Still, I’m going to try, and I ask for your forgiveness if it isn’t as put together as I would prefer it be. I feel some sense of closure, I think, in giving Fruits Basket the send off it deserves from me. Season 1 aired, and the world was normal. I watched it, enjoyed it very much, and waited excitedly for more as I would with any great anime.

Season 2 began mere weeks after the pandemic stopped us in our tracks.

To begin, I considered writing reviews or reactions as the second season unfolded. I did in fact react the show once or twice, but my thoughts of actually reviewing were fleeting at best. During its run, my life—along with the lives of my family and friends, and heck, even the nation I live in and human existence as a whole—felt fragile in a way I’d never experienced. Fruba gave me a chance to escape that fragility, to feel things outside of myself that held meaning without consequence.

During the height of the pre-vaccine portion of the pandemic, as the dub sporadically aired in episodic bits, I was afraid. I was scared *all the time.* My OCD dragon grew to the size of a house, and I couldn’t simply carry it in my pocket or even on my back anymore. As the season progressed, I lost my job due to no fault of my own, suffered one of the biggest betrayals I’ll ever experience, and grew increasingly disillusioned with society. My husband and I were in near total isolation, and the point is, I didn’t have the energy to try and unpack Fruits Basket, and there was a joy in knowing that I didn’t have to. Every episode of Fruba was an unexpected reprieve, and even then I knew that I needed to keep those moments unburdened by expectation.

Those moments were powerful. To some, it may seem silly to give that sort of credit to a piece of media, but the odd sprinkling of untimed, random dub releases were small gifts handed to me when I needed something else to feel. Those feelings weren’t always sunshine and rainbows, but they were truly escapism at its finest in a way I’d never experienced before and—at the time—didn’t realize I was undertaking.

I’ve used media—especially books—for exploration, experience, and distraction over the course of my whole life, but never for escape. I didn’t have the brain space to realize what Fruba meant for me as I held it close, only that I was grateful for it.

By Fruba’s very nature, it’s an emotional show. It sees the good in people without obscuring the bad or shying away from what’s real, and I needed that more than I even understood at the time. Additionally, having something to look forward to—even something unpredictable—has always been helpful to me. That they were sporadically released was perhaps better for my mental health, because rather than counting down to a specific moment, I had the rush of never knowing when those moments of reprieve would find me. It seemed to always be right when I needed it.

I wish I could tell the cast and crew just how much their work helped me power through emotionally. They made such a difference, beyond what I perhaps expected media was capable of–at lest consciously–and I don’t know that I’m the only one. Even if I am, that doesn’t make their impact any less real.

When season 3 came this April, the experience was different. The vaccine was becoming more available in our country, and even though a startling portion of our populous has yet to take it several months later, there was some security in that at least. (Don’t tell me if it’s fleeting. I don’t want to know.) In the same way, a return to a normal update schedule for the Fruba simuldub also signaled hope to me in that maybe, just maybe, our world would begin to slowly returning to normal soon. I didn’t use Fruba for escapism in the same way, but oh, did I want to see just what would happen next as my favorite portions of the manga played out on-screen. There is a time and place to review the content of this title, but for me, this is how I choose to honor both the work and the people who made it. The show is amazing visually, plot-wise, and in its acting execution, but explaining my experience with the media meant more to me than reviewing it by a usual standard.

I think this is my space to say “thank you” to people who will never hear it, but who none-the-less deserve it from me. I will always hold Fruits Basket close to me for what it was (which would have been enough, traditionally speaking) but even more so for the role it played.

So, to everyone from the mangaka to the animators to the distributors to the dub team and everyone overlooked in-between…

thank you.


5 thoughts on ““A Gift Wrapped in Pandemic Paper and Offered in Pieces,” or “Meaning without Consequence: My Pandemic Experience with Fruits Basket”

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