A number of Japanese and American film directors have attempted to bring the most popular anime series to the big screen with live-action movies, and generally the results, according to critics and audiences alike, are mixed at best. The long list of poor anime/manga adaptations almost included Fruits Basket.
Fruits Basket is a classic shojo series about Tohru Honda, an orphaned girl who lives in a tent on the Sohma family’s estate. They take her in, only for her to realize that they are cursed with the Chinese zodiac animals, ruled by the verbally abusive Akito Sohma. Tohru embarks on a quest to heal and comfort the Sohmas, and help them realize that love and courage always trump fear and anger. How would it work in live-action? Screenwriter Joshua Long, who also tried and failed to produce a live-action Cowboy Bebop movie, once attempted to tackle this challenge. In a 2010 interview on the late Zac Bertschy’s ANNCast, he made it clear what the end product would have looked like.
Since Tohru Honda is the heroine of Fruits Basket, Mr. Long wanted to revise her character to be more like a movie star, though the intended changes weren’t accurate to the original character. He was under the wrongly impression that Tohru is a shallow and flimsy character, and thought that she needed to be more relatable to viewers: “It doesn’t necessarily come across right away in the manga because it’s long and there’s lots of silliness in it, so we need to give her a personality that’s really strong,” he said.
Except that she is strong, and the silly scenes in the manga don’t conflict with that. Joshua Long is getting the wrong idea from the comic relief, and he is underestimating Tohru’s appeal in the early chapters. She is likable because of her cheerful and airheaded ways, not in spite of them. Tohru’s heart of gold is palpable from the start. Also, Mr. Long incorrectly thought that Tohru was anachronistic and “a reject” for living in a tent. She is a struggling orphan, not a pariah.
As for the Sohmas, Joshua Long made some seriously transphobic-sounding comments about the series’ gender-nonconforming characters such as Momiji and Ritsu. He started to call them “hermaphrodites” before correcting himself, adding, “There’s cross-dressers […] there’s a lot of things there that don’t make sense.” Why? The world of fashion is extremely diverse, and people dress according to their own tastes, not some narrow idea of how men and women “should” dress.
Mr. Long finished this train of thought on the things that “don’t make sense” about Fruits Basket by saying “[…] we are bringing it into a modern city.” However, the story is already set in modern-day Tokyo. To not consider this setting a “modern city” comes off as ignorant and insensitive at best.
Discussing the Sohmas’ animal transformations, he made some rather odd comments, such as “[…] the little girl transforms into this big ox.” It’s Hatsuharu, a boy, who becomes the ox, while the young girl Kisa Sohma becomes a tiger. Mr. Long also gently criticized the “morphed person-animal-beast” creatures of the manga, preferring perfectly realistic tigers, oxen, rabbits, etc. But the animals in Fruits Basket were indeed realistic in appearance, if a bit cartoony. There were no “person-animal-beasts.” That description doesn’t even make sense.
Fruits Basket fans can feel a sense of relief that this proposed live-action film, which would in all likelihood have been disliked by film critics and anime fans alike, never got made.
KEEP READING: Fruits Basket: Another – The Furuba Sequel No One Read
Screenwriter Joshua Long wanted to create a live-action Fruits Basket movie. Based on his comments, it's fortunate that he didn't.