I never watched the original Fruits Basket anime, but I read the manga when I was 14 or 15; it was the third manga I ever read and I honestly believe it changed my life, made me a better person and helped repair my relationship to my family. This show, from the first season to final one, is very nearly a perfect adaptation of it. If you are young, if you have not watched a lot of anime, then I won't hesitate to dearly and warmly recommend you watch it. Please don't let my negative review put you off, it's not aimed at you, go watch the show because it might just create a miracle in your life.
The reason I am writing this review is as an alternate viewpoint. Unlike the me a decade and half ago, I'm a working adult closer in age to Shigure and Hatori than I am to Tohru so re-experiencing this story felt completely different to what it was the first time. Let's take it bit by bit:
The theme Fruits Basket explores is cycles of abuse and it shows how we continue hurting each other, over and over again, and the only way to break out of it is to take initiative and respond to the abuse with kindness and understanding. You can divide the cast in a few categories: the kids, the young adults, the abusive parents and the dead parents. The Sohma family is profoundly broken and toxic, everyone is suffering, everyone is to some degree sympathetic, and the show takes the perspective of the kids and the teenagers as they navigate this. If you are a kid or a teenager yourself this is fine, but where rewatching the show caused dissonance with me was that I automatically took the perspective of the adults and almost every one of them are massive assholes, or dead, or otherwise really... not good people. The world of Furuba is cynical to the extreme, and it's telling you to accept that the world is ugly and most are abusers but you have to love them anyway - and that anyone could be an abuser, it's only a matter of circumstances (whether or not this is wrong is arguable, but it IS extremely cynical).
The story continues following around the Sohma family and exploring their individual histories of abuse and how they grow past that... which is nice, but abuse and crimes do *not* get punished, ever, they get forgiven. An example: there is a certain character who hospitalizes several main cast members, emotionally abused at least two children for years to the point one of them was nearly catatonic, physically abused several children and teenagers over the course of the show... and more things, and this character is forgiven. He's also not the only awful person. Another character, seeing their younger sibling (by about 10 years?) be abused and slowly dying inside, rejects them until the sibling grew up and grew a more positive attitude via Tohru, then they want to mend the relationship and be friends. Another character cheats on the person he loves with that person's parent. Another adult (late 20s) falls in love with a highschooler and this gets like 2 minutes of development over the course of the show, the rest of the time is just them pining for each other. Nobody ever apologizes: the Good Person Thing is to turn the other cheek and make up, you have to accept everyone, change comes from you and it's selfish to have expectations. When I was a teenager growing up in a difficult family situation this message helped me accept my parents as they were; as an adult at an age where I could have my own kids, this message genuinely makes me want to puke.
Regarding characterization, the kids all act very mature and adult; the adults all act like how teenagers imagine adults act - they use big words and have long flowery dramatic speeches and are all very absorbed in Adult Person Drama, which is the same as teenager drama except the adults have the freedom to slack off and the privilege to push the kids around. What I'm trying to say is, all the dialogue coming from the adult cast (except Akito) is weird in an uncanny valley kind of way and the kids themselves act way too mature compared to how you'd expect emotionally immature teens who are dealing with trauma to act (and I'm not kidding about this, the only person shown to have a job that's not 90% a hobby is a teenager). About the main cast, Tohru is a Holy Virgin Mother who is perfect and resolves the trauma of a dozen characters by just existing in their vicinity, and yet she is also impossible to hate even as a viewer so props there. Kyo is your regular tsundere. Yuki is great though, no complaints there, his story and character is complex and his trauma was the one thing that made me cry again in the 70 or so episodes of the remake. Shigure was... an unexpectedly awful person but as a character really interesting, once you accept that he never grew past the mental age of 15. Another besides Yuki standout is Akito, who is very fun to watch with his narcissism (which the show of course does not acknowledge: mental disorders don't exist, everything can be solved and healed with a hug from Tohru).
I also have a few YMMV dislikes that are very subjective but I still want to mention without going into them too deeply:
- Everyone gets paired up.
- There's not a gay person in this whole cast, everyone is not just paired up but paired up in a straight relationship to the point where it's statistically weird that absolutely everyone is straight. The show tried to bait a bit with Ayame, but walked back on that.
- Akito's character arc involves her discarding her androgyny - stories like this are fine, I just don't personally like them.
One more important thing that I need to bring up, the sound: the sound mixing in all seasons of this was awful to the point I thought my headphones or laptop were broken. A lot of Furuba doesn't have background music, just characters talking over silence - in those scenes, if you're wearing decent-ish headphones, you can VERY clearly hear where a voice clip recording ends and another begins (there's some very slight white background noise when characters talk that just cuts to complete, blank silence for a moment when the voice recording ends). This isn't an issue in scenes with soft background music, and I've never heard anything like this in other anime, it was incredibly jarring and was probably one of the reasons I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy the show. The bad sound rating is for this, the OP/ED were fine or really good in all seasons.
With this review I don't mean to attack anyone's first experience of Fruits Basket or the nostalgia for the first experience back then, these are just my personal thoughts on the three seasons of the remake. If you are an adult and plan to watch this without ever having read the manga back then, or if you didn't like the first season but want to power through because the rating is great, please keep in mind that this show might not be for you (just like it wasn't for me) and sometimes it's fine to drop a show you don't enjoy even if it's popular and genre-defining.