Fruits Basket Season 2 and its results were one of the biggest surprises to the Anime Trending Awards of 2021. When the anime aired weekly from Spring to Summer of 2020, Fruits Basket Season 2 actually lost the nomination slot. Instead, Sing “YESTERDAY” for Me, Kaguya-sama Love is War Season 2, Tower of God, and My Next Life as a Villainess took the coveted Anime of the Year nomination spots. Fruits Basket Season 2 only joined the roster of nominees from a wildcard round.
Yet, at the end of the awards, the anime managed to rack in several close award wins — it surprisingly placed second for Anime of the Year. Currently, that is the highest placement a wildcard nominee has ever gotten for Anime of the Year. How did an anime that barely managed to slide into nominations end up performing so well in the awards?
The answer is three-pronged: pacing, timing, and community loyalty.
Since Fruits Basket Season 2 aired in Spring 2020, its only chance at a guaranteed nomination was in the season it aired. However, as a 2-cour anime, the show lasted till the end of the next season instead of ending in June like most Spring anime. Compounding that with the timing of the nomination process, Fruits Basket is also a famous, slow-burn story where the character development and plot happen subtly before slamming down all at once. This is particularly true for the second season as the first half of the series spends a majority of its time introducing new characters, new relationships between characters, and an overall buildup towards Tohru’s ultimate motivation — to free the Sohmas from their curse.
As a result, when Fruits Basket had a chance for nominations in Spring, viewers watched the setup with little rewards. This understandably led to a fewer number of votes trickling in for the anime. While it certainly didn’t perform poorly on the charts, it only performed just enough to stay on the charts, never quite breaking grounds to reach higher rankings. By the time the famed emotional scenes in the series showed up, its voting period had already ended. This is one of the major reasons why it didn’t snag a nomination for Anime of the Year in Spring but ultimately won the wildcard round — once viewers had seen the completion of the second season.
Additionally, because of the powerfully-written episodes and scenes that happened in the second half of the season, viewers remembered the season more by the time the Anime Trending Awards opened for voting. Anime that aired in Summer and Fall tend to perform better on the awards because of recency bias: voters pick anime they’ve seen more recently because it’s easier to recall those powerful moments. This is the exact reason why Oscar-nominated films tend to get released at the end of the year — to take advantage of the recency bias that voters will inevitably deal with. With a double score of the anime’s most powerful moments ending during Summer, voters remembered Fruits Basket more than they actually did in Spring.
Finally, Fruits Basket is a remake of a classic. Similar to the famed Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a majority of Fruits Basket fans are otakus that found the manga in their school libraries — and likely one of the only available manga series for them to read. It is responsible for creating a generation of anime fans, especially outside of Japan, and nostalgia has proven itself as an incredibly powerful tool for many things whether it’s music, books, or even toys. The majority of Fruits Basket voters are from the older age bracket in the anime community, but they are incredibly united in voting for the anime. By the end of the voting period, those aged 23 and above overwhelmingly voted for Fruits Basket in all of its nominated categories.
Their loyalty even spilled over into daily lives as the Fruits Basket communities on social media advertised posts with the Anime Trending Awards to everywhere — with some groups as large as 43,000 individuals strong. The fanbase’s united front and devotion to the anime showed in the results: second place for Anime of the Year, Best Drama winner, and top four for six other categories — all for an anime that didn’t actually get nominated in the season it started airing.
In a nice twist of coincidence, the Anime Trending Awards and voters followed a similar formula that Fruits Basket itself follows: a slow uphill battle that ends in a wave of positive emotions, loyalty, and positive results.