Manga Review: Fruits Basket

Manga Review: Fruits BasketFruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
Published by TOKYOPOP on February 10, 2004
Genres: Fantasy, Humor, Mythology, Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

A family with an ancient curse...

And the girl who will change their lives forever...

Tohru Honda was an orphan with no place to go until the mysterious Sohma family offered her a place to call home. Now her ordinary high school life is turned upside down as she's introduced to the Sohma's world of magical curses and family secrets.

Fruits Basket is probably my very favorite manga that I have read to date. Now, I wholeheartedly admit that the premise is weird and unlikely, but, hey, it’s fantasy. Anyway, if you can get past the initial outlandishness, you discover a story full of heart and darkness. This is my fourth or fifth time through the series, and I just love it more every time.

Having read through a few reviews on Goodreads, I know that this series, and the character of Tohru especially, gets a lot of flak for being too cutesy. It seems that some people did not buy Tohru’s consistently positive attitude or her naivete. For me, it worked. Tohru has her painful past, and she does occasionally struggle to put forward that happy face. In fact, I think that she’s an incredibly strong character, because she tries so hard and does her best to be happy no matter what life throws her way.

Also criticized is the zodiac curse. Yes, it’s crazy and not likely. Who cares? The least popular aspect seems to be the fact that one of the side effects of the curse is that hugging a member of the opposite sex will turn them into their animal. It sounds so arbitrary and like it was solely introduced for hijinks and humor. Actually, I think that there’s more to it. This part of the curse is what really separates the Sohma’s from other people. They are drawn more into the family and unable to mingle in society for fear of discovery. Their curse is being stuck together.

What really makes me love this story so much though is the way that it grows and changes. In most series, there isn’t too much of a marking of time, but in Fruits Basket, the characters change a lot in both personality and appearance. I love that you can literally see the characters growing up from children to adults. Additionally, I really appreciate the level of depth in pretty much all of the rather extensive set of main characters. Each one gets at least one chapter focusing on their own issues.

If you don’t believe me about the depth of the story, here’s a quote, which pretty much perfectly sums up being young: “It’s good to be young, without experience in how to live, struggling desperately as if you were going to drown, even though you could float if you just drew on your own strength.” I just love that. Above and beyond the fantasy plot, this is really just a touching story of a lot of broken people coming together and trying to find the courage to believe in themselves and to really love.

Not only that, but the art is gorgeous. It takes a couple of volumes for Takaya to get into the swing of things, but after that I occasionally find myself pausing and just staring at a particular frame to admire the beauty therein. Of course, manga art gets criticized a lot for being ridiculous, so if you don’t like it, then you won’t like the art here either, since it’s got the standards (like big eyes versus narrow ones to indicate degrees of masculinity/femininity).

Do not be fooled by the pretty shoujo artwork and cutesy opening chapters, though. Fruits Basket is very dark and tackled a lot of painful issues, such as parental abuse. However, it does so with heart and hope. This will always be one of my very favorite works of literature.

2 responses to “Manga Review: Fruits Basket”

  1. Heather says:

    Wow, 5/5? It’s official: I am giving Fruits Basket a try!

  2. Christina Kit. says:

    Thanks for covering all types of novels.

    This one sounds great!

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