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ReRead: Fruits Basket

ReRead: Fruits Basket



I am really into the nostalgia value recently but, in saying that, I am sick of everybody announcing remakes, re-tellings and sequels. That was, until the news broke that there will be a sequel to the fan-favourite manga, Fruits Basket. I could not contain my joy at the news. This series, after years of pain-staking purchasing takes pride of place within my manga collection and is always the first to be displayed. However, I had not actually picked up and reread the manga in a long time and, with the news of a sequel, I couldn’t help but open it again and relive the magic of it.
Fruits Basket, or Furuba, was serialised in the Japanese Hana to Yume magazine from 1998 to 2006 and was written and illustrated by Natsuki Takaya. This manga was everywhere in the early noughties and was a staple for any manga fan to own or read; it is also where a lot of manga fans started their collection. It, like all popular manga of the time, spawned a less than well received 26 episode anime series that was created and ended before the manga series had finished, meaning it contained a new story and did not show that ending that captured all fans’ hearts. However, that is a review for another day.
The manga follows high school orphan Tohru Honda who, so as not to be a burden to her extended family following the untimely death of her mother, makes the decision to fend for herself and live in a tent in the woods. She is not the brightest but is the most caring and hardworking individual you would ever hope to meet. Her life is forever changed after she meets the Sohma family, in particular Yuki, Kyo and Shigure Fruits+Basket+vol+2+Tohru+and+MomijiSohma, who take her in after her temporary accommodation is destroyed. She soon discovers the dark curse of the Sohma family. Twelve members of the Sohma family are possessed by the animals of the Chinese zodiac and these individuals transform into their animal counterparts when hugged by a member of the opposite sex who are not cursed, or when they are weak or stressed. Tohru begins a journey of not only self-discovery but a journey of trying to help heal what has become a broken family, but she soon discovers things are not all cute and cuddly when the true curse is revealed.
There is so much going on in this manga I do not even know where to begin. First off, it holds up even after nearly a decade since the final volume was printed. Something I thoroughly enjoyed while giving this manga a re-read was seeing the art progression from the first volume to the final one; you see Takaya really hone her skills and grow with the manga as it develops. There is no beating this manga on story; it begins so simply as a romantic comedy and reverse-harem with some fantasy added for good measure. The premise is of a young girl living with three young men and all the mishaps that can happen in that environment, but once they start delving into the individual characters, it takes not only a dramatic turn but a captivating one. Fruits-Basket-anime-and-manga-club-29991663-1232-900
Over the 23 volumes of the manga, each cover displaying one of the individual characters, we see each and every character developed to the fullest. However, it can sometimes feel like there are far too many characters to keep up with, though the manga is properly structured so as to feature all the stories equally, allowing the manga and the character arcs to flow seamlessly together. It is done to such perfection, in my opinion, that the end of the manga is a clean break without loose ends. The manga also touches on issues like incest (they are cousins after all), homosexuality, sexual confusion, eating disorders, depression, death and other health issues, giving it a more real life reading experience since someone out there will see themselves in these characters.
Let’s just take a look at the three main protagonists who are, in reality, the main focus of the series bar the Sohma family curse members, and we will look at that soon anyway. Our three main characters are Tohru Honda, Yuki and Kyo Sohma (it’s no shock but it’s a love triangle of sorts). We have already had a glimpse at Tohru on the Otaku Digest ‘Top Five Sweeter Than Sweet Characters’, but there is so much more to Tohru than just that. Yes, she is as sweet as sweet can be but it is her empathy and total selflessness that really 02-03makes her stand out in this manga. Her type of character is usually an annoying martyr trope used in manga, but she actually transcends it and is genuinely kind and only thinks of others. Even in moments where it seems like she is being selfish, she is actually protecting or caring for someone else.
It is these qualities and the effect that it has on the individual members of the Sohma family and anyone who meets her that cause them to look deep within themselves to find the courage to stand and believe in themselves and what is best for them. Which leads us to the two Sohma boys, Yuki and Kyo. Their relationship is one of a bitter rivalry spanning generations between those cursed by the rat (Yuki) and the cat (Kyo), but in reality these two want what the other has; Yuki wants nothing more than the courage to be himself and have friends rather than admirers (of which he has many, even a fan club) and Kyo wants to be accepted. As the cat, he is doomed to forever be on the outside. Both have no idea what the other sees in the other but by meeting Tohru, they begin to live their lives the way they should and each develops a different sort of relationship with her. For these relationships alone, the manga is worth reading.
I can truly not under-sell this manga in any way; it has everything you would want from a 23 volume manga series. A gripping but heart-warming story, characters you can genuinely believe in and relate to and amazing visuals. Next year will mark a decade since the original series finished. We can only hope to see the sequel sometime in the near future and it will be interesting to see how they do it since, like I said, the manga series was so well wrapped-up that a sequel seems unnecessary.
Re-reading Fruits Basket may have been the best decision that I made this month since, not only did it have the nostalgia value, it reminded me of why I love manga and will continue to love it.
Have you read Fruits Basket? What did you think? What is your favourite manga series? Did it begin your collection? Let us know in the comments!