Tooru Honda is a high school freshman who is having a serious bout of misfortune. Not only was she recently orphaned with the tragedy of her mother's death, but she also has no where to live and is currently residing in a tent! However, when her luck to seems to be at its worst, she meets the Souma family, and is invited to stay with them in exchange for taking care of the household chores.
But it isn't long before Tooru discovers the Soumas have a deep secret. The family is cursed by the spirits of the Chinese Zodiac, and some of the children born into the Souma family are possessed by these spirits. When possessed, they cannot be "huggled" by the opposite sex, or they transform into their respective Zodiac animal!
However, this doesn't faze Tooru, who promises to keep their secret. She continues living with them, and her grave humbleness and thankfulness never wanes. As a result, they come to be very important people in her life, and the Soumas begin to realize how very lucky they are to have her.
Fruits Basket received the 2001 Kodansha Manga Award in the shoujo manga category and the "Best Manga" award at the 2007 American Anime Awards.
Fruits Basket was published in English by Tokyopop from February 10, 2004 to July 6, 2009. A box set with the complete series was released on September 29, 2010. All volumes were re-released in "Ultimate Editions" from October 9, 2007 to July 12, 2011, with two sequential volumes combined in a single hard-cover volume, including new cover art. Those releases were met with mixed reviews as they were exact reproductions of the previously released volumes and did not adjust page numbers or correct prior errors. Yen Press has been republishing the series in 12 volume Collector's Edition since June 28, 2016. The final omnibus is set to release on April 18, 2017.
I find that there are people who absolutely love (this seems to be the majority) Furuba or people who can't stand it.
I believe that it's hard not to like Furuba. At first I thought it was just going to be funny, because the first 7 or so volumes are full of hilarious scenes (mainly because whenever the Juunishi are hugged by the opposite sex, they change!). But once you get to volume 6 everything seems to start to gravitate in a different direction.
The story line, when it's revealed, is a little cliche in my opinion. Hence the rate of a 9. Don't get
me wrong, its a beautiful story and one I find myself learning from over and over again no matter how many times I read it. It's about growing up and becoming who you're meant to be and finding the reason why you were born. It's almost hard to believe sometimes, the pain the characters have to go through in Furuba. But I'm so engrossed in each pain that it's not something that can be put down easily.
The characters are the winning point in Furuba. In reality they'd be a bunch of loners, depressing and sad. And just about every one of them is believable. Their personalities range from overtly happy (meaning there hiding the pain) to stubborn as a horse (go figure) and just down right conceited (he knows who he is). Even 'God' too. The growth of each of them is stunning and gorgeous and reading them grow is like watching the sun rise on a rainy day. I've laughed obnoxiously, cried until my chest hurt and felt the red hot burn of hatred while reading this manga. My favorite character is Kyo because he's absolutely adorable and I think I would also try to solve everything with anger myself. And the one character that I hated and grew to love was Yuki because he, in my opinion, is the one who grows the most. The one problem I have though is our main character. I love and I hate Tohru Honda. It's hard to place into words, what Tohru is. Because she becomes everything at once. A mother, a sister, a friend, a confident, a hero and the reason for someone else's life. But she's also the saddest girl I have ever seen. Bottled up with the most horrifying feelings. Even in the beginning it's obvious. Losing your mother would tear anyone's heart it two. I love her and what she does for everyone in the story. Because if I were to meet her myself, I think I would react much as all the Zodiac do. I would treat her as if she were the sun itself. But where, but in a manga, do you find someone so selfless.
The enjoyment I had and continue to have for this manga is absolute. I own every single volume and I'll pick up one all the time and just read it. There's a lesson in every chapter and words, that even though I don't think anyone in the real world has the heart to say, that make me want to become a better person. Someone who would give and give and give and ask for nothing in return. It makes me want to smile. To be the reason that someone else could smile. It makes me want to to the rock that someone can stand on. It's hard to read this manga and not feel ashamed for something you've done. It makes me ashamed to feel that I don't do as Tohru does. Which is why I believe that everyone should read this manga. Because it's heartwarming, sad, and where life continues to grow.
People underestimate children and teenagers. When you're a kid, you're a blank slate that can be easily damaged. When you're a teenager, you tend to go through a lot of crap and as you get older, the baggage from when you were a teenager can carry over to your adult life. Yet there's this preconceived notion in our society that children/teenagers are stupid and that the problems that they go through when they're this young are trivial in comparison to the trials and tribulations they'll go through in their adult lives. Fruits Basket is a manga which tells the story of Tohru Honda and her
life with the Sohma family and is also a tale of emotional hardship.
Though Fruits Basket might seem like a supernatural comedy at first with its reverse harem premise and some occasional cuteness/man service to boot, it quickly turns into something much darker and deeper as it dives into the story of the Sohma family (specifically, the 12 members of the Chinese Zodiac, plus the cat) and their history of abuse/neglect and emotional hardship. At the forefront of all this is our plucky heroine, Tohru Honda who by the start of the series is an orphan. While many people like to criticise Tohru's characterisation as being "too perfect," I'd like to take the time to say that it's not entirely true.
Yes, Tohru is certainly kinder than most people and embodies certain characteristics that one might find rather stereotypical/idealistic. However, it should be noted that Tohru is not infallible. She actually is a flawed individual and is capable of making mistakes. Her cheerful demeanour simply masks the strife that she's endured. In fact, being TOO and cheerful and upbeat is her coping mechanism for all the shit she's gone through. Her behaviour doesn't go unnoticed. People do call her out on being "too happy" all the time, and what's more is that we get to see the child crying out for her lost mommy and daddy as the manga progresses. Each instance we see the part of her personality that her bubbly exterior masks is brief, but it's more than enough to remind us that she isn't perfect.
Another purpose that Tohru's cheerful demeanour serves is to lighten the mood of the overall story. This is a manga which deals with VERY heavy subjects such as parental/psychological abuse, neglect, and emotional codependency. Tohru and virtually every member of Zodiac is a seriously damaged individual with a history of great strife. Without something to lighten the overall tone of the story (if only a little), Fruits Basket would immediately become a work thoroughly entrenched in the melodramatic. Despite what most people who suffer from depression like to say, their lives aren't all bad. There's always going to be a light spot, some jovial mood every now and then, etc. In that sense, Tohru is even more of a necessity and not a hindrance to the storytelling.
When it comes down to lightening the mood, Natsuki Takaya did an excellent job with Fruits Basket. In fact, this is what I love about it so much. Far too often in anime and manga, we tend to get what seems like a light-hearted narrative that quickly devolves into a melodrama which tries too hard to evoke an emotional response out of the viewer/reader and Fruits Basket manages to avoid these very pitfalls by carefully blending the comedy with the drama/romance without creating some sort of dichotomy between these elements. With the right blend of comedy, drama, and romance along with some very well-written characters who play off of each other very well, she was effectively able to throw something depressing at you while reminding you that it's not all bad and that things will eventually get better for the characters.
When it comes down to characters, virtually everyone in the cast is properly fleshed out and play off of each other really well. Characters of particular note are Yuki, Kyo, Hatori, and Rin. We know exactly who each member of the cast is, we know their back-stories, and we see them grow and change as individuals. Tohru's friends, Saki and Arisa are also given their own time to shine in the sun and prove to be invaluable to Tohru's character growth. However, if there had to be a character that stood out to me more than anyone else, it would have to be Tohru's mother, Kyoko Honda. Surprisingly, even a deceased character is given time in the spotlight via flashback to show just how much of an influence that she's had on Tohru and vice-versa and for that, I applaud Natsuki Takaya.
Unfortunately, I can't really say the same about Takaya's artwork. It's going to be hard enough for people who are unfamiliar with the shoujo aesthetic to get used to the artwork in Fruits Basket, and her artwork certainly isn't bad by any means. What's more is that her artwork does go through quite a bit of refinement as the series progresses. However, the biggest fault that the manga has when it comes down to artwork is the relative lack of detail put into everything along with the fact that it seems like character faces/hairstyles sometimes end up recycled for side/supporting characters. I had a hard time trying to figure out whether or not Kyo was in the panel, or if it was one of the student council members, just as an example. Regardless, Takaya certainly did an adequate job of the artwork and it works for what it does.
So final thoughts: Fruits Basket is definitely one of the best mangas I've ever had the pleasure of reading. People often think of the shoujo demographic as being rife with big eyes, man service, reverse harems, debauchery, idiot girls fawning over guys who are complete dicks to them, etc. That's not entirely the case. Yes, that is certainly true for anime/manga on the lower end of the spectrum. However, if you're really looking for a shoujo series to read that's in the top of its class, I cannot recommend this manga enough. Now, there is an anime adaptation currently available from Funimation that was produced by Studio DEEN back in 2001. However, it only covers the first 38 chapters or so of the manga which is relatively early in its run. It's still worth watching, don't get me wrong but you might find it a bit too jovial compared to the rest of the manga.
Currently, Fruits Basket is out-of-print. TOKYOPOP used to publish the series and it was one of their all-time bestsellers (with sales only being topped by Naruto, believe it or not). Unfortunately, TOKYOPOP went out of business in 2011 and as such, all their titles have gone out-of-print and Viz Manga/Yen Press/Dark Horse/Kodansha Comics have not yet picked it up for publishing. Fortunately, there are plenty of volumes in circulation for you to read at a fair enough price so you should be able to pick up the entire series on Amazon or possibly Right Stuf if you're lucky.
With all of that said, I'm done with this review. Feedback is greatly appreciated as always. This is also my first manga review so please be gentle, senpai >////
Story - 10/10
Tohru Honda is a high school freshman who is having a serious bout of misfortune. Not only was she recently orphaned with the tragedy of her mother's death, but she also has no where to live and is currently residing in a tent! However, when her luck to seems to be at its worse, she meets the Sohma family - and is invited to stay with them in exchange for taking care of the household chores.
But it isn't long before Tohru discovers the Sohmas have deep a secret. The family is cursed by the spirits of the Chinese Zodiac, and some of the
children born into the Sohma family are possessed by these spirits. When possessed, they cannot be "huggled" by the opposite sex, or they transform into their respective Zodiac animal!
However, this doesn't phase Tohru, who promises to keep their secret. She continues living with them, and her grave humbleness and thankfulness never wanes. As a result, they come to be very important people in her life, and the Sohmas begin to realize how very lucky they are to have her.
Furuba was the first manga I ever read, the first anime I ever watched. I finished it about a year and a half ago, but since I got the final volume the other day, and have reread the series a few times over now, I should be able to give it a worthy review.
The story is like nothing Ive ever read before. Yes, Ive read lots of stories with people transforming into animals, or with the Zodiac as a genre. But Furuba was different. The more you get into the story, the deeper the meaning. Its tragic, yet cute, suspenseful and heart-wrenching. It kept me wanting more, kept me rereading each book over and over. The plot thickens, and doesn't have breaks like other stories do, like Naruto, Bleach, or anything like that. This is a story where once the plot thickens, it will not thin out until the very end. Its a mystery where you HAVE to read the whole thing to understand it. Skipping chapters and/or volumes will have you lost and confused, just like some characters in this story. Its a roller coaster ride of love, romance, hurt and tragedy. Its a shoujo manga that boys and girls alike can enjoy!
Art - 10/10
This is my favorite thing about Furuba. The art. Natsuki Takaya's are was cute to begin with, but you can how much she evolves her art, through out the manga. As the years go by, her art slightly changed, and now, if you look at that in volume one, and the art in volume 23, you cannot even tell they are the same artist. Her most recent art is beautiful and smoother than her art from 8 years ago. I loved Kyou's design the best, he seemed to be the character she worked most on, and it showed throughout his smooth expressions and movements. I hope to see more of Takaya-Sensei's more recent arts.
Character - 10/10
This is were Furuba has become on of the most popular shoujo manga out there. Character development. Every single fricken character in this story goes through huge transformations. In personality, looks and etc. Kyou especially. From the beginning there are characters I HATED, but by the time the end came around, that character had changed so much because of traumatic and heartbreaking events, they became one of my favorite characters. I had characters I liked from the beginning, and at the end, I LOVED them. I rooted for so many pairings, got what I wanted, hated some of the pairings that were strangely created, and wanted to murder a few characters. But without those certain characters, the story would have sucked, and that's what it didn't do.
Overall -- 10/10
Fruits Basket was a perfect start to my shoujo obsession. It kicked it off and kept me going through the years. 7 years of waiting for the finale, and I got what I wanted. Each chapter was unique in a sense, and I loved the story. Like I said before, this manga is perfect for both girls and guys. There's: Fighting, blood, fear, death, suspense, transformation, tons of zodiac reference, lots and lots of romance, Tsnuderes, animals, and cute bishounen.
This was the first series that I actually finished, and it was also the series that got me interested in the whole aspect of manga and anime ^^. I hope to one day re-read it if I can get hold of the books, since Tokyopop disabled their upload on online manga sites.
Story: The one thing I love about this series is that there's no one set genre. One moment, you can explore deeply into your conscious, the next you can be laughing your ass off at a joke Shigure makes. Though the sudden change, the events that unfold still seem to follow
very smoothly and it's very easy to link what's happening at any one part with any other parts of the series. This series also has a really good ending, it wrapped up very nicely and it leaves you with a heart-warming content feeling.
Art: The drawing at first felt weird. I think I was overwhelmed by Tohru's large eyes lol. But I think it's becoming my idea of manga drawings now, I tend to compare other series drawings with fruits basket. Just a habit of mine.
Character: Developing characters worked nicely into fruits basket. You find yourself following the path of each character, experiencing all their joy and sorrow; this allowed me to connect better with the characters. I don't think I'll ever forget them :)
Enjoyment: It's the highest scoring series in my list so far. Only reason I gave it 9/10 is cause saying it's 10/10 is saying it's the best, but I don't know if a new series will come that will beat it. So, for me 10/10 is reserved.
Overall: So very good, if only the anime is as good as the manga.
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