FRUITS BASKET Manga review

• Natsuki Takaya • Tokyopop (2004–ongoing) • Hakusensha (Hana to Yume, 1998–2006) • 23 volumes • Shôjo, Fantasy, Romantic Comedy, Drama • 13+ (mild language, mild violence, mild sexual situations) slam dunk manga amazon

Tohru, a Pollyannaish teenage orphan who lives alone, one day meets a very strange family: the Sohma clan, who are cursed to transform into cute talking animals when hugged by a member of the opposite sex. (Since the Sohmas are mostly beautiful, girlish men, it’s the perfect nonthreatening guy scenario.) Each of the cursed Sohmas is associated with an animal of the Chinese zodiac, and over the first 10 volumes of the series Tohru gets to know them all, especially Yuki, “the rat,” a popular and princely boy, and his rival Kyo, “the cat,” a troublemaking outcast, whose patron animal was excluded from the zodiac in an ancient legend. But as the Sohmas become her new family, Tohru discovers that each of them has secret sorrows, and that for some of them, the fairy-tale curse is much crueler than others. Despite the openhearted heroine and the simple, wide-eyed artwork, Fruits Basket is a surprisingly sad series, dwelling on themes of loneliness, growing up, and the need for family. (“Will I be able to find a good job?” wonders Tohru. “Can I really live by myself? Someday I’ll leave this home.…”) Rather than providing comedy in the style of Ranma ½, the transforming-animal aspect is almost forgotten as the series goes on, except as an ever-present secret that the Sohmas must keep from the rest of the world, a secret that destroys relationships and turns parents against their children. (The martial arts element in the early volumes also gradually fades out.) The cast of characters is large, but everyone is so well defined that the stories tell themselves … gradually,Attack of titan manga, scene by scene, emotion by emotion. Neither particularly well drawn nor incredibly witty, it’s nonetheless a fascinating manga, like a sweet, melancholy dream.} else {

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