Monday, November 25, 2013

Manga Review: Fruits Basket Series (Natsuki Takaya)

Title: Fruits Basket
Author: Natsuki Takaya
Volume(s) Reviewed: 1-23 (complete series)
Publisher: Tokyopop
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Rated: Older Teen (heavy emotional situations, violence, abuse, child abuse, some language, partial nudity, some sensuality)
Find It On: Goodreads

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.  

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Art: Black & White. It starts out rather sharp but smooths out as Ms. Takaya's art evolves. The backgrounds are simple but authentic; the characters unique and easy to tell apart. The animal forms are adorable!

Story: Taken in by several members of the mysterious Sohma family after her mother's death and the subsequent loss of her home, Tohru stumbles upon the Sohma family curse and takes it upon herself to break it and save the ones she loves. It's a beautiful story about the depths of love and loss - you will laugh, you will cry, your heart will hurt, but it will be a good hurt. It's a heavy tale but a sweet one, and there is a lot of humor to balance out the darker tones. Like most Japanese stories, while it doesn't necessarily end on a "happily ever after" note, it's a tender and satisfying ending that will stay with you long after you've finished.

Characters: There are over two dozen important characters in this series - all of which are unique and lovable in their own way - but just three main players. At the top is Tohru Honda, probably the sweetest and nicest girl you'll ever find in life or on paper, despite her unlucky past. She's the catalyst and the heart of the entire story - everything revolves around her, and with good reason. You can trace every major moment back to her in some way, even if it doesn't initially appear so. She's the girl you wish was your friend, and her happy ending is everyone's happy ending. Yuki Sohma, one of the most tortured souls in the bunch, was a sweetie and, while not exactly a prince, definitely worthy of his own happy ending. His journey out of despair was a beautiful one. The Tortured Soul Award goes to Kyo Sohma, however - mistreated as a child, blamed for everything and looked down on by everyone, his brash attitude towards life and those around him was understandable. For such a strong boy though, he was a broken mess, and I was happy he found salvation in the end.

The rest of the cast was extensive, but with 23 volumes everyone got their time in the spotlight. At the top is definitely Shigure Sohma, who some might actually consider part of the main players. But for such a major character, he was more of a quiet background figure to me. While selfish and sometimes rather cruel, he was just what many needed in their hour of need - even if it was only to give them shelter. Akito was a wonder of amazing writing, encompassing the Japanese dynamic of "there are no evil people, only misunderstood and tortured souls." My hate burned and my soul wept, and by the end of the series I was elated how his story turned out. Hatsuharu was a doll and sometimes much-needed comic relief, and contrasted strangely yet beautifully with tormented Ren. Playful and adorable Momiji was my favorite (although it might've been simply because I'm a Rabbit ;), with sweet and quiet Kisa as my extremely close second favorite (I would act exactly as Tohru did if I ever met her - with HUGS). Abrasive Hiro, once he grew up a little, made for a nice match for her. Rounding off the Sohma family were apologetic and comic-relief Ritsu, stone-faced and gentle Hatori, flamboyant and frustrating Ayame, passionate Kagura, and the mysterious Kureno. And that's just the Zodiac group! Also, and definitely not at the bottom, were Tohru's best friends, Hanajima and Uotani - their presence and stories lent a lot to the series, and without their support I don't think Tohru would've been able to help the Sohmas as she did. While quite the cast, don't be overwhelmed by the long list - they are worth getting to know, and love.

Conclusion: A fun but heart-wrenching story that made me laugh and cry. The series won the American Anime Award for Best Manga during its run, and for good reason. Whether you love manga or are just looking to get your feet wet in the genre, this is a series not to be missed.

Scribble Rating
4 of 5 Scribbles


  1. I do so love this series. Although, to be honest, I liked the art in the earlier volumes. I didn't really like how vastly they changed. The characters were much cuter in the beginning, haha.
    When I look at how many characters there are, the list seems huge. But I think Takaya did an awesome job of introducing them, and allowing the reader to get to know them all. Which I loved.
    It's nice to meet a fellow manga fan :D

    1. I hear you about the art - while the look of the characters softened as time went on, I did feel the characters lost some of their originality. Still, I liked the softer look as well, so I can't decide if I'm more of an earlier or later fan of the artwork.

      And I know, the character list length seems rather ridiculous, right? I couldn't believe how many there actually were until I started typing them up! But Natsuki did such an excellent job making each one unique and special, and giving plenty of time to spotlight each of their stories.

      Thanks for your comments! :)

    ... ?! Oh woooow I literally just finished reading this series again for the second time!! It's SO strange as well because I only had 1-21, so I finally got to order 23 and it finally came a few days ago, I read it straight away and it made me tear up all over again. Then I went and read Vol 1 - they were all so young then! Amazing how artfully Natsuki Takaya matured them!

    Thanks for your review, I loved reading it, especially with the story so fresh in my mind. It made me laugh and cry too. There one thing, though, just one thing that sends chills up my spine when I think about it. I still feel very uneasy about Shigure even though the story is over! Its even scarier because you never know what he is really up to.

    Have you seen the anime?
    If not, I won't go into it but I talked about it on my blog if you're interested ( ) haven't seen it myself but apparently, REALLY IMPORTANT changes were made to the story which, in turn, makes the ending radically different =( Its an awful, AWFUL ending but if you ever watched it, I'd love you read your review on that too! (If you're into like, fantasy/romance shoujo type manga, Immortal rain by Natsuki Takaya is my FAVOURITE.)

    Sorry I wrote so much! >.<

    This review made my day. Thanks. ^_^

    1. I have seen the anime! Although it's been so long I can't quite remember it. XP I do recall the ending was vastly different, though. I believe they made the anime while she was still writing the manga, and then they ended it suddenly before the manga ending had been written, so they created their own, darker interpretation. When the manga ending finally came around, I was much happier with it than the anime one!

      I haven't heard of a series called Immortal Rain by Natsuki Takaya, but I do love the series of the same name by Kaori Ozaki! I've only read what Tokyopop published before they went under, though. T-T

      I'm so glad you enjoyed my review! Thank you for your comments, and thank you for Following! :)