Manga Review: Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket or Furuba by Natsuki Takaya is one of the most popular mangas of all time. Beginning in 1999, there are 23 volumes of girly, teal pastely silliness to wile away the time if you are a pretty, pink Lolita who loves puppies and cupcakes. Or, at least that’s what I thought.

I never really paid attention to this manga series because of the impression the covers gave me and had my best friend not pushed it into my hand to borrow, I would still be under the misapprehension that Fruits Basket was mindless drivel.

I was mistaken. First, the plot is interesting and the characters likeable. Second, Fruits Basket is a story that any of us can relate to. It’s the story of being forgotten or left out.

I never connected the name Fruits Basket with the game we played as children where everyone is a fruit name and when the teacher yells “Apples and Oranges” everyone jumps up and tries to switch seats like crazy people. Apparently, when the main character, Tohru, was named in this game, she was given the title “Rice Ball” which we all know is not a fruit, and therefore would never be called. This is just one way in which Tohru is treated like an outsider.

An orphan after her mother dies, she is thrown out of her grandfather’s house because he is remodeling. Having nowhere else to go, she opts to stay in a tent in the woods where she will be out of everyone’s way. Luckily, she meets her neighbors who are a group of misfits like her and they offer her to stay with them instead of living in the tent. Soon she finds out that the misfits she’s living with are actually representations of Chinese Zodiac signs and when she hugs them, they turn into the Zodiac animal they embody. Not very ideal for the guy she’s in love with to turn into a rat in the middle of a hug, but this is just another obstacle in Tohru's quest for happiness. For me, the book was a series of Murphy ’s Law illustrations. They are the kind of issues we run into in everyday life. Just when you get promoted, the company closes. Just when you feel on top of the world, something happens that plunges you into depression.  For Tohru, just when she finds a family to love her, they turn into animals.

But Tohru, despite her troubles, has an excellent outlook on life. She is a shining star in the house and seems to make them all reevaluate what problems they have to face on a daily basis.

The beginning few pages of Fruits Basket #1, does have that bad printing that I sometimes talk about. There are extra side notes from the author that we enjoy such as giving insider information, tips, background on character names, etc… The extras in the back include two pages on the Chinese Zodiac, instructions on how to play Dai Hin Min a game mentioned in the story, and a two page interview with the girl who did the voice work for Tohru in Fruits Basket - the animated series.

This manga talks about something that a lot of us fandom enthusiasts already know:
Your friends can be a family.

Even if your parents are dead, your other family members are mean to you or don’t accept you, you can find people who care about you and who truly enjoy spending time with you. Sometimes, these people can be more valuable than anyone who shares your blood. Most of us in fandom understand this and we will always have more enriching experiences because we know there is someone out there that we can relate to.

Quite a bit to discover in just the first book of a series I shied away from for many years. I’d like to say thank you to my best friend Ari for bullying me into reading it. What’s that saying about judging a book by it’s cover? I’m wrong!

Checkout Fruits Basket at Amazon.com while there you can also find Fruits Basket - the animated series.