Fruits Basket is a shōjo, romcom, slice-of-life series with mild supernatural elements written and illustrated by Natsuki Takaya. It’s an immensely popular series, one that is considered to be the very best of the shōjo manga medium! Originally, Fruits Basket was published by Tokyo Pop for Western readers, but then Tokyo Pop went out of business and the the completion never occurred state-side. Luckily, in June 2016 Yen Press picked it up and began releasing the volumes in beautifully minimalistic, omnibus editions. It came with a new translation that’s closer in context to the original Japanese release, as well as redefined illustrations. I’ve accumulated the entire collection of these latest editions and plan on reading through them during the Autumn season. For this post, you can check out my thoughts on the first two volumes.
Fruits Basket follows a young girl named Tohru Honda. Through various circumstances, Tohru finds herself to be homeless, so she pitches a tent in the middle of the woods and creates a small place to live. But then a terrible storm hits, and a mudslide destroys her newly put-together shelter. A fellow classmate discovers Tohru’s predicament and invites her over to live with him and his family. While residing with them, Tohru learns of this family’s most deepest and strangest secret: they are turn into animals of the Chinese zodiac when they’re hugged by a member of the opposite sex.
Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition, Volume 1 by Natsuki Takaya
🐭 The story itself is very original and unique from most narratives that I’ve read within the shōjo genre for manga.
🐭 Each character is multi-dimensional, which helps to build a very well-rounded and fully fleshed out storyline; there are many layers besides the straightforward telling about a family with a secret.
🐭 The romance is exquisitely subtle, focusing first and foremost on the gradual building of friendship and familiarity, which is absolutely fantastic.
🐭 Unlike most manga from the genre, Tohru Honda is an exquisitely likeable and compassionate character; people who have experienced the pain associated with losing loved ones should be able to relate to and empathise with her.
🐭 The humour is spectacular with many laugh-out-loud moments; it can be raucous and slightly inappropriate at times, but it truly adds to the charm of the whole thing; it’s never exaggerated, or humorous just for the sake of being so.
🐭 The artwork is remarkably beautiful and it helps to propel you forward with eagerness.
🐭 I took my time reading this volume so I could savour every page, and I found every moment of that to be vastly pleasant.
🐭 5 hugs outta 5!
Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition, Volume 2 by Natsuki Takaya
🐂 In this collection, we are introduced to more members of the Sohma family (people Tohru is staying with).
🐂 Each member of the family continues to have distinct appearances and personality quirks that make it easier to tell them apart while you’re reading; makes it more enjoyable and fluid.
🐂 The development of the bonds and relationships between an array of characters continues to be steady and woven with the plot; never feels too fast, or too slow, or out of place.
🐂 Tohru remains charming and genuinely good-natured, which creates a comforting feel-good atmosphere to the series, even when some mildly serious subject matter arises.
🐂 In this volume, some of the humour came off as slightly more over-the-top than it needed to be, but overall I still find it entertaining.
🐂 There’s yet to be any realm of insta-love, or ridiculously fast-paced romantic developments, and that has me even more addicted as I’m not a fan of those tropes, however, the flirting sequences are a fucking riot.
🐂 There’s more subtly perverted commentary from many of the minor male characters that make me laugh-out-loud, but I tend to enjoy perverted elements when written smoothly into the story without feeling jarring and extrinsic.
🐂 The illustrations continue to be marvellous with an occasional over-crowded panel; I suspect these panels help complement the comedic facets, so it works out rather nicely.
🐂 4.5 colds outta 5!
If you’d like to read more shōjo manga that is equal parts feel-good and laugh-out-loud, check out the recommendations below!
My Love Story!! by Kazune Kawahara & Aruko: Two unlikely people fall in love and formulate a relationship that is filled with funny, fluffy moments and plenty of sweet, delicious memories! The series does a fantastic job of examining awkward first romances and common insecurities in relationships with a positive and heart-warming vibe.
Hiyokoi by Moe Yukimaru: The tallest boy in the class and the shortest girl in the class become friends that eventually leads them towards something more. This series is also laced with funny, fluffy scenes, yet it also examines social anxiety and how a specific character works through her anxiety to make the most of her life, as she formulates friendships she never believed she’d experience! Fantastic portrayal of social anxiety with uplifting exploration on how to cope with it.