by Michelle Villanueva
Tohru Honda is a teenager who has experienced much tragedy in her young life. Her mother has died in a car accident, and without any other close relatives, Tohru is shuffled from house to house. Even when she finds room under her grandfather's roof, she must hastily leave again because he already has plans to remodel his dwelling. Orphaned and without a home, Tohru ends up living outdoors in a tent with only a few belongings and a precious photo of her mother for company. Despite all this hardship, nothing seems to dampen her spirits. Forever the optimist, Tohru is determined to continue on with life.
Her luck begins to change when she encounters the Sohma family. Magically cursed many generations ago, the Sohmas are destined to transform into the twelve animals from the Chinese zodiac whenever they are hugged by a member of the opposite sex. What they turn into depends on the year they were born, since each year in the Chinese zodiac is represented by a certain animal. Tohru discovers their secret and begins friendships with two volatile members of the Sohma clan: Yuki, who transforms into a rat, and Kyo, the "outcast" member of the Sohma clan who transforms into a cat. As the cat isn't a "true" animal of the zodiac, Kyo doesn't see himself as a "true" member of the Sohma family. Thus starts the saga of Fruits Basket, created by popular manga artist Natsuki Takaya.
Fruits Basket, also known as “Furuba” to fans of the series, has already been released in anime form by Funimation. But now, English-speaking audiences will finally be able to read the manga that started it all. At its core, the story of Fruits Basket is just your basic love triangle, but the circumstances and the characters of the manga are what set it apart from other shoujo fare. Along with perky Tohru, sulky Kyo, and "princely" Yuki, the first volume of Furuba also introduces us to Shigure Sohma, the amiable "Dog" of the Zodiac. Also appearing in the first volume are Tohru's only two friends at school, Uo (a "yankee" hooligan) and Hanajima (a girl who can sense psychic waves).
All of the characters in Fruits Basket are misfits in one way or another. Tohru's an orphan, the entire Sohma family is isolated from the rest of the world because of their curse, and even Tohru's best friends aren't quite the usual giggly girls one might find in shoujo manga. Like its characters, Fruits Basket itself is much more than a romance story. There are elements of intense drama, comedy, and even action. It's easy to see why this particular title has grown so popular amongst its fans.
Tokyopop's publication of Fruits Basket marks the culmination of a long request campaign to bring the title to America. Now that it's finally here, what can a reader expect? Like all of Tokyopop's titles, Fruits Basket has been released in 100% Authentic Manga format, printed so that the book reads from right to left. For someone not accustomed to the format, it might take some getting used to, but Tokyopop has included a helpful explanation of how to read a right-to-left manga at the "beginning" of the book.
In addition to the original manga translated into English, the first volume of Fruits Basket also includes a short history of the Chinese Zodiac, complete with a list of the animals and their corresponding years. There is also a short interview with the English voice actor of Tohru Honda, Laura Bailey. The interview could be a bit confusing for readers as it is also printed in right to left format. However, it's still an interesting read, particularly for those who are fans of the anime.
In all, Fruits Basket would be a great addition to any manga fan's library. The artwork and storyline are refreshingly unique. Pick up the manga even if you've seen the entire anime, because the anime didn't adapt the entire manga storyline. What better way is there to start off the new year than with one of the most requested titles in Tokyopop's history?