Genre: Romance/Comedy
Length: 23 Volumes
Allegiance: Hakusensha
Mangaka: Natsuki Takaya
Vintage: 1999 – 2006
Intelligence Agency Report by: Kitsune
Tohru Honda is a high school girl who became an orphan after her mother passed away. She was living on her own in a tent before the mysterious Sohma family welcomed her into their home. After beginning to live with them, it is accidentally revealed to Tohru that the family is bound by curses and secrets to a closed-off world. The family’s Secret of the Zodiac causes each cursed member to transform into their corresponding Chinese zodiac animal when weak or hugged by a member of the opposite sex. How will Tohru cope as the only outsider who knows of this dark secret? How will the feared head of the Sohma family react to the news that the secret has been discovered? Will Tohru lose her home once again?

Research Agent Report by: Kitsune
Plot
Characters
Impact
Visual
9.50
9.00
10.00
8.50
Overall 9.50
(not an average)
Fruits Basket is the number one shoujo manga in America to date. In Japan, it ranks at number two, bested only by Boys Over Flowers. The best way to explain its popularity is to quote the editor’s note that is contained in the first volume: “Fruits Basket is not an ordinary manga.” The note goes on to describe that the series is full of drama, comedy, romance, magic, and a special ingredient that you have to discover for yourself. I believe that this “special ingredient” is a little different for everyone. More specifically, many topics are addressed in the series and different ones touch different hearts in different ways. I’m personally convinced that this “ingredient” is why Fruits Basket has gained worldwide acclaim.Fruits Basket is a story composed of many smaller stories-the stories of each individual character. Because of this, the point of view in the manga changes pretty often and the plot skips around between different characters as they develop, but ultimately each story ties back to the main plotline. This can be a little annoying when one really wants to know what happens next with a certain character, but the character transitions also keep one interested and prevent the story from dragging. The topics Fruits Basket addresses are usually very deep and serious, but mixed in is enough comic relief to keep the reader from getting depressed.

Characterization in Fruits Basket is so strong that there simply can’t be many characters that one doesn’t have a strong opinion about. They are extremely realistic. Personally, I can imagine (and would love) running into people such as the aloof Kureno, the outwardly childish Momiji, the enigmatic Shigure, as well as everyone else. Every reader will recognize each character instantly as someone that could actually exist. However, there are several minor flaws with some of the characters. For instance, I feel that Machi doesn’t have enough development to live up to her more important role in the later portion of the story. The Tohru-Yuki-Kyo love triangle also grows old and makes one anxious eventually. Another common opinion is that there are a certain few scenes that seem out of the blue- they don’t seem to match the particular characters’ personalities at all, and they don’t make much sense within their individual storyline. Finally, I feel that some pairings were focused upon too much, whereas others weren’t focused on enough. All in all, the characters are very well- designed and only a few minor details really need to be fixed.

Fruits Basket’s strong points, its themes, its tone, and its characters really come together in the final volume, during which I cried, and I can’t even name another book or movie that’s ever made me cry. Anyone can relate to this manga, because surely everyone has felt lonely, depressed, passionate, afraid, weak, humorous, or any other strong emotion at some point. The manga dives so deeply into so many emotions that I don’t see how one cannot be moved by it. There are so many lessons that I’ve learned from the characters– Yuki taught me to be strong and push forward; he taught me that even the shy and awkward can gain confidence. Ayame taught me how to truly laugh at the insanity of the world. The list goes on and on. I believe that everyone should pick Fruits Basket up to see what it can teach them.

Natsuki Takaya’s artwork is quite stunning as a whole, and it appeals to both genders. While it is indeed a shoujo manga, her characters aren’t overwhelmingly cute, so plenty of guys are still comfortable with the art. The artwork has just the right amount of a shoujo touch in it though so that girls are also satisfied. My only complaint is that some of her faces look awkward from time to time, but other than that, her artwork is nearly impeccable.

Fruits Basket is at the top of the shoujo manga charts because its plot is rich and flowing and the characters are ones that the reader could encounter in the real world. The multiple themes of the story explore a vast variety of emotions and situations that nearly everyone will be able to relate to. The artwork is also appealing to the eye. Everyone should give Fruits Basket a shot because all of the essential factors of a great manga have been nearly perfectly achieved within its pages.