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A Reader of Fictions: Free - Switchfoot

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, March 19, 2012

Free - Switchfoot

Fruits Basket

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Volumes: 23
Publisher: Tokyopop

Description from Goodreads:
Tohru Honda was an orphan, living with her grandfather, when one day fate kicked her out of the house and she was forced to take up residence in a tent in the forest. Little did she know that the land she was staying on belonged to the Sohma family, a mysterious clan. After stumbling upon the teenage squatter, the Sohmas invite Tohru to stay in their house in exchange for housework. Everything's going well until she discovers the Sohma family's greatest secret: when hugged by members of the opposite sex, they each turn into their Chinese Zodiac animal!

Fruits Basket is probably my very favorite manga that I have read to date. Now, I wholeheartedly admit that the premise is weird and unlikely, but, hey, it's fantasy. Anyway, if you can get past the initial outlandishness, you discover a story full of heart and darkness. This is my fourth or fifth time through the series, and I just love it more every time.

Having read through a few reviews on Goodreads, I know that this series, and the character of Tohru especially, gets a lot of flak for being too cutesy. It seems that some people did not buy Tohru's consistently positive attitude or her naivete. For me, it worked. Tohru has her painful past, and she does occasionally struggle to put forward that happy face. In fact, I think that she's an incredibly strong character, because she tries so hard and does her best to be happy no matter what life throws her way.

Also criticized is the zodiac curse. Yes, it's crazy and not likely. Who cares? The least popular aspect seems to be the fact that one of the side effects of the curse is that hugging a member of the opposite sex will turn them into their animal. It sounds so arbitrary and like it was solely introduced for hijinks and humor. Actually, I think that there's more to it. This part of the curse is what really separates the Sohma's from other people. They are drawn more into the family and unable to mingle in society for fear of discovery. Their curse is being stuck together.

What really makes me love this story so much though is the way that it grows and changes. In most series, there isn't too much of a marking of time, but in Fruits Basket, the characters change a lot in both personality and appearance. I love that you can literally see the characters growing up from children to adults. Additionally, I really appreciate the level of depth in pretty much all of the rather extensive set of main characters. Each one gets at least one chapter focusing on their own issues.

If you don't believe me about the depth of the story, here's a quote, which pretty much perfectly sums up being young: "It's good to be young, without experience in how to live, struggling desperately as if you were going to drown, even though you could float if you just drew on your own strength." I just love that. Above and beyond the fantasy plot, this is really just a touching story of a lot of broken people coming together and trying to find the courage to believe in themselves and to really love.

Not only that, but the art is gorgeous. It takes a couple of volumes for Takaya to get into the swing of things, but after that I occasionally find myself pausing and just staring at a particular frame to admire the beauty therein. Of course, manga art gets criticized a lot for being ridiculous, so if you don't like it, then you won't like the art here either, since it's got the standards (like big eyes versus narrow ones to indicate degrees of masculinity/femininity).

Do not be fooled by the pretty shoujo artwork and cutesy opening chapters, though. Fruits Basket is very dark and tackled a lot of painful issues, such as parental abuse. However, it does so with heart and hope. This will always be one of my very favorite works of literature.

Rating: 5/5

"I've got my back against the wall
But I still hear the blue sky call
The chains that hold me back inside
Are the prisons of my mind

Free, come set me free
Down on my knees
I still believe
You can save me from me

Come set me free
Come set me free
Inside this shell
There's a prison cell

I try to live the light of day
Why would I do what I hate?
But when try to reach above
I only I hurt the ones I love"

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Blogger Heather said...

Wow, 5/5? It's official: I am giving Fruits Basket a try!

March 20, 2012 at 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Christina Kit. said...

Thanks for covering all types of novels.

This one sounds great!

March 28, 2012 at 5:47 PM  

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