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Fruits Basket is a manga penned by Natsuki Takaya, and it is also a love story.  It’s not a romance (although romance is hardly absent, either), but a tale of love in all its complex forms, how it hurts and how it heals.

This story is different from the others I’ve covered on Eucatastrophe primarily because it was not made for children.  I first read the manga when I was in high school, and I would highly recommend it for that particular age group.  I still get a lot out of it as an adult, but Fruits Basket was revolutionary when I first read it.  It’s one of those rare stories for young adults that actually prods adolescents toward a healthy concept of adulthood rather than simply wallowing in teenage angst.  It taught me empathy in its grace toward people I would have dismissed as “bad” or “wrong” as well as the ones uncomfortably like myself.

Just so we’re clear, this story is firmly in the PG-13 range, mainly because of the central conflict that involves various forms of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse.  Basically, there are a lot of messed up people in Fruits Basket, but the focus is on how they grow up and move on with their lives instead of nursing their pain.

I would be remiss not to mention the 2001 Fruits Basket anime, which was my first anime and still holds a special place in my heart.  I wrote about it earlier, but to put it simply, it’s not a very good adaptation.  It’s a nice show, but that’s almost entirely because of the source material, which is still occasionally obscured (read: the manga is better).  It’s a good gateway anime for people who are leery of cartoons with mature content, as it’s more of a family show than anything else, but there’s just not much to chew on.  It’s not quite cotton candy, but the real meat of the story is in the (more mature) manga.  I will say that if you think you’d like to check out the anime, definitely watch it before you read the manga, otherwise you’re bound to be underwhelmed. I expect I’ll bring it up in comparison as we go through the first few volumes of the manga (it primarily takes things from the first six volumes, with a handful of episodes getting as far as volume 9), but at this point I’m just waiting for someone to announce a reboot anime (a la Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood).

There is one other adaptation of note, the Fruits Basket Radio Drama, which was produced by Jacob “JesuOtaku” Chapman from 2011-2013.  It’s a very faithful presentation of the manga’s first four volumes, so I would recommend it to people who may have seen the anime and aren’t sure if they want to read all the same material in the manga.  After volume 4 you’ll have to actually dive into the manga, but at least by then you should have a good idea of the changes they made in the anime.  My only additional caveat on this version is that there is noticeably harsher language than in either the anime or the manga (at least the official translations).

Speaking of translations, I’m going to be using the Yen Press Collector’s Edition, which has been released in the U.S. in the past year, so the wording may be different from the old TokyoPop editions.  Don’t worry too much about it. This series was very popular in its heyday, and I’ve yet to encounter the tiniest public library that doesn’t have at least a couple volumes of Fruits Basket, but you might still have to do an interlibrary loan for some of them.  As always, I can’t guarantee a completely spoiler-free environment, but to those who have read it before (or just been spoiled already), please be considerate of those who haven’t, especially concerning Akito.  For those who haven’t, suffice it to say that there are some truly infamous spoilers out there that are really easy to run into just by looking at places like Wikipedia.

Unlike Princess Tutu, Fruits Basket is actually set in Japan, so I’ll make it a point to include some cultural notes for the sake of those who are going into this with little to no prior exposure to Japanese culture (like I was when I first read it).  Also, I’m going to be coming up with my own titles for all of the chapters (since manga don’t have chapter titles and I like providing pithy descriptions). I’ll be posting T/R again (because it’s a long story), starting next week. I’m so excited to share this story!

Until next time…

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