Fruits Basket MMF: Sunday wrap-up

We have a couple more pieces before we officially close up this installment of the Manga Moveable Feast!

At Otaku Ohana, Jason Yadao takes a retrospective look at his relationship with Fruits Basket:

Readers loved Fruits Basket. So much so, in fact, that the hyperbole on the books’ covers gradually built over the series’ run.  Need to be reminded that Fruits Basket was “The #1 selling shojo manga in America!”? There was a blurb for that, starting from volume 5 …

And at All About Manga, Daniela Orihuela-Gruber admits that she came to Fruits Basket later than some of her peers, but she fell hard:

In short, I really could have used Fruits Basket and its complex drama about a number of well-meaning souls tormented by a restrictive and isolated society, then freed by great friendship and love. I would have loved to learn that I didn’t need to be trapped into being “friends” anyone in that school in order to have the life I wanted.

You can see a listing of all of the Feast posts here. Thanks so much to everyone who weighed in with such insightful posts. You made the week a treat!

Next up in Manga Moveable Feasts is an in-depth look at the gifted and awesome Fumi Yoshinaga, to be hosted by Kristin (Comic Attack!) Bomba an Linda (Animemiz) Yao. Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey has the full roster of upcoming events.


Fruits Basket MMF: Saturday links

Tons of great reading today! And it’s not even over! (That’s my way of saying I’ll do one more round-up tomorrow.)

First of all, Laura (Heart of Manga) Mucciarone takes a particularly apt approach to character examination:

Along with the character analyses I’ve seen other bloggers post, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the characters align with their equivalent zodiac personalities. I did some research to find information on Chinese astrology and over-arching personality traits that are supposedly observable in anyone born within a particular year of the zodiac. I thought I’d post them here and let you see if you agree with them matching Takaya’s characters.

Adam (Completely Futile) Stephanides has some questions about Tohru’s idealized mother, Kyoko:

There’s one discordant element from the start, though: Tohru’s constant self-denigration. Even as she’s unselfishly helping everyone, she feels guilty for not being unselfish enough. My favorite example is the time when, after visiting Rin (who doesn’t even like her) in the hospital, she condemns herself for having forgotten for a moment about her goal of lifting the curse. If Kyoko was so wonderful, why was Tohru so bent on punishing herself?

Sometimes, it takes a village to address a book. That’s the approach the citizens of Manga Village took with their roundtable:

Connie: Too many!  Way too many!  I hate hate hate series with a huge cast of characters like this, especially characters that are introduced to fulfill a role (in this case, because there needs to be 14 Sohma family members) and then don’t figure into the story at all later.  Ritsuka is the best example in this series, but that was the worst case scenario.  Takaya does do a good job of juggling all the other characters, but the side effect is that the main story seems to drag on forever.

Melinda Beasi and Michelle Smith take another bite at the apple with their latest Let’s Get Visual discussion:

MICHELLE: So, we’ve been talking about Fruits Basket all week, but I’m certainly not yet weary of the topic. How about you, Melinda?

MELINDA: I suspect I could discuss Fruits Basket for weeks on end!

I could certainly read their discussions of the series for weeks on end. So it’s nice that Melinda looks back on Michelle’s examination of Takaya’s Twinkle Stars.

Again, thanks to everyone who’s linked to or tweeted about this iteration of the Manga Moveable Feast! If you’ve got a link you’d like to share, email me at DavidPWelsh at Yahoo dot Com or post a link in the comments.


Fruits Basket MMF: Friday links

Lori (Manga Xanadu) Henderson looks at the first four volumes of Fruits Basket. Her verdict?

Fruits Basket is slow to build up, but once you get past them whole “OMG! They turn into animals!” and the “Which zodiac animal will Tohru meet this time?” parts of the story, it really start to have something to say.  The themes of being alone and finding a place to fit in and call home are ones that strike a chord with teens, which is probably one of the reasons it sold so well. This is another series that the MMF has convinced me I want to read, but since it’s OOP, that going to be kind of hard. Wouldn’t it be nice if another company could rescue it and make it available in Omnibuses (3 not 2 volumes) or better yet, digitally?

Oh, man, whoever scores the digital distribution rights to Fruits Basket won’t even need to print money.

Zoe (Manga Kaleidoscope) Alexander takes a good long look at one of her favorite series of all time:

I’m not even going to try to come across as unbiased during this review, because I’m not. I’m totally, completely 100% biased, and I make no apologies for that, because Fruits Basket is just that awesome.

Much as I enjoy a spectrum of opinion on a given work, I fully endorse this sentiment.

Again, thanks to everyone who’s linked to or tweeted about this iteration of the Manga Moveable Feast! If you’ve got a link you’d like to share, email me at DavidPWelsh at Yahoo dot Com or post a link in the comments.



Fruits Basket MMF: Thursday links

Melinda Beasi and Michelle Smith devote this week’s Off the Shelf column to Fruits Basket, much to my delight:

MELINDA: I think it is pretty early on that the wacky transformations disappear, and by the time we’re getting around to discovering things like Kyo’s true form, if they’d still been happening I think they would have seriously damaged the story. Though some of the later, softer transformations are favorite moments for me. Pretty much every time Momiji hugs Tohru, it’s the sweetest thing in the world (even when it’s very sad), and Tohru’s reaction to Hatori’s transformation will always be hilarious and charming.

MICHELLE: Momiji’s hugs are indeed both adorable and heartbreaking. He just wants to hug her so bad, he doesn’t even care what will happen as a result. I think, though, that I probably prefer older Momiji, whose method of choice for breaking hearts is his sad smile.

CRYING BUNNY! CRYING BUNNY! Must… maintain… composure…

Michelle and Melinda also use 3 Things Thursday to contemplate their favorite Fruits Basket characters. I support all of their choices, but I’m increasingly suspicious that Melinda and I were possibly separated at birth.

Going solo, Michelle reviews the final three volumes of the series at Soliloquy in Blue.

Sean Gaffney gives Fruits Basket fan extraordinaire Ysabet MacFarlane the keys to A Case Suitable for Treatment so she can ponder the relationship between Rin and Hiro:

As a reader, what I look for in a series is great characters, and Fruits Basket has them in spades. I’m generally happy to talk about any of them, including the few I dislike, but when I’m starting a conversation it almost always starts or ends with Rin, and usually has a lot to do with her relationship with one of the other characters.

Over at Manga Therapy, Tony Yao looks at Rin from another angle:

The fact that Rin was able to go through so much physical & emotional abuse from her parents (who faked their happiness around her when she was a child) & Akito and still comes out with a lot of determination says a lot about her.

Again, thanks to everyone who’s linked to or tweeted about this iteration of the Manga Moveable Feast! If you’ve got a link you’d like to share, email me at DavidPWelsh at Yahoo dot Com or post a link in the comments.



Fruits Basket MMF: Harry and Tom and Tohru and Akito

While it’s never a bad time to consider Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket (Tokyopop), the fact that this feast has fallen on the calendar shortly after the opening of the final movie in the Harry Potter series offers some other possibilities for thought. J.K. Rowling’s novels are at least partly about breaking traditional and abusive cycles, as is Fruits Basket. Rowling builds that around a rivalry between a naïve outsider (Harry) and the person who represents the worst extremes of a flawed system (Tom Riddle). Takaya does the same, positioning Tohru against Akito.

Tohru goes fairly quickly from knowing nothing about the curse to recognizing its profound destructiveness. This gives her something of an advantage over Harry, who takes roughly forever to consider the larger implications of his grudge with Voldermort. It could be argued that Tohru displays an improbable degree of altruism, and that argument isn’t automatically wrong, but most of Tohru’s qualities appear to an improbable degree – her maternal concern, her optimism, her faith in the essential goodness of others, and her belief that things and people can change for the better.

With a few exceptions, I found Tom Riddle to be a very boring antagonist. His behaviors were certainly frightening, but I very rarely recognized anything in his point of view. In this sense, Akito has the advantage as a “villain.” The leader of the Sohma family is certainly unpredictable, powerful, and frightening, but there’s a very evident level of emotional damage. Akito isn’t the progenitor of the cycle of abuse so much as just another partial victim of it.

This highlights another interesting contrast between the two properties. Harry may briefly feel stabs of sympathy for the young Tom Riddle when he learns of his circumstances, but that never translates to an attempt to save the adult Voldermort from himself or to stop him through reformation. As Rowling constructs things, that’s a ludicrous notion. It isn’t in Takaya’s narrative, and it’s entirely credible that, in spite of Akito’s cruelties, Tohru can see Akito as a victim in need of rescue.

There are other points of comparison. Like Harry, Tohru has some untrustworthy mentors. Shigure is a weird fusion of Severus Snape and Sirius Black. He manipulates Tohru for his own ends, but he cares for her as an individual, not unlike Dumbledore does with Harry. Those ends will benefit all, but Shigure has no way of knowing how Tohru will end up when his aims are met. Tohru’s allies sometimes find her as frustratingly naïve as Harry’s companions do him. And both Harry and Tohru are fixated on absent parents.

I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite of the two sagas. Fruits Basket has a more nuanced villain, but Harry Potter conducts a volume of world-building that’s almost impossible to match. Takaya really nails a lot of complex emotional truths, perhaps at the expense of chapter-by-chapter momentum. Rowling excels at building things to a crescendo, but she’ll blunt emotional nuance along the way. Basically, I’m just glad I live in a world where I can enjoy both of them, over and over.


Fruits Basket MMF: Wednesday links

As I continue to examine the popularity-contest finalists, Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney continues to delve into the Sohmas who inspire a mixed reaction. Today’s subject is snarky little smartypants Hiro:

A lot of characters get introductions in Fruits Basket that don’t show off their best side – Kyo, Kagura, Rin – but Hiro’s entire introductory chapter seems to be designed to get the audience to really take a dislike to him. Which is fine, only Takaya did not reckon on the power of Western fans to grab that first impression and encase it in amber, FOREVER. Hiro’s past, in comparison to the other Zodiac, is not as traumatic, he’s a male tsundere (which usually gets you a severe backlash in North America), and worst of all, he’s too young to be a sexy bishonen, and thus have all his sins forgiven because OH SO HOT. Therefore Hiro tends to get some flack.

I’m tempted to stretch out the feast just to inspire Sean to go through the whole Zodiac.

Again, thanks to everyone who’s linked to or tweeted about this iteration of the Manga Moveable Feast! If you’ve got a link you’d like to share, email me at DavidPWelsh at Yahoo dot Com or post a link in the comments.


Fruits Basket MMF: Poor old Yuki

As I pondered this week’s Manga Moveable Feast, my thoughts naturally turned to poor old Yuki Sohma, one of the lead characters of Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket (Tokyopop). I can’t help but think of him as “poor old Yuki,” even though he has as nice an outcome as just about anyone in the manga. So why is that?

Well, it’s partly Takaya’s fault. For roughly the first half of the series, Yuki is enmeshed in a fairly intense love triangle with his outcast cousin, Kyo, and Tohru, the good-hearted orphan who’s changing the family’s dark destiny. At the midway point of the series, it becomes clear to readers (and Yuki) that he’s out of the running in that particular contest.

Of course, Takaya loves her characters, no matter how vile they may be, and, since Yuki is about as far from vile as any Sohma gets, Takaya uses the remainder of the series to present a series of consolation prizes. Yuki isn’t really central to the breaking of the family curse, but he can live his life in ways that support the value of breaking that curse. As I mentioned in comments on a previous post, there are two subsets of anti-curse folk in Fruits Basket. There are the aggressive, special-ops types like Tohru, Rin, and Shigure who actually take steps to end the damned thing.

Then there’s the “lead by example” type, the “live your lives, go to Disneyland, buy a new car” breed, embodied by Yuki. He may suspect that the rest of his life will be dominated by Sohma sorrow, but for now, he’s going to live as much on his own terms as he can. This is perfectly admirable, though it removes Yuki from the most emotionally resonant part of the narrative. And it forces him into frequent contact with his school’s student council. I get the point of this group, I really do; they’re “real” people outside of the Sohma bubble who have things to teach Yuki. I don’t even dislike them, except for Kimi, who refers to herself in the third person and hence must be destroyed.

And when you learn about Yuki’s specific pain, you want him to keep walking and never look back, no matter how many Kimis he stumbles across along the way.

Now, just about everyone in the series aside from Tohru had parents, particularly mothers, who couldn’t hold it together. They were either too weak to deal with their children’s tragedies, or they were too craven to care. Yuki’s mother falls into the latter category, and, Ren excluded, she’s probably as horrible as a parent gets in Takaya’s fictional universe. The worst thing about her is that her values are the exact opposite of what her sons need to be happy.

But, as I said, Yuki doesn’t let that deter him from pursuing his own values, even in the face of romantic disappointment. It’s perhaps appropriate that he breaks the curse cycle in a number of meaningful ways before the curse itself concludes, because Yuki is the type to do things on his own. That’s poor old Yuki’s burden, but it’s also his strength.


Fruits Basket MMF: Tuesday links

As I was contemplating the engrossing qualities of Momiji Sohma, Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney was examining my other favorite member of that cursed clan, Shigure:

He’s the character I keep coming back to even now, the little thorn in the side of the entire storyline, trying to free people from the bonds they have with their God by cutting into their flesh until they squirm free in their agony. He’s a manipulator, and you’d swear he finds people’s emotional pain amusing. The anime, sadly, never got to the point in the story where this really comes out, so we mostly just see him there as the goofy ‘yay, high school girls!’ guy who occasionally gives Tohru sage advice. No one who finishes the manga is left with that impression.

And over at Manga Power, Aaron makes a point I can heartily second:

It’s examples like this that remind me why I read Manga when I’m feeling bummed out because I have had to suffer through some fan service harem nonsense or some blood drenched ultra violence or I find myself raging against the heavens as to why we got nine(!!) volumes of Black Bird. I pick this series up again and again my faith in Manga is restored.

Again, thanks to everyone who’s linked to or tweeted about this iteration of the Manga Moveable Feast! If you’ve got a link you’d like to share, email me at DavidPWelsh at Yahoo dot Com or post a link in the comments.

Fruits Basket MMF: The saddest Sohma

Natsuki Takaya introduces a whole lot of Sohmas over the course of Fruits Basket (Tokyopop). They come in all different emotional flavors – vulnerable, secretive, courtly, angry, bubbly, bratty, withdrawn, demented, you name it. Takaya gives them all a chance to move the reader, and they all pretty much fulfill that promise. There is one, however, who almost always broke my heart, mostly because he was so damned sneaky about it.

Momiji Sohma represents the rabbit in the Chinese Zodiac. Instead of going with the animal’s timidity, Takaya gives Momiji the rabbit’s bounciness. He’s the oldest child of a Japanese father and a German mother, so his speech patterns can sometimes seem a little formal, even precious. He’s older than he appears, a quality he uses to the irritation of his male cousins. When we first meet him, he’s all hoppity and adorable, landing gleefully in Tohru’s loving, motherly embrace. Like most wise-beyond-their-years cutie pies, there’s something a little off about Momiji, something a little creepy.

Of course, every character in Fruits Basket is a little off, a little creepy. They have good reason to be. And while most of the narrative is dedicated to revealing those reasons, Momiji’s reveal is the first, best example of Takaya’s sucker punch. “You think you’re looking at something cute, something maybe even cuter because it’s a little bit sad? I will give you sad.

So the fluffy little bunny not only witnessed his mother’s mental disintegration and purposeful abandonment, he subjects himself to reminders of it as often as he can. This isn’t because Momiji is a masochist; it’s because he’s an optimist. Like Tohru, he believes that things can be fixed and connections can be restored as surely as they can be broken and severed. It’s not for nothing that, when Tohru is threatened, Momiji is right there by her side. They’re kindred spirits, and they’re both tougher than their exteriors and sweet natures would suggest.

For me, Momiji is the character who best embodies the truest nature of Fruits Basket: pretty on the surface but almost unbearably damaged beneath that, yet still possessed of the resources to make things work out in the end. I love a lot of the Sohmas for their sadness and their strength, but Momiji is my very favorite.


Fruits Basket MMF: Monday links

At Comic Attack, Kristin Bomba delivers a thoughtful look at the roles of Tohru Honda and Akito Sohma for the Fruits Basket Manga Moveable Feast:

I decided, rather than go all fangirl all over the place (which I could do, trust me, for HOURS), that I would take a more serious approach to the series. One of the things that really fascinated me about Fruits Basket was the relationship between Akito and Tohru, separately and together (meaning their literal relationship with each other, and how they otherwise affect each other throughout the story). While Tohru is very easy to read, Akito is a bit more complicated to understand.

Tons of ink has been spilled on compare-and-contrast between a certain boy wizard and another who apparently must not be named, and I think there’s a similar dynamic to be examined between Tohru and Akito, so thanks to Kristin for digging into that territory!

And thanks to everyone who’s thrown some links this way, like Johanna Draper Carlson of Manga Worth Reading, who has already contributed quite a bit to critical discourse on the subject of Fruits Basket.

Feel free to send me your own links via email to DavidPWelsh at Yahoo dot Com, or post them in the comments here. And thanks for reading!