I’m continuing my review of the Dublin Library’s anime and manga collection this week with another personal favorite, Fruits Basket.Fruits Basket

This manga series is a surprisingly poignant and often moving character study, if you can get past the weird name (it refers to a Japanese kid’s game similar to duck-duck-goose) and the girly-girly packaging.

The premise: Tohru Honda, an orphaned & homeless high-school girl is taken in as a housekeeper by one of her classmates, a very shy but very popular boy named Yuki Sohma. He’s living with his novelist-cousin Shigure Sohma in a rather isolated house in the woods, having run away from the main Sohma compound. But the guys have a big secret–they’re shapeshifters, two members of a cursed family.

Fruits Basket2Our heroine soon makes a place in their hearts with her relentless optimism and unconditional love & gratitude, and soon other disaffected members of the cursed family start to gather at Shigure’s house. Chief among the new arrivals is a violent-tempered but good-hearted young man named Kyo, who bears the most difficult curse of all, and who’s an outcast even within the Sohma family.

Akito, the head of the family, is cursed himself. He is  also intensely and malevolently possessive of “his” family, and when he hears that Tohru is privy to the Sohma family’s deepest secrets, he starts to plot his revenge…but at the same time, he hopes Tohru can save the family from the worst effects of the curse.

This manga series is a very interesting mixture of genuine pathos and wild slapstick, andFruits Basket5 author does a great job portraying the gradual change in characters of not only the two boys, Yuki and Kyo, over a period of several years, but also the maturation of the heroine, as Tohru develops courage and strength to match her innate compassion. She goes from being essentially a sweetly-smiling doormat to someone brave enough to stand up for herself and the people she loves–without getting mean about it.

I have to admit I started reading this series with some skepticism, thinking it’d be hopelessly silly, but ended up loving it. I had some quibbles with the ending of the series and resolution of the curse storylines, but on the whole, I can highly recommend Fruits Basket.  

(The anime series, adapted from the first four manga volumes, is also charming and very well-done, but is not currently part of the Dublin Library’s collection.)Fruits Basket4

 So, is Fruits Basket appropriate for your child? It’s a cute series that promotes the notion that love and acceptance can conquer all, and there’s not really any sex, violence, or nudity. But because of its emotional complexity, it’s probably more suitable for teenagers and adults than young children, who may not understand everything that’s happening.