Manga Review: Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition Volume One

Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition Volume 1 combines the first two volumes of the Fruits Basket manga series into one edition. In addition to putting two volumes into one book, the physical size of the book has also increased. The Fruits Basket manga series was written and illustrated by Natsuki Takaya. Tokyopop had the rights to this manga series, until the company closed its doors in May 2011. The translation of the manga was done by Alethea and Athena Nibley, and the English adaptation was done by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Jake Forbes. This Ultimate Edition volume was published in 2007. Fruits Basket is rated “T,” and specifically lists that it’s aimed at teens thirteen and older. Overall, I think Fruits Basket has more of an appeal for girls than for boys, with the primary audience being pre-teen and teen girls.

Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition Volume One
Written by: Natsuki Takaya
Publisher: Hakusensha
English Publisher: Tokyopop
Release Date: October 9, 2007

I actually got my first exposure to Fruits Basket through watching the anime series. After watching the series, I decided to work my way through the manga series to see how the two were the same, and how they were different. When it comes to the two volumes included in this Ultimate Edition, there’s not a lot of difference between the manga and the anime.

The first volume included in this edition establishes the story of Tohru Honda, a high school student who recently became an orphan after the death of her mother; her father died when she was very young. She goes to live with her grandfather, but a short time later, he says he needs to remodel his house so his daughter and her family can move in; during the remodel, he will be living with his daughter. He asks Tohru to stay with friends; however, she feels her friends have situations which would prevent her from staying, so she moves into a tent. One day when she heads to school, she discovers that her classmate, Yuki Sohma, lives in a house nearby with his cousin, Shigure. It turns out Tohru has set up camp on property belonging to the Sohma family.

One night, after returning home from work, Tohru discovers a landslide has buried her tent. Yuki and Shigure invite Tohru to stay with them to help keep house until the remodels are done on her grandfather’s house; the two males just can’t seem to keep their house clean. Tohru agrees, and as sh’’s settling in, Kyo Sohma suddenly crashes through the roof. During a confrontation, Tohru learns a secret about Yuki, Shigure, and Kyo; they have a curse where they turn into animals in the Chinese zodiac if they are hugged by members of the opposite sex, or they become stressed. Yuki turns into a rat, Shigure turns into a dog, and Kyo turns into a cat. Akito, the head of the Sohma family, allows Tohru to continue living with Shigure and the others, under the condition that she reveal the Sohma’s secret to no one. Tohru agrees, and she, Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure start becoming a kind of “family.” This volume also introduces the first female member of the Sohma clan; she’s Kagura Sohma, and she turns into a boar.

In the second volume, Tohru’s best friends, Hana and Uo, come over to the house for a sleepover to get to know the guys Tohru is living with better. In this volume, we also see a red hat referenced that was never seen in the anime; this hat will become important later in the manga series. A cultural festival also takes place at Tohru, Yuki, amd Kyo’s high school; at the festival, we meet two more members of the Sohma clan: Momiji (who turns into a rabbit) and Hatori (who represents the dragon in the Chinese zodiac, but he turns into a seahorse). This volume also gives us some important backstory for Hatori Sohma.

Natsuki Takaya’s art style is really strong when it comes to showing her characters’ emotions. Overall, the panels tend to be rather easy to follow. While there may be occasional pages when the panels may look “busy” with dialogue, action, and Japanese sound effects characters, it’s not as prominent as what I’ve seen in manga that are being aimed more at the shonen audience. Unfortunately, when Tokyopop blew up the images for the bigger pages in this volume, some of the images have a rather grainy look to them; this is especially evident when Takaya has “flashback” panels in the manga, which are purposefully done in a “fuzzier” style in comparison to the regular panels. When the images were blown up, these panels look rather grainy, and the effect Takaya was going for with these panels is essentially lost. When compared to the two Inuyasha VizBig mangas that I’ve read, this is a weaker compilation in comparison (there’s only two volumes included in Fruits Basket in comparison to the three volumes in the Inuyasha VizBigs, and the image quality in the Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition manga volume is inferior).

Since Tokyopop has closed down, this title is now out of print. I have a strong feeling that this title will be “license rescued” by another manga publisher, considering that Fruits Basket is one of the biggest titles for shojo manga. At such a time the series is “license rescued” and new editions of the manga are released, then I would spend my time getting the new pressings of the manga. The Tokyopop pressings of the original manga are disappearing, and so will be harder to come by; and after what I saw in this Ultimate Edition, I’m really not in a hurry to track down the remaining volumes that were released. As far as I am aware, only six Ultimate Editions were published; this would cover twelve of the original volumes, which is roughly half of the series.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition Volume 1 that I purchased.

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