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Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition Vol. #01 Manga Review

5 min read

While it’s an economical way for new readers to get acquainted with the Fruits Basket juggernaut, this double-dip release offers almost nothing new for readers who’ve already picked up the paperback versions — unless you count some new printing quirks.

Creative Staff:
Writer/Artist: Natsuki Takaya
Translated by: Alethea & Athena Nibley
Adapted by: Kelly Sue DeConnick & Jake Forbes

What They Say
Can’t Miss Collector’s Item: It’s Furuba–The Ultimate Edition! Featuring a premium hardcover treatment with Fruits Basket Volumes 1 & 2, this beautiful hardcover includes interior color art and a new cover.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Sohma family has hidden a bizarre curse from the outside world: when members of the family are hugged by members of the opposite sex, they each turn into different members of the Chinese Zodiac. The practical implications of this curse have forced the family to live in compounds fairly detached from the outside world, only to have their privacy compromised when recently-orphaned high school girl Tohru Honda accidentally stumbles upon one of the Sohma houses. After hearing that the homeless Tohru has been camping out on their property while her grandfather’s house is being refurbished, the residents of the household — Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure Sohma — take pity on her and agree to let her live with them for the time being. While the three men appreciate her female influence on their domestic lives, things soon become complicated when she inadvertently discovers the family’s curse. Nevertheless, the eternally cheerful Tohru convinces the family to let her stay, pledging that she will never reveal their curse to the outside world; as new members of the extended Sohma family enter into the picture, she even makes a game out of guessing their Zodiac counterparts.

Tohru’s living arrangements don’t go unnoticed by the outside world, either. Tohru’s classmates, who have long fawned over the enigmatic Yuki, are clearly jealous that Tohru has shacked up in the same house with him; even Tohru’s best friends Hanajima and Arisa regularly intrude on the Sohma household to check up on her. Of course, Tohru’s reality is a little less glamorous than her friends and classmates make it out to be. Yuki and Kyo, respectively possessed by the Rat and the Cat, constantly bicker over Kyo’s place in the family and often tear apart the house during their heated fights.

Even some members of the Sohma family are less than enthusiastic about the news of Tohru’s stay. Hatori, the Sohma family doctor, warns Tohru to stay away from the Sohma family; he goes so far as to reveal that he would erase her memories of the entire situation if it were up to him. Tohru soon discovers the reason for Hatori’s reluctance: years ago, at the insistence of the Sohma family elder Akito, he was forced to erase the memories of his heartbroken fiance. Needless to say, Akito’s overwhelming efforts to keep a lid on the family secret don’t bode well for Tohru’s future with the family. Despite this revelation, Tohru decides to remain with the Sohmas for the time being, all the while trying to unravel bits and pieces of their family history.

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m that guy. You know, the last manga reader on the planet who hasn’t been exposed to Fruits Basket? Yep, that’s me. So when I heard that Tokyopop was starting re-release some of their most popular catalog entries as hardbound editions, I was naturally anxious to find out what all the Fruits Basket mania was about. And I’m going to state upfront that, while Fruits Basket generally makes for an entertaining read, at this point I’m still scratching my head a little bit over which direction Takaya is trying to take the whole darned thing.

The story so far has Takaya covering an awful lot of bases: gradually introducing the massive Sohma family, installing Tohru into various comedic slice-of-life scenarios, and advancing the main plot about the Sohma family curse. Even with two volumes’ worth of material, it’s a little hard to get a concrete feel for how well all these elements mesh at this point. With the obvious romantic subplots still in their early stages of development, Takaya’s comedic angle is the biggest appeal of these chapters. While the comedy is a little scattershot early on, story elements like the rivalry between Kyo and Yuki or Shigure’s (ahem) colorful writing career start paying off by the time the second volume kicks off.

The more serious subplots (namely the history of the Zodiac curse and the many possible pairings for Tohru) aren’t quite as memorable here, since characters are still regularly coming and going from the story at this point. But at the very least, there’s just enough plot development so far to suggest that Fruits Basket’s more-serious elements could take an intriguing turn in future volumes, if Takaya is willing to buckle down and focus on some of the core story elements are little more closely. (Given that Fruits Basket is currently on its 18th volume as of this writing, I’m going to assume that she takes her sweet time to work all of these story threads out.)

Plot discussion aside, I’m a bit torn about the way Tokyopop has handled this re-release. On the one hand, the $14.95 MSRP is very reasonable for readers picking up Fruits Basket up for the first time, especially since the per-volume price is identical to the boxed paperback collections and actually lower than the regular edition releases. On the other hand, some of the glaring errors have no business existing in the “Ultimate Edition” of a flagship title — did no one think to give the whole volume a proofreading pass? — and Tokyopop offers little extra incentive for collectors to double-dip. In the end, I’ll give a slight nod to this volume for new readers, since it wins over the older paperback editions in terms of both price and form factor; but existing collectors should pass on this cash-in repackaging effort unless larger artwork is worth the $15 asking price.

Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: C-
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Release Date: October 30th, 2007
MSRP: $14.99

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