Fruits Basket Review

Summary fruits basket

Fruits Basket is a slice-of-life manga with the supernatural thrown in!

Tohru Honda is just a normal high school student.  That is until a fateful encounter with one of her classmates leads her into the mysterious world of the Sohma family…

After her mother’s death leaves her orphaned, tenth grader Tohru Honda was living in a tent in the woods and working her way through school.  When she bumps into her classmate Yuki Sohma, one of the most sought after boys in school, and he discovers her living arrangements he offers her a place to stay with him and his cousin Shigure.

Although flabbergasted at first Tohru eventually accepts their offer.  The Sohma seem like a normal family…but Tohru quickly discovers the Sohma Clan is anything but normal.

Shortly after arriving Tohru meets another member of the Sohma family, Kyo, after he crashes through a wall and challenges Yuki to a fight.  Surprised Tohru grabs on to Kyo’s back…and finds herself holding a cat.  It is then Tohru Honda becomes the first person outside of the family to learn the secret of the Sohma Clan.  The secret of the Zodiac’s curse.

Fourteen are chosen.  Twelve respected.  One outcasted.  One God.  All cursed.  The cycle has repeated for generations.  Now one ordinary girl will be lead into the Sohma family, and perhaps change things for the better.  But the question still remains, can the curse really be broken?

Thoughts on Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket has got romance, comedy, and a cursed clan based on the legend of the Zodiac.  I couldn’t put it down.  This is one of those mangas that makes you wish the next one would just hurry up and get here.

The story itself is expertly crafted.  On the one hand we’ve got a story about a young girl who has become orphaned after her mother’s tragic death, and is working as hard as she can to finish high school.  She’s got friends, exams, and homework as well as a job; and does all this with a carefree optimistic attitude masking an inner pain.

On the other hand we have the Sohma Clan.  An ancient family with problems of their own.  This family carries the curse of the Zodiac and every few generations certain people are chosen to host the spirits of those sacred animals.

They must obey the person who has been reincarnated as “God”, and must be careful of any outside contact they receive.  For if they are hugged by a member of the opposite sex outside the Zodiac they will turn into the animal they hold within them.  The regular twelve have it hard enough, but the ostracized Cat has even more problems to deal with.

When these two worlds collide we end up with a story that is both heartfelt and funny.  One of my favorite scenes throughout the entire series is in the beginning when Tohru first finds out about the Sohma’s secret.  Somehow not only does she accidentally turn Kyo into a cat, she manages to turn both Shigure and Yuki into a dog and rat, respectively.  She freaks out and then Shigure, still as a dog, must explain (yes they can talk as animals).

It’s such a comedic way to explain a rather serious issue in the Sohma, and to introduce the reader to the main plot of the series.  Even when the story becomes more serious, comedic scenes are well placed to break up the drama and ease the tension.

This type of comedy continues throughout the story as Tohru meets the other members of the Zodiac, and their leader Akito. The one with the powers of God.

Tohru is a wonderful heroine, mostly because she doesn’t know she’s the heroine and would probably try to decline the role if she knew, claiming that there must be someone better than her to play it.  Then she’d probably go and make everyone onigiri (Japanese rice balls).

Tohru has a very hard life and a lot of painful things in it, but she always manages to be optimistic.  Which is why so many of the hard-edged Sohma who carry so many scars take to her, open up, and let her in.  Tohru gives them more than just kindness, she gives them understanding.

Romance was another big thing in this manga series.  I really enjoyed all the relationships, though I must be honest it’s very unclear just who will end up with who until the end.

There’s so much back and forth and proclamations of love that might just be over dramatic friendship, but might be more.  You really need to read the entire series to find out for sure.  Very clever Natsuki Takaya.

The main relationship is kind of a love triangle between the main characters Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo.  But like all the relationships in Fruits Basket this love triangle may not be entirely what it seems.

In any case the relationship between these three, whatever it may be, carries the story through to its completion.

Yuki as the Rat, the first animal of the Zodiac, and Kyo as the outcasted Cat, the one that didn’t make it to the banquet, have been hated rivals their whole lives.  A rivalry Tohru may be able to heal.  Just as she may be able to heal everyone in the Zodiac.  Maybe even heal the curse.

Follow Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo, along with the other members of the Zodiac as they work to break the curse, find their place in the world, and maybe even fall in love.  Fruits Basket is a funny romantic ride that you’ll never forget.

Other Details

My Recommendation:  This manga series is rated T, for ages thirteen and up.  There’s not really that much violence or sexual scenes (though there are a lot of innuendos), but with all the cursing I’d say that rating is probably accurate.

Manga-ka: Natsuki Takaya

Genre(s): romance, comedy, fantasy, slice-of-life

Publisher (in US): Tokyopop

Volumes Released (in English): 23; this series is complete

First Released (in English): 2004

 

 

Why the manga is always (sort of) better than the anime

Manga to Anime manga and anime

I’ve already said the book is better than the movie, but when it comes to manga turning into anime that’s an entirely different story.

Many books nowadays are part of a series, and if one is picked up for a movie usually all will follow suit in subsequent movies.  When manga are picked up to be made into a product of the screen, however, the entire manga series is used from the beginning and is more often than not made into a T.V. show.

As manga themselves are written as installments of a story the format lends itself to T.V. show writing as it is easier to break apart into episodes, but that does not mean mangas turning into animes are necessarily anymore accurate than books turning into movies.

Though on occasion they are.  This issue is not as cut and dry as the book to movie problem, which is why I have to say that the manga is always (sort of) better than the anime.

As with anything, when a story goes from one format into another, things will be lost.  This holds true for manga that become anime.  No matter how close they get to the manga inevitably something will be missing in the anime.

Running out of Time

Ranging from a lot to a little the main problem for anything missing is that even though an anime has episodes, and thus a bit more time than your average two hour movie, it does not have as much time as you think.

Aside from anime like Naruto and One Piece, which seem to have no end, most animes are on average between twenty-four and twenty-six episodes long with the episodes running for an average twenty-four minutes (including opening and closing theme songs).

Unless a manga is super short, this will not be long enough to include or explain everything that happens in the manga.  Leaving those who have only seen the anime with lingering questions, that could very well be answered by the manga.

Ahead of Their Time

Another reason for the lingering questions that come at the end of an anime could also be the fact that when a manga series is picked up to be turned into an anime, the manga itself is often not finished yet.

Unlike books that are turned into movies where at least the book they are basing the movie on is complete (even if its series is not) an anime is most often based on a manga that is still ongoing.

This of course causes a lot of plot holes in the story which the writers of the anime have to fill.  Since they (nor anyone else for that matter) don’t actually know how the story will end, writers make up their own ending for the anime.

Sometimes their ending kind of works, but a lot of the time it really doesn’t make any sense with the beginning.  As the beginning of the series was based on the actual story written by the manga-ka and the end was written by different people you can see where the two halves of the series may not line up.

Another thing that happens in regards to that is that sometimes anime writers don’t try to make up an ending at all.  Sometimes they just stop where the manga stops which leaves the anime open-ended, and a lot of questions to still be answered.

Manga to Anime is not Always Bad

Now even though it frustrates me to no end when an anime turns a manga I love on its head, the truth is animes usually get closer to the actual content of the manga than movies get to books.

Mangas already include artwork, so usually anime artists follow that original template so at least the characters you love look the same.  Also there are some things anime can give you that manga (no matter how good it is) just can’t.

It is very hard to picture an action sequence in a manga, especially when it is drawn over several pages you have to flip through.  Anime solves this problem as it is able to show movement on screen.

Aside from that anime really does do its best to keep the integrity of the manga alive, where as I feel movies are not as concerned with that for the book.  Rarely have I seen an anime where I couldn’t at least see a little bit of the manga shining through.

Of course the anime will still be different than the manga, and as with movies based on books you just have to go in knowing that and look for the good bits.  Oftentimes the anime is actually very good, even if it does go off book a bit (or a lot).

Read the Manga!

It does annoy me though when people who have clearly only seen the anime, judge a manga by its anime.  Do not do this!  It’s the same thing as judging a book by its movie.  It’s just bad form.

The writers and artists of an anime, though they try to keep the integrity of the manga, are not the person who originally thought up this idea.

The truth is manga-ka usually have just as little say about the animes based on their mangas as authors do about the movies based on their books.

If you see an anime you like, but were really confused by and have a lot of questions still unanswered, READ the MANGA!  Chances are either the manga is still ongoing, or the anime couldn’t fit all of it in.

If you read the manga you’d be surprised how fast the ending and the entire series makes sense.

Mangas and animes are an entirely different breed than books and movies when it comes to turning one into the other.

However, they do face similar problems with their content being shifted.  The anime may keep better to the original manga, but still it is impossible for it to keep perfectly to the original story.

The anime and manga can both be good, but just remember do not judge a manga by its anime.

+Anima Review

Summary +Anima

In this epic fantasy manga series you journey to the world of the +Anima, people who possess certain animal powers and abilities.  In this world regular humans and +Anima live side by side, however, not always peacefully.

Many humans shun the +Anima out of fear.  Hated by most of the population, +Anima often hide their abilities, even as they look to find those like them.

Enter Cooro, a young boy and a Crow +Anima, on a search to locate others like him.

After being captured by a traveling circus that uses +Anima in their acts, Cooro meets Husky, a Fish +Anima also forced to perform in the circus.  While at first Husky doesn’t seem inclined to be friends with Cooro, the two eventually escape the circus and set off together on an unbelievable journey.

Along the way they are joined be Senri, a Bear +Anima who is part of a tribe of people known as the Kim-un-Kur who take pride in being +Anima, and Nana, a young girl and Bat +Anima who although it saved her life would rather just be normal.

Together the band of four travel across the land getting into many adventures along the way.  From getting tricked into helping a town, to journeying across Moss Mountain with a caravan and even into the country of Sailand, where being a +Anima isn’t just looked down upon it’s illegal, the group must be careful of danger and betrayal at every turn.

And when they find out the real reason for their journey will this group that have become so close be torn apart forever?

In a world vehemently set against anything different, Cooro, Husky, Senri, and Nana will search, hope, and fight for a place to belong.

Thoughts on +Anima

I absolutely adore this manga series.  I read the first volume in one sitting, and then was very upset to realize that the second volume wasn’t even out yet!  They are all out now, so I really encourage you to get hooked!

The story is beautiful both in its writing and in its drawings.  The story itself warms your heart as you follow the +Anima on their journey for acceptance.  The truth is, it is a very serious topic but it is written in an optimistic way that gives you hope even in the darkest times.

There is always a lot of humor between the band of four as even when Husky and Nana try to be serious Cooro always has to be the goofball.  The heart-pounding adventures they get into are even laced with humor as they keep you on the edge of your seat.  You’ll always be wondering what’s going to happen next?

The story itself draws you in from the very first page with a mystery: Just who is Cooro?  That is a question that hangs over the entire story and is even asked by the other characters.

+Anima are not born as such, they become +Anima usually due to a stressful situation like having their lives put in danger.  Husky, Senri, and Nana all have experience with this.

Cooro, however, tells them he was born with his crow-like abilities.  The reader from page one sees that this is true, and this in itself is a mystery that it appears Cooro does not even know the answer to.

Another mystery emerges in the form of a man, wrapped in shadow, who is following the progress of the band of four…. and seems to know Cooro.

These mysteries were very strategically placed in the beginning of the story and then brought up again in specific spots throughout the story making you want to read more.  I just had to know these answers!  Very smart of Natsumi Mukai to place the answers at the end of the series.

The plot is wonderful, but it’s the characters you’ll fall in love with.  Husky, though a bit rough around the edges and agitated with the fact that everyone always thinks he’s a girl, steadfastly stands by his friends.

Senri may not say much but what he does say speaks volumes of his compassion.  Nana may seem like a frivolous girl at times but she knows what’s important and is there when it counts.

And Cooro brings them all together.  He may have a mysterious origin but he is the funniest of the group, and constantly blowing their cover as he spreads his wings at the drop of a hat!  As any group leader in manga he is always getting into some kind of trouble and is always eating.

Husky, Nana, and Senri always find themselves in situations where they are pulled into danger by Cooro’s actions, yet they continue to follow him.  Because also as any leader in manga, Cooro has the kindest heart of anyone and can’t stop himself from helping someone in need.

That attitude may be just what is needed to help +Anima be better understood and accepted.  That was a big reason I enjoyed this manga.  It deals with issues that occur in our world today.

It takes a look at world where those who are different are hated and feared before they even say or do anything.  How human nature is flawed.  It is a very relatable theme.

As you follow the story of Cooro, Husky, Senri, and Nana, you’ll laugh, be on the edge of your seat, and cheer as they go on an adventure with a curious end and just maybe find where they’ve always belonged.

Other Details

My Recommendation: This manga series is rated T for teen meaning 13 and up.  I would say that’s probably accurate (manga ratings usually are).  Younger children may not fully understand the underlying themes, but use your own discretion.  A mature 11 or 12 year old could handle it, but I really wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 10.

Manga-ka: Natsumi Mukai

Genre(s): fantasy

Publisher (English): Tokyopop

Volumes Released (in English): 10; this series is complete

First Released (in English): 2006

 

The Betrayal Knows My Name Review

Quick info about this type of book review before I get started.  This book is a manga, and as anyone who reads manga knows the title is for the entire series not just one book.  As such for this and any other manga I look at it, the review will be of the series as a whole (whether finished or ongoing).

Summary the betrayal knows my name

The Betrayal Knows My Name starts with a boy named Yuki Sakurai.  He has been raised in an orphanage since he was a baby.  He has a kind heart and helpful nature, but has always felt somehow alone and constantly fearing that people will find out about his strange ability to see people’s deepest secrets and cruelest emotions.  The darkest parts of their hearts are open to Yuki through one simple touch.

Left in the bushes in front of the orphanage, no one ever saw or knew who his parents were or where he came from.  Yuki wants more than anything to be needed, and wishes to know what his purpose is.  Why was he born?  Just as Yuki turns fifteen and starts high school his questions will be answered in the strangest way.

Trying to aid a friend Yuki is nearly run down by a car, and saved at the last moment by a strikingly beautiful man with silver eyes.  Eyes that seem to tug at something deep in Yuki’s soul.

Before Yuki can even understand his sudden feeling of connection to a man he’s only just met, he is attacked by monster-like creatures.  He is saved by the silvered-eye man again as well as two high school students.

Then Yuki learns of the battle between the Giou Clan, a clan whose members have supernatural abilities like his own, and the Duras, or demons.  This battle has been raging for over a thousand years, with the same warriors of the Giou being reborn again and again until it is done.  It is a battle that Yuki has a large role in.  A role he has played many times before.

Moving to Tokyo to take his place among the Giou, Yuki must learn to control his powers if he is to help his new found family.  But far greater challenges than Yuki knows await him.  Will he be able to figure out why he feels such a strong connection to the silver-eyed Duras, Luka who seems to have joined the Giou solely to protect Yuki?  And when the true reason for this war comes to light will Yuki be able to handle a betrayal he never saw coming?

Thoughts on The Betrayal Knows My Name

I have read many a manga in my time.  So many in fact that at one point I found that I couldn’t get into them like I used to.  The Betrayal Knows My Name changed all that.  I could not put it down.  I read the first volume, and had to get the rest as soon as possible.

I’ve often said that the best characters in manga have tragic back stories.  It’s a sad fact, but if a character does not have a tragic back story (or no back story at all) they are not that great of a character in manga.

In this manga all the characters blew me away.  They all have perfect tragic back stories (with a bunch of past lives behind them of course they would).  This makes excellent fodder for the emotional depth of the plot as the characters must work out many hard things while already in the very hard situation of war.

I love them all really, but if I told you about all the characters we’d be here all day.  The main focus of this manga is the character Yuki and his relationship with everyone, especially Luka.

Those two have a very important relationship linking back to Yuki’s past life.  I won’t go into full details here because I want you to read it for yourselves, but their relationship is the one I really love the most.

Luka really is the perfect guy and Yuki you really just want to hug.  He’s always trying to solve everyone else’s problems no matter how much pain it causes him and never worrying about himself.  But never fear that’s what Luka is there for.

I really love both of these characters, and have reread their numerous scenes together just because I can’t get enough.  I really want them to be happy.  I really want all the characters to end up happy.

That’s the way this manga makes you feel.  Like you know them all and want them to be happy in the end because after a thousand years of war they deserve it.

The title was what drew me to this manga in the first place.  Even though I have read all the ones that are currently out (in English) I still haven’t quite worked out what it means.

The thousand year war was started by a member of the Giou Clan (not saying who) who betrayed them to the Duras.  So I guess that’s the big betrayal, but within the story there are many other betrayals that are going on.

The Giou lie to each other, withhold information, and everyone seems to have a secret agenda.  It certainly makes a great story that keeps you guessing (despite the confusing title).

The element of the supernatural and a war between humans and demons going on in secret alongside modern day Tokyo makes for a great story in its own right, and the characters and their complex relationships carry it through.

The artwork in this manga is honestly some of the best I’ve ever seen.  It’s so beautiful and somewhat sad.  It’s like Hotaru Odagiri has taken the essence of the story and given it physical form in her drawings.  Just beautiful.  An overall superb manga in every possible way.

Other Details

My Recommendation: The official ranking on this is Older Teen.  Stick to that.  It’s not quite in the levels of the M rating (eighteen and up) but this series is definitely in the range of sixteen and up.  This manga is NOT for children.

Manga-ka (author): Hotaru Odagiri

Genre(s): fantasy, romance, shounen ai (this is a manga genre that features boys being intimate with each other in between friends and lovers) leading towards yaoi (this is the genre of boy love; I think and hope its heading this way anyway!)

Publisher (English): Yen Press

Volumes Released (in English): 6 (first five hold two volumes in one); this series is still ongoing

First Released (in English): 2011