By Natsuki Takaya. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Sheldon Drzka.
This is the penultimate omnibus of Fruits Basket, and has most of the things you’d expect to see. Kyo finishes telling Tohru about his past with her mother, and because he hates himself, is really upset that Tohru doesn’t get mad about it. Akito is also dealing with self-hatred, and it’s to Takaya’s credit that the resolution to Akito and Tohru’s talk is not being stabbed with a knife (though admittedly, the crumbling cliff feels VERY deus ex machina, and I could do without the ‘kissing the concussed girl’ too). And of course the curse breaks for everyone, which allows those in couples to hug their loved ones, or those who aren’t in couples to wander the streets alone in tears because I dunno, Takaya is just mean. In any case, it’s Fruits Basket. All the feels are contained within.
Ren has the cover but doesn’t feature in the book personally. Her presence is felt throughout Akito and Tohru’s confrontation, though. Tohru realizes what the reader has, which is that Akito is in many ways similar to the other Sohmas, i.e. she’s dealing with emotional trauma from parental abuse. This doesn’t excuse what she put everyone through, but it does help Tohru to understand why her declaration of “I’m going to break the curse” meant, to Akito, “I’m going to destroy your life”. Tohru is still reeling from Kyo’s “disillusionment”, but more power to her for talking Akito down, and helping her to understand that the paralyzing fear of being rejected is what love is all about. And then there’s that cliff fall, which is *so* ridiculous that Shigure has to ask Akito if Tohru was pushed.
The remainder of the volume has Tohru in the hospital, and Kyo undergoing a huge torrent of abuse because, thanks to Yuki, everyone knows what he said to Tohru right before the accident. This does allow Kyo to attempt to move on from his past, which means confronting his birth father, who is an amazingly awful monster, but who Kyo also now sees as sad and small. It’s one of the better scenes in the book, and shows off that, despite what the rest of the cast has been screaming at him, Kyo has matured. Of course, the best scenes in the book are those where the curse breaks, and we see the aftermath from everyone’s eyes. Kyo and Tohru reuniting and declaring their love for each other is wonderful, but it’s easily topped by realizing that Kyo, despite being hugged, isn’t transforming, and his ripping off his bracelet. Tohru’s face as he does this may be the best panel in all of Fruits Basket.
Things aren’t perfect. Aside from the deus cliff machina, Takaya’s side pairings aren’t always developed as they should be, and she relies on the audience connecting dots that she hasn’t actually put into the manga itself. Thus while I like the basic idea of Kureno and Uotani, there’s no real feeling or emotion behind their getting together. (I do agree with his thoughts that he needs to be far away from Akito). Yuki and Machi fares a little better, and certainly she tried to develop it in the later books, but it still feels rushed. I did like the idea of Yuki calling her out to explain the curse, only to have to break right as she arrives. And now we have only one volume left to go, and given there’s only one regular book left to put in it, I expect there should be some extra content included as well. What will it be? Find out next month. In the meantime, still one of the top shoujo manga, despite its faults.