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.
At last we come to the end of one of the most influential manga series out there, at least in North America. Fruits Basket brought so many new people into the fandom, and also made so many more want to create. It was almost like lightning in a bottle – Takaya’s two series after this are good but did not have nearly the same amount of popularity, and the less said about Fruits Basket Another the better. But Fruits Basket itself is compulsively re-readable, incredibly emotional, and thoroughly satisfying, even if it is also flawed, as this last volume so amply shows. The curse is now broken, but the aftermath still needs to be dealt with, and nothing is going to be the same again.
My favorite moments in the book were the things that didn’t quite happen, even though they should have in order to provide closure. Akito attempts to apologize to the rest of the zodiac, but can’t quite pull off the words, instead giving what amount to exit interviews to most everyone as she deals with her tortured feelings for Shigure, who is at last willing to reciprocate them, since they’re entirely on his own terms now. The Shigure/Akito relationship is easily the most problematic of the series, and trust me that’s saying something. It leaves me with a vague sense of emotional dissatisfaction, even as it makes the most sense in story terms. Takaya even says she felt a bit uncomfortable with it. Meanwhile, Rin is looking at everyone else smiling and moving on and wondering why she’s still filled with rage and hatred. Healing is something that happens different ways for everyone, and it doesn’t have to happen overnight, especially when you’ve been abused as much as Rin has. And the Sohma’s head maid is offered a chance to help Akito forge a new path with the Sohma Family… and walks away from it, unable to let go of the past, in one of the starkest and best moments in the volume.
As for the main cast, everyone gets a brief few pages to show how they’ve changed and grown, and also to show that almost everyone is now romantically paired. You have to feel bad for Momiji and Kagura – if you’re going to pair everyone up in the most cliched way possible, why not simply go all the way? In general, the more attention paid to the couple during the manga itself, the better the scene – Kyo and Tohru get the bulk of the pages, obviously. Some pairings are a bit last minute hookup, like Hatori and Mayu. And some pairings feel like a gag taken one step too far, like Kazuma and Hanajima, where you get the sense that Takaya simply finds the idea of this too funny to not go through with, even though it doesn’t really work. It’s also nice to see Shigure’s editor happy at last, but again, this reads like connecting the dots. Fruits Basket works best when the romance is focused on Kyo and Tohru.
The second half of the omnibus, as predicted, was a sort of combination of various parts of the two fanbooks, showing off favorite scenes/pairings/characters along with some discussion of clothing and the like. There’s also an interview with Takaya that was done recently, where she looks back at the series. I don’t think the extra content is worth buying in and of itself. But if you want to upgrade your old Tokyopop paperbacks, and don’t mind that the series has a noticeably different translation (“you did your best”, FYI) , you should absolutely get this, and relive a magical shoujo classic. Also, the second to last chapter still makes me cry every single time.