By Natsuki Takaya
Published in the U.S. by Tokyopop
Slugline: Tohru Honda is taken in by the Sohmas, a family afflicted with the curse of the Chinese zodiac. When hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they turn into an animal for a short time. One's the dog, one's the horse, one's the tiger, etc.
If you haven't been reading the series, here's the short version. The first 11 volumes introduce eleven of the twelve animal-cursed family members (I believe we're missing the rooster) plus one, the cat. No, there isn't a cat in the Chinese zodiac, that's the point. We meet each person and their scars in some detail. Some are angry at the world for their affliction, some are suffering clinical depression. Tohru Honda is, apparently, the first person to ever be nice to them -- including each other.
In v.12, Tohru said that she wants to break the curse. Her initial questions did not generate any solid leads, though, and none come up in v.13... other than her slowly developing relationships with Yuki (the rat) and Kyo (the cat), of course.
I don't read shojo for the same reason I don't read Harlequin romances. They just aren't my cup of tea. So only unusual titles can hold my attention for a dozen volumes. What is it about Fruits Basket? There's no action to speak of. There's plenty of the over-self-analyzing that usually puts me off shojo. I think it's because it deals in something I know: rejection due to factors outside your control. And how something as simple as acceptance without judgement can change everything.
Many shojo titles stick to garden-variety misunderstandings and rejections, trot out the usual distant parents and schoolyard bullies and expect the reader to stick around. Under the teenage angst, Fruits Basket addresses much deeper sources of alienation and presents its development from the younger characters, experiencing the initial pain of rejection, to the teenagers, starting to build their walls, to the adults who have made themselves comfortable in their shells.
v.13? Oh, it's an aside, it's character fluff. I was a bit disappointed, in fact, after Tohru got "assertive" enough to say she wants to break the curse. Still, this and one other title are the only shojo that can hold me.