Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya, the story of a teenage orphan who becomes involved with the reincarnated spirits of the Chinese zodiac, was one of the most influential manga and anime series of my late teen and university years and remains one of my favourite titles ten years later. It was so popular in the west that the end of its print run is probably one of the reasons why Tokyopop closed down. A few months ago it was announced that Takaya was releasing a sequel series online with the same setting but a new cast so of course I was excited. But do we really need another Fruits Basket or is Takaya trying to cash in on her former glory?
The story starts with Sawa Mitoma, a high school girl who purposely avoids interaction with others because she fears she is nothing but a bother. Her mother constantly leaves the house without telling her where she’s going or paying the rent, leaving Sawa to be shouted at by the landlady. After one such occasion makes her late for school and gets her in trouble with a teacher, she is ‘saved’ by a cute boy named Musuki Sohma, a member of the same Sohma clan from the original Fruits Basket. Musuki asks Sawa to go to the student council room after school, where she meets Hajime, another member of the Sohma family…By accidently stepping on his face.
After a few more brief encounters, Musuki announces that Sawa is to be a representative on the student council and all of a sudden the girl who avoided everyone is the talk of the entire school.
There are some instant and noticeable parallels with the story of Fruits Basket. The two Sohma boys are obvious copies of Yuki and Kyo, they might even be their sons, indicating that this is going to be another love triangle story. It already seems that the Kyo clone is going to be the winning love interest. I’m a little disappointed as when I was originally reading Fruits Basket, I shipped Tohru and Yuki for the longest time and thought it would be nice if ‘Yuki’ could be the winner this time. Then again, the Yuki clone is somewhat creepy and forced Sawa into the student council without asking her. Perhaps he is actually Shigure’s son.
I’m also pissed that out of all the five billion characters in Fruits Basket, the only one to make a cameo is Makoto Takei, the obnoxious leader of the student council. The one who Haru showed his… special area to. (It took me years to understand that joke!)
Sawa, like Tohru, is a cute yet plain girl in a criminally short skirt. The big difference I see between her and Tohru is that despite being an orphan and living in the woods, Tohru initially seemed to be endlessly cheerful and optimistic. As the story progressed, it became evident that this was just a mask to deal with her crippling emotional issues. Sawa’s issues are clear from the start, even the cover image spells it out. This made me emphasise with her a lot, especially when the stress gets to her and she starts to cry in public without meaning to, lamenting how she is constantly disappointed in herself. I hate to think what suddenly becoming the centre of attention at school is going to do to her already fragile emotional state.
The artwork and character designs are as adorable as I remember and there is the style of humour that Fruits Basket was known for, especially the face stepping incident. Did the Kyo clone get a good look up her skirt when that happened?
This sequel shows good potential to be just as good as its predecessor and we do know that Takaya is talented enough to pull it off. I do want to find out how Sawa is going to deal with her issues and why she is so important to the Sohmas. It will still take a little longer to see if the series progresses into a worthy successor so I’ll keep reading to see if that happens.