Monday, December 9, 2019

Fruits Basket Another volume 3 is a fun conclusion to a fun side story (Manga Review)

A high-school boy in a school uniform stands proud and confident but warmly so
Fruits Basket Another vol. 3 - 7.5/10

Let's be clear, Fruits Basket Another is meant for fans of the original Fruits Basket manga. It certainly could stand on its own, but the depth that comes from unpacking the relationships between the characters and their parents, and who those parents are from the original Fruits Basket series, is at least half the fun.

With volume 3, Fruits Basket Another  (Yen Press) wraps up in a satisfying way. And the journey to do so is filled with all the pathos and internal suffering we'd expect from Natsuki Takaya. Thankfully, it also balances the kindness, humor, and fun of the early Fruits Basket chapters in this cute next-generation story.

Sowa Mitoma is the only daughter of a single mother who is frequently away for weeks-on-end with work and who is mercilessly (but usually passive aggressively) cruel to her daughter when she does come home. In this volume, we also find out why Sowa's elementary school friends rejected her, and it definitely connects some dots. Like most of Takaya-sensei's best work, this one concerns a lot of parental rejection of children. I can only wonder, imagine, and perhaps pray for Takaya-sensei. To write so much about parental rejection, I wonder what she may have been through in her own life and I hope her works are therapeutic for her.

Volume 3 also brings Shiki, the son of the head of the family into the story more prominently. My only problem with this, is that there is a lot of pressure from the other characters for something romantic to eventually spring up between Sowa and Shiki. But she's in high-school and he's in middle school. As best I can figure out, they are about 3 years apart, and that would put him at maybe 12 years old and her at 15 (if my ages/grades are correct). I'm really not comfortable with that, but thankfully, both characters demure, and we're left to think that somewhere, years down the line, maybe their chemistry will turn into romance, but at least it doesn't yet happen here.

Sowa Mitoma does experience a certain amount of healing in this volume from all her self-doubt and self-loathing, but the conclusion also leaves things slightly uncertain. She may finally be believing in her own worth, she finally understands at least some of the awful things that happened to her early in life. But at the same time, she's still in her mother's house. She hasn't been completely rescued. The unresolved nature of that mixes well with the self-realization and actualization to give us both a satisfying ending spot for the comic but promising that the characters will live on after what is in print.

Speaking of characters. I said this series was for fans. And of course, the best part is figuring out which of the characters in Fruits Basket Another are the children of the characters from the original Fruits Basket. Below is a chart that maps it out. If you don't want to know, or want to figure it out yourself, just skip past the graphic.

Fruits Basket Another Character Genealogy
Original Fruits Basket characters in blue, Fruits Basket Another in green

Because this three volume story is mostly designed as sort of a commemoration of the original Fruits Basket, it goes at a breakneck pace through a story feels fairly familiar compared to her other works, and is filled with tons of references to the original series and its characters. It could stand on its own, but it would also have far more structural problems when viewed through that lens (rapid transitions, assumed things, etc...), problems that are easily forgiven in the context of its intended commemorative relationship to the original.

If viewed as a fond epilogue of sorts to the original series, it is well done. Each of the characters blends aspects of their parents' personalities from the first series and are quirky and likable on their own. The art is wonderful. Takaya-sensei is my favorite mangaka and I love her art style. It is sharper and also somewhat blockier (she's never paid much attention to hands!) than a lot of current shoujo art, but that's part of why I like it. It's both classic shoujo and also totally unique to her. She is also the master of screentone usage with tons of sparkles, backgrounds, patterns, mood, etc... just awesome. Also, no one writes a quietly stronger heroine than she does.

So I really enjoyed this for what it was: not quite its own thing, not intended as an epic masterpiece, but as a fond love-story to the original that adds meaningful developments and likable new characters to that universe. Fruits Basket Another volume 3 gets a solid, heart-warming 7.5/10.


Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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