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Fruits Basket, vols. 8-10 (Natsuki Takaya)

Takaya-sensei continues to hold me in thrall, no matter how cynical I try to be. Here I should confess that I'm not terribly good at "cynical" actually.... just one big bleeding heart, that's me. But I am allergic to emotional manipulation, and she does resort to it sometimes. But mostly, she earns her heart-warming scenes and lines honestly, as genuine payback from the characters' worries and traumas.

The playful little intro to every volume, with Tohru cheerfully telling about the Sohma curse in a way that implies it's all fun and games, is beginning to grate as the story gets darker and darker. We learn more about what it's like to be a teenaged Sohma in love - and it ain't pretty. The situation of the adult Zodiac members is just as bad, even though they can control themselves better, and we witness some more of that as well, including more details about Hatori's tragic romance of several years ago. More revelations about horrible Sohma parents are balanced with increasing tenderness of all sorts among the characters as the Sohmas and Tohru and her friends get ready for and start their summer vacation. Volume 9 also includes Hanajima's backstory and a funny little extra about the teens waiting out a rainstorm and whiling away the time by telling spooky stories.

Fruits Basket, vols. 8-10 (review)

I love Hatsuharu more and more. His berserk incident at school, driven by his battered but not broken heart; his unflagging passion for Rin; his ability to care about others even in the midst of his own troubles; his thousand-mile stare when he's in space-cadet mode: it's all endlessly endearing to me. I loved his gentle sarcasm when Yuki manages to make himself visit the main house to check on his cousin: "A person just walked in who looks exactly like Yuki. A mystery ... ." And then there's his deadpan telling of the "spooky" (actually, rather disgusting) tale in the little sidebar story, and his calm appreciation of Tohru in her swimsuit.

Ayame is turning out to have far more depth than one would imagine. His ceaseless courting of his younger brother - bringing him treats, offering to take their parents' place at Yuki's parent-teacher conference, confessing his regret at his youthful avoidance of any fraternal responsibility - is increasingly poignant, and the little vignette from his memory where Mine asks him "Are you sad?" and he replies, resting his forehead on her shoulder, "I'm not sad. I'm downright pathetic," really touched me. I was glad to see Yuki beginning to relent as he comes to realize that there's a warm, generous soul under all the flamboyant silliness and attitude.

I have to say that a little of Ritchan goes a long way, and I was tired of him long before his scenes were over. However, he did provide one of my favorite silly bits. When Shigure is applying a little tough love and asks him whether he wants to be a better man someday, Ritchan gushes "Of course! Someday ... I hope that I can overflow with confidence like Aya-niisan!" - and in his vision, we see Ayame dashingly chowing down on a bowl of noodles, flourishing his chopsticks and laughing like the hero of a Regency romance - "Ha ha ha!" - as a boxed caption warns the audience that "Ayame eats his soba with deep confidence ... Eat it normally!" It's just so wonderfully random (and I may have to see whether I can cram it onto an icon somehow, although the linework is awfully fine).

I'm impressed by Takaya's sensitive handling of teenaged boys' emotions, especially in Kyo's case. There are several scenes where his reactions are really beautifully depicted more than you'd expect from this style of drawing. I think it's in the way she draws body language as much as the faces. I'm particularly thinking, first, of the beginning of the late-night soumen-eating scene, where Tohru, struggling with her own emotions, starts tugging on Kyo's talismanic bead bracelet to emphasize what she's saying about his bottling up his emotions, and how his protests suddenly give way to understanding of her point, and second, of the scene in Kazuma's kitchen, where Kyo's standing behind her as she looks at the stain on the wall that used to scare him when he was small, and he suddenly realizes that he's now tall enough to look down at the top of her head - and is so overwhelmed with tenderness that he has to cuff her on the head and tell her to get back to work, to hide what he's feeling.

Which brings us to my man Shigure. There's a lot of him in this section. The soumen scene, where he wisely counsels Tohru about handling her problems as they come, and not "borrowing trouble" from the future - and then promptly reverts to his public self, teasing Kyo about eating pink soumen ("If you eat pink soumen, you'll be come a pervert!") - is one of my favorites, and makes me think, once more, of Sanada Yukimura from SDK. But then there's the troubling sequence with Mayu: I think he really did at first mean it to be a pleasant way to pass the time for both of them, and then he really was trying to make things possible for Hatori - if the curse can ever be broken. But the whole manipulative business is worrisome - and speaking of manipulation, I think that's what's going on with this first scene between him and Rin: Takaya means us to assume the worst.

Still, my feeling about Shigure and his messing about is pretty well summed up by his interactions with Hatori toward the end of vol. 10. When Akito's party arrives at the beach house, Hatori is very angry over Shigure's actions with Mayu - and his anatomically precise threat, from such a calm person who happens to be a doctor, is particularly weighty. He also says "If you push too hard, you'll break things," and Shigure replies, with a bitter smile, "Break? For us, there's nothing left to break, is there?" But later Hatori, seemingly out of desperation, encourages him: "I don't know what you're up to, Shigure ... but if there's a chance it will change things, any method is preferable to doing nothing ... like me." The thing is, Shigure is still struggling to change things, while Hatori seems locked in the dreary stasis of depression and Ayame is just slithering out from under any unpleasantness and marking time by burying himself in his creative endeavors. It's easy to disapprove of Shigure's methods, but I have to admire his desperate optimism - he's hoping against hope that somehow, he can help position the pieces on the board so that victory will emerge from this mess - for all 13 of them.

Which of course, would mean defeat for Akito. She (and I keep being convinced it's "she") increasingly reminds me of Colin, the little boy in The Secret Garden, if he'd been allowed to grow up utterly unchecked: it's that combination of neurotic minor illness and spoilt childish tyranny. And God, do I feel sorry for her living teddy bear, Kureno!


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 28th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
Kisa, Kagura and Hiro seem to be the only ones to come out decently OK on the parents front...all the otyhers would seriously benefit from repeated stabbings.

Ritchan is very much a "little goes a long way" but Ayame, who kinda started that way for me, has become one of my favorites(though Kyo and Haru remain unchallenged)
Jun. 28th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)

We never do hear about the older ones' parents, do we? (Except, of course Ayame and Yuki's ... .) Even Hatsuharu - we know his mom must be a bit frivolous, because after the classroom destruction incident, he comments that she'll take a while to get there because she'll want to put on makeup, and that she might just laugh about what he'd done. But that's it. It must be especially rough on the boys - Hatori's mom couldn't have hugged him even if she'd wanted to ... (that's so sad!).

Ayame has a lot in common with Howl in the original novel Howl's Moving Castle (as opposed to Miyazaki's film, which actually made him a little more noble). They're both flamboyant, appearance-conscious creative nuts who want to escape anything that's the least bit unpleasant. Somehow, though, I wanted to like them both from the beginning. To me, there was always something endearing about Ayame and his endless search for a warm place to curl up - regardless of how pervy that might come out ... .

I'm not having much luck finding Furuba art that I want to adapt for icons. I'll have to do some scanning. Most of what's online is from the anime, and it's just not that good. I got very spoiled with SDK, between SDKPOWAA, the actual issue scans, and the stuff people like blue-hobbit scanned in on love_deeper.

Jun. 28th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
I haven't read Howl the book yet, but I actually thought a bit of Ayame the first time I watched the movie.

And Furuba art...hmm...my friend dangermousie has DLed a lot of it in scanslations...maybe you could go to her LJ and ask her where she got them from?(she's about one of the nicest LJers out there)
Jun. 29th, 2007 02:25 am (UTC)

Hmm. Maybe I will. That's one thing I hate about LJ vs. the set-up they have at, say, neilgaimanboard. If she was there, I'd just send her a PM (private message). But I feel funny about barging in with unrelated stuff on people's LJs. Even if (and perhaps especially if) they're especially nice people.

Yeah, my daughter agreed with the Howl comparison too! In the book, Sophie refers to him as a "slitherer-outer."

Jun. 28th, 2007 04:30 am (UTC)
*posts merely to use icon*
Jun. 28th, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)

Hee! I saw you use that once before I even started Furuba, and I was fascinated despite the fact that I had no idea what was going on - so I had the damndest feeling of deja vu when Ritchan showed up! I guess Takaya thought we needed some comic relief with all the increase in angst ... yeah, right.

Although the scene where neither he nor Tohru can bear to actually start the conversation, so they're forced to swap self-deprecating social niceties ad infinitum, is pretty good.

Jun. 28th, 2007 12:32 pm (UTC)
Colin in The Secret Garden -- yes, exactly!
Jun. 28th, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC)

I'm glad that connection works for someone else as well ... I sometimes think I see such things, only to have other people say "HUH?"   XD

Jun. 28th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
It's the similar familial framework of a child who is ill and only tended by servants and others of lower status. In both the Sohma family and the Craven family, the parents have abdicated authority over their children and granted Akito and Colin authority over others that they're not competent to exert. We could argue that Tohru is the Dickon character, the outsider of lower social status who disrupts the status quo by introducing a different sense of family into the mix.
Jun. 28th, 2007 06:40 pm (UTC)

Wow ... you know, now with your additional explication, I can see even more similarities. Remember when Colin threatens to forbid Dickon from coming to see Mary because he's getting jealous of her time spent with Dickon? So like Akito and her jealousy of Tohru ... .

This is fun!   :-)

Jun. 28th, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC)
So are we putting Yuki in the Mary role? I think it could work, to a degree. But both Dickon and Tohru have that sunny quality plus absolutely wonderful, down-to-earth mothers who seem to adopt unhappy children right and left.
Jun. 29th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)

That's good, about the mothers! Although a more unlikely pair of equivalents would be hard to imagine: plump, domestic indubitably middle-aged Susan Sowerby and slim young ex-gang member Kyoko.

I think the Mary situation going to have to get a little more exotic than that - Mary's going to have to represent several of the younger Sohma cousins. And perhaps Martha and Ben Weatherstaff together, as insiders formerly cooperating with the young tyrant, but now redirected at improving the situation, might fill the role of the older Sohma cousins ... although we are lacking a role for Shigure as the meddler and stirrer-up. Although I guess Martha did bring Dickon into the picture, and give Mary the skipping rope and show her how to use it, as well as being her sounding board - tenuously akin to Shigure's provision of a physical and mental refuge for his young cousins, into which he introduced Tohru ... .

I'm stretching it a bit at this point! There just aren't going to be direct equivalents for some of the situations ... where, for example, would Mr. Craven's gifts to Mary - the garden books and the permission to do as she likes on the grounds - fit in? And some of it's going to have to be symbolic, too, I think. Is the garden perhaps the concept of unselfish love at all levels: fraternal, filial, parental, romantic?

Jun. 29th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC)
Now I want to reread The Secret Garden, and the timing is just right since it's one of the books I brought back from my Dad's house.

I think Martha maps onto Shigure well enough for our purposes. Actually perhaps Kazuma works better (Kyo's karate sensei). Hattori could map onto Ben or to Mr. Craven.
Jun. 29th, 2007 01:40 am (UTC)

Well, Kazuma works better for Kyo, anyway. You know, Yuki doesn't really have an adult to confide in, does he? In fact, he doesn't confide in much of anyone until later when he talks to Kakeru (I've read way ahead of where I've had time to blog). Ayame knows a fair amount of it just from being there, and Hatsuharu similarly, but they tell him things - he doesn't open up to them much at all. The poor kid is totally impacted emotionally - his saying anything to Tohru is a tremendous thing.

I re-read The Secret Garden about once a year - I have a nice hardback with the Tasha Tudor illustrations. I like A Little Princess as well (although it has major issues with what would be called continuity if it were a movie), but I can't deal with any of Burnett's other books.

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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