I reviewed the anime version of "Fruits Basket" a while ago, and I hate the low review I gave it. This being the first manga I continued after reading volume 1 (okay, it was actually volume 6, but shut up!), I truly love it. Here, to complement my review of the anime, is my review of the manga.
Story: Honda Tohru is a goody-goody girl living on her own in the woods. After the tragic death of her mother and father, she was to live with her family. However, since she didn't want to burden them (and because their rude and inconsiderate of her feelings), she decided to make it on her own. So, she works and lives in a freaking tent. However, one day she is walking through the forest when she notices a nice-looking house. She walks up to it and sees little zodiac (the Chinese zodiac) figurines. Bending down to take a closer look, she is discovered by Sohma Shigure and Sohma Yuki. Yuki, Tohru's popular classmate, recognizes Tohru and invites her in (and they, you know, find out that she lives in a tent... alone... in the woods... a random high school girl... unsuspecting...). She gets a fever and stays for the night. Then blah blah blah, she lives with them. Then she meets Sohma Kyo, who is effing awesome and really short-tempered.
Aaaaaaanyway, the Sohmas are cursed so that each of them is an animal of the zodiac, plus the cat. Go read this somewhere else, but it's a well-executed plot. It flip-flops between a beautiful romance and tear-jerking moments, and has some truly funny comedy mixed in.
Art: In volumes 1 and 2, the art is kind of awkward and not pleasing at which to look. After that, though, it becomes typical shoujo fare: huge eyes, handsome men, the occasional chibi and the like. But it follows through on this, and has oodles of eye candy and girly boys. The touching scenes are even better drawn. Character designs work and fit the animalistic aspects of the Sohmas.
Characters: This character-driven story contains backstories, development and everything you could want. However, the tragic pasts seem so coincidental, it cannot be believed. But it's certainly good enough.
Characters: (S=Sohma) Brown-haired girl in navy uniform: Honda Tohru; silver-haired boy in navy uniform: S. Yuki; orange-haired boy: S. Kyo; blonde boy: S. Momiji; orange-haired... uh... well, boy-who-looks-like-a-girl in kimono: S. Ritsu; brown-haired girl in white uniform: S. Kagura; blonde girl: S. Kisa; brown-haired boy in black uniform: S. Hiro; white-haired boy in purple-ish uniform: S. Hatsuharu; black-haired girl: S. Isuzu; brown-haired man: S. Kureno; black-haired man in doctor's uniform: S. Hatori; black-haired (it looks silver) man in kimono: S. Shigure; white-haired man in purple Chinese dress: S. Ayame.
Now let's hope I got everyone.
Honda Tohru: She is so kind it's almost criminal, and as innocent and naive as... uh, an innocent and naive person. Her mother complex is a little odd, because she seems to have forgotten her father (Hiro kindly mentions this at some point). She is ever the optimist, despite having a tragic past, and she is very forgiving... damn, spoilers. I'll be quiet. But I'll say this much--she's probably the weakest character due to her simplistic personality; she gets outshined and, hmm, kind of annoying.
Sohma Yuki: He is more than just a pretty face and kind demeanor, he has a sad backstory (as do all of the Sohmas -.-). He starts out kind of dull, but really opens up during the School Defense Force time period.
Sohma Kyo: Really short tempered, the poor cat makes for some of the tenderest moments in the series, and he probably undergoes the most development.
Sohma Momiji: Always smiling despite his sob-worthy past. (You know what? All of these people have tragic backstories, so I'll stop mentioning them, dammit!) He is funny and always on Kyo's bad side, but he really mans up by the end.
Sohma Ritsu: Yes, he looks like a girl (IT'S A TRAP!), but there is a reason! He does change at some point.
Sohma Kagura, Sohma Kisa, Sohma Hiro, Sohma Haru, Sohma Rin, Sohma Kureno, Sohma Hatori, Sohma Shigure and Sohma Ayame: I realize that I'm repeating myself with everything because I don't want to go too in-depth for each character in fear of spoiling, so I'll say that, yes, they have tragic pasts and yes, they develope. (Oh, and Isuzu [Rin] and Kureno never show up in the anime.)
Uotani Arisa and Hanajima Saki: Tohru's best friends, they have outrageous personalities (evidently, so that they aren't overpowered by the Sohma), but kind of take a seat on the back burner of the story. Their backstories are nice, but they are lowered to lesser character spots. However, they're important in the beginning of the story, so I'll include them.
The School Defense Force:
Manabe Kakeru, Todo Kimi, Kuragi Machi, Sakuragi "Nao" Naohito and, well, Yuki: I feel the need to include the Defense Force because, honestly? they're the reason I dislike the anime (one of the reasons). The anime doesn't include them despite their awesome awesomeness, which really SUCKS. They make for most of Yuki's development and some of the best scenes of the manga. These four (plus Yuki, I guess) are my favorite characters by far.
Overall: A definite recommendation, this popular shoujo series is well-written and deserving of praise. Even a non-shoujo fan should appreciate the combo of tragedy, comedy and romance.