Jan. 19th, 2012

hymnia: (Shigure reading)
I am so excited that Mark has cleaned up the suggestions threads on Mark Reads and Mark Watches, because I have been waiting for an opportunity to pitch my favorite manga series Fruits Basket. Unfortunately, I seem to be having technical difficulties with posting it. It looked like my comment posted, but then it disappeared. Is it possibly because the comment is too long? I can't figure the problem out. But in the meantime, I'm posting my pitch here for safe-keeping:

Please consider adding the manga series Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya to your reading list, Mark. (There is also an anime, and it is worth watching, but the manga is much better and tells a more complete story.) It is a 23 volume manga series and it is complete. As you have not reviewed manga before on Mark Reads (and I get the impression you aren't super familiar with the genre), I will say that a single volume of manga usually consists of about 5-8 chapters and takes about 45 min to an hour and a half to read (depending on your reading speed and how much dialogue there is). I would say a single volume of manga is probably comparable in terms of story-movement to a single, longish chapter of a novel, so you could potentially do this series in 23 days, if you chose to do it volume by volume. (And that is what I would suggest.)

Mark, I can't say too much without going into spoilers. I don't even really want to tell you the premise because 1) it sounds cheesy when you try to explain it, and 2) I think the story is better the less you know about it going in. But it's a fantastic story, and I think it delves into a lot of themes that you would appreciate, such as how people cope with isolation and abuse. Yet, despite these often dark themes, it offers a hopeful outlook on life--without being cheap. It does a great job of balancing humor, drama, romance, fantasy, and mystery, and it has a cast of wonderfully complex and fascinating characters.

In addition, if you have any interest in getting a good “representative” of anime/manga into your oeuvre of reviews, “Furuba” (as it is lovingly nicknamed by fans in the Japanese style of abbreviation) is a great candidate, because it is one of the most popular manga series published in North America.

Here's an excerpt from the entry where it was spotlighted for a “manga moveable feast” on The Manga Curmudgeon last year:

“First of all, it’s almost always interesting to dig into a cultural phenomenon. In the period between the initial English-language publication of Sailor Moon by Tokyopop and its upcoming republication by Kodansha, Fruits Basket was the most commercially successful shôjo [girls'] manga and one of the most commercially successful manga, period.

Many people have made the argument that romantic fantasy for a female audience tends to be critically undervalued. Commercially successful romantic fantasy for a female audience adds another potential disclaimer for a book’s artistic value. Fruits Basket wasn’t just primarily for girls, but girls liked it a lot. And they bought as many copies of it as boys did of manga they liked. What’s that about? Or, at least that sometimes seems like the psychological subtext.

And Fruits Basket, which originally ran in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume, is difficult to quantify. It shares a number of qualities with more generic manga of its category...But Takaya approaches that material with quite a bit of craft and emotional ruthlessness. She doesn’t brutalize her characters (or her readers), but she doesn’t spare them much. It’s not a creepy, 'suffering and terror are hot' kind of approach; it’s more of a fluid, applied grasp of the nature of tragedy. Fruits Basket has scale. If the aesthetic were less contemporary-casual, the Takarazuka Revue could operetta up this sprawling epic.”

Full entry here, but beware spoilers as to the premise: http://mangacurmudgeon.com/2011/07/24/mmf-why-fruits-basket/

In short, it's a series beloved by many manga fans, especially shojo manga fans (who are, of course, not always female), and it's a great story all around with many of the qualities that you seem to appreciate. I know your list is long, but I hope you'll give this series a place on it. I'm sure you'll be glad you did.


Edit: It's posted now: http://markreads.net/reviews/suggestions-for-mark/#IDComment269281706

Joie

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