July MMF: Fruits Basket, Why Did I Wait to Read You?

I know you are probably all dying to hear my SDCC wrap-up, but I had to scrap it because all I had to say was that all the new digital initiatives are cool (except for JManga.com, which still has potential to disappoint, but here’s hoping) and I’m fairly interested in most of the new licenses. Legend of Korra looks like it’s going to awesome and I totally got into Hall H after a relatively short wait (2.5 hours) for Doctor Who. Go me!

All in all, you should have been following me on Twitter for all the action when it happened. I know that’s pretty lazy of me, but there’s certainly nothing you can’t read already on other manga and comic book blogs with much more dedicated bloggers. (SDCC is tiring, dear readers.)

Moving on! I’m almost about to miss the July Manga Moveable Feast! I’ve missed the MMF for quite a while, so I really wanted to put in my feelings about Fruits Basket. For whatever reason, I never read Fruits Basket until I interned at Tokyopop, which means I resisted it for most of high school and college. I read it through for the first time in an epic reading marathon so I could write a post for the weekly newsletter. Goodness knows how I managed to read that many volumes in less than a week, but it was great. I really loved reading Fruits Basket.

As I began to get into the nitty-gritty parts of the story, I was totally sucked in. It remains one of the best shoujo manga I can remember reading. Why did I pass it by all those years ago? I remember reading the first volume, probably in some bookstore like a manga aisle hobo (I didn’t have any money back then…Sorry!) That first volume just didn’t do it for me back then, but I powered past it for the assignment. Someone should have just told me that it gets way more interesting after that first volume! To me, it’s the weakest part of such a deeply touching series.

The thing is, I was bullied a lot in high school and middle school, especially once I began to take up anime, manga, and drawing. My school, a K-12 private Jewish school, was such an isolated, homogenous environment that I was the only anime and manga fan throughout middle school and high school. We’re talking so homogenous that when a half-black, half-Jewish kid came to the school from East Palo Alto, everyone fawned over him because he acted a lot like any popular rapper or hip-hop artist at the time.

To say that I was reviled by most of my classmates would be an understatement. They took pleasure in interrupting class and getting me in trouble when I began to draw “naked Japanime” people. (You know how you’re supposed to draw the form of a figure before you draw clothes on? Yeah, I got in trouble for that.) For a few years, the school’s administration took this so seriously that my mother would be called up if I was caught even doodling during class. Every morning I went through backpack checks to make sure I wasn’t sneaking in a sketch book. Considering how I was 13 when I became a fan and began drawing, it felt a little harsh. I felt like an outcast, but for what? Liking a particular art form? Having a creative streak?

The school and my mother eventually eased up when they realized I was drawing in class because I wasn’t feeling challenged by my studies. (When I was thirteen, I also just missed entering the honors classes, which would have been the fast-track to all the Advanced Placement classes.)

That didn’t mean the teasing from my peers let up though. It was so bad that even after high school graduation, I was still teased by classmates. It’s hard for me to believe that they were so immature as to continue their taunting after we had parted ways (I specifically went to a college where no one else from the school had applied.) Thankfully, you can block people on Facebook and I made college friends who continue to be awesome even after we’ve gone our separate ways.

In short, I really could have used Fruits Basket and its complex drama about a number of well-meaning souls tormented by a restrictive and isolated society, then freed by great friendship and love. I would have loved to learn that I didn’t need to be trapped into being “friends” anyone in that school in order to have the life I wanted.

So, if you know any young manga fans who feel totally misunderstood by the people who should be their friends, please make them read Fruits Basket. (Especially before it goes out of print!) This manga could help make just about any outcast feel a little better about themselves and feel loved by all of those who just accept them for who they are.

Everyone could use a Tohru. 🙂

About Daniella Orihuela-Gruber

Daniella is a freelance manga editor and blogger. She likes collecting out of print manga and playing with her puppy. Yes, someone got her a puppy already.
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7 Responses to July MMF: Fruits Basket, Why Did I Wait to Read You?

  1. D: I went to a religious high school myself (Catholic, 600 students so I think mine might have been bigger) but my friends and I never had that kind of trouble with reading manga during breaks/doodling in notebooks (that I know of anyway). We did tease one of my friends since she did draw her characters nude first and then draw the clothes but I’m pretty sure she knew we were just teasing, we were all art students after all so we all joked about each other’s artwork pretty regularly. And I think you nailed it for why Furuba has been such a popular series, the themes of isolation and confusion about life (and subsequently, trying to overcome them either by yourself or with friends) feels a lot like high school, I’m glad you were able to read it even if it was later on.

    • I don’t know how big my school was, but I imagine it wasn’t much larger than 600 for K-12… My graduating class was 23 people, but we were one of the smallest classes in their recent history. Unfortunately, our class was small because the people in it were so awful.
      Also unfortunately, my classmates didn’t just playfully tease me. They raise their hands, interrupted class and tried to bring the fact that I was drawing “naked” people to the teacher’s attention so that I would get in trouble or at least be embarrassed.
      If I had read it in high school, I probably would have broken down and sobbed. I probably would have been a different person if I’d read it then. By the time I did read it, my wounds had been healed by the awesome friends I made in college, but still connected with the characters so much. What a great series. Really…

  2. Pingback: Fruits Basket MMF: Sunday wrap-up

  3. Estara says:

    Gah, you have my commiseration. And while my classmates didn’t understand why I liked reading so much – especially fantasy – they never harassed me when I would sit somewhere during break reading. They never were interested in similar stuff either, but since I retreated into books I might not even have realised…

    I’m so glad you came to an awesome happy end with your friends, though.

    • I wasn’t very popular even before I got into manga, but some how the manga stuff exacerbated the bullying. Perhaps because there was something a perception that anime was either for little kids or for perverts. I’m glad that you weren’t harassed like I was, though. ^_^

  4. Laura says:

    Amen! Everyone needs a Tohru!

  5. lovelyduckie says:

    Reading a series marathon style is deeply satisfying. I had the first volume of Fruits Basket pre-ordered (I even voted for it at the Tokyopop poll) and followed the series volume by volume over the years. That 1-2 month wait is tough but worth it.

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