Fruits Basket: Volume 1 by Takaya Natsuki

Image Description: the front cover of a manga-book, Fruits Basket - Volume 1. The front cover depicts a peach-coloured background, while in the foreground there is a female high-school student with long brown hair and brown eyes in a navy-blue and white high-school uniform, kneeling on the ground and smiling up at the reader.
Image Description: the front cover of a manga-book, Fruits Basket – Volume 1. The front cover depicts a peach-coloured background, while in the foreground there is a female high-school student with long brown hair and brown eyes in a navy-blue and white high-school uniform, kneeling on the ground and smiling up at the reader.
Title: Fruits Basket: Volume 1
Author: Takaya Natsuki
Publisher: Chuang Yi Publishing Pte Ltd
Format and Price: Paperback at $15.00 (I bought the series years ago)
Rating: 5 out of 5

About The Author/Artist:
Natsuki Takaya (real name Naka Hatake) is the penname of a Japanese manga artist best-known for creating the series Fruits Basket. She was born in Shizuoka, Japan, but was raised in Tokyo, where she made her debut in 1992. She enjoys video games such as the Final Fantasy series or Sakura Wars, or working on her different manga series, such as Fruits Basket, which is the second best-selling shōjo manga ever in Japan, and the top selling shōjo manga in North America. Fruits Basket has also been adapted into a twenty-six-episode anime series. In 2001, Takaya received a Kodansha Manga Award for shōjo manga for Fruits Basket.

According to Takaya (in a sidebar of a Fruits Basket manga volume), she enjoys drawing girls (girly ones) more than she does boys. Takaya also enjoys electronics and music, but dislikes talking about herself. Also revealed in a sidebar of Fruits Basket, Takaya broke her drawing arm (left) after Fruits Basket volume six was published. She had to go into surgery, and as a result, had put Fruits Basket on a brief hiatus. Takaya made a full recovery, but complains that her handwriting had gotten uglier, due to the surgery. During her hospital stay, she gained an interest in baseball.

About The Manga:
A family with an ancient curse…

And the girl who will change their lives forever…

Tohru Honda was an orphan with no place to go until the mysterious Sohma family offered her a place to call home. Now her ordinary high school life is turned upside down as she’s introduced to the Sohma’s world of magical curses and family secrets.

General Observations:
~An Introduction: Volume One is a great introduction of what is to come and the slow progression of meeting the individual members of the Zodiac, one at a time, complete with whacky-antics, shenanigans and surprisingly depressing back-stories (seriously depressing, have your tissues ready). I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the cast of characters were diagnosed with PTSD, especially since Tohru is a pretty good example of a Stephford Smiler.

~Nostalgia Goggles: Fruits Basket is one of the first shojo manga series I ever read so I have a deep love for it and I am completely bias towards it, despite the possibly problematic elements that surface later on. I’m not saying people shouldn’t watch the anime adaptation of the manga, but if you only watch the anime, you missing ENORMOUS chunks from the narrative that only get resolved later on. This manga series is a long term investment, so buckle up and get ready for the ride, I promise it’s worth the wait.

~I Found This Humerus: Despite the fact that its darker as the series progresses, Natsuki Takaya is a great comedy writer and the humour is what brings it back into the light.

~Dysfunction Junction: I don’t want to spoil the series but as the reader slowly gets to know more and more about Tohru Honda, Yuki Sohma, Kyo Sohma, Shigure Sohma, her immediate family members, her friends Uo and Hana (although volumes focusing on them appear much later down the track) as well as other members of The Sohma family, I couldn’t help but notice the common theme: everyone’s family is messed up.

Hana’s family is at the positive end of the scale (mostly positive with some added weird and quirkiness), while The Sohma family belongs at the opposite end the scale (seriously fucked up and emotionally abusive, verbally abusive and occasionally physically abusive in multiple ways/levels). So, while the first few volumes come across as a slap-stick family comedy/drama, I just wanted to put in a family abuse trigger warning in here.

All in all, a great beginning to a complex series, completely worthy of 5 stars and I’m happy to recommend to anyone and everyone

Available for purchase: Amazon and Book Depository

Book Review: Saga, Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Image Description: book cover of Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Title: Saga, Volume One
Author: Brian K. Vaughan (Writer) and Fiona Staples (Artist)
Publisher: Image Comics
Format and Price: From the Image Comics website, Print Book at US $9.99 (AU $13.22) and Digital Book/PDF at US $7.99 (AU $10.58)
Rating: 4 out of 5

About The Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan is the award-winning writer of comics like Saga, Y: The Last Man and The Private Eye, a digital, pay-what-you-want series available at his site PanelSyndicate.com. His upcoming works for Image Comics include the futuristic military thriller We Stand on Guard with artist Steve Skroce and the young adult mystery Paper Girls with Cliff Chiang. He sometimes dabbles in television, including stints on the hit series Lost and Stephen King’s Under the Dome.

About The Artist:
Fiona Staples is a comic book artist living in Calgary, Canada. She has illustrated comics such as Mystery Society, Done to Death, Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor, Jonah Hex, and Northlanders, and contributed covers to DV8, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Criminal Macabre, Superman/Batman, Archie, and more. Her work on the 2009 horror series North 40 was nominated for an Eisner Award, and she took home the 2011 Shuster Award for Outstanding Cover Artist. She’s currently working on the ongoing Image series Saga, with writer Brian K. Vaughan.

About The Book:
When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

What I Enjoyed:
~Stunning Visuals: I love the visual artistry involved with this graphic novel, Fiona Staples is an absolutely amazing artist here. Although, I must also add there is graphic violence involved, this is a graphic novel set during a time of civil war after all, so some violence is to be expected. But there’s also some graphic nudity, sexual content and, quiet frankly, some weird stuff. Let’s just say that there are some characters that make Robot Prince IV (a humanoid alien with a television for a head – and yes there’s an entire race of people just like him) look perfectly normal.

Image Description: a graphic picture of sex-workers who appear to exist as an overly-large head (with hair and facial features just like a regular head) with a pair of legs in fish-net stockings attached to where a neck and torso would normally be.

Exhibit A: torso-less sex workers.


How do they brush their hair? How??

~Intriguing Plot: I don’t want to go into spoiler territory but I feel as though the blurb doesn’t give enough information. The main story (although there are HEAPS of interesting and interconnecting sub-plots) is centred around two Alien races, one from the moon Wreath and Landfall, the planet that Wreath circles around. Centuries ago, civil war broke out between these two parties, but they eventually realised they couldn’t technically destroy each other so they expanded their civil war onto other planets which meant innocent people were caught in the cross-fire and third-parties became invested in the civil war.

Marko, who is one of the main characters and an alien from Wreath (commonly called Horns because they have horns or ‘Moonies’ as a slur) and Alana, who is also one of the main characters (commonly called ‘Wings’ because they have wings), meet when Marko hands himself over as a prisoner of war and the two of them fall in love, run away together and have a child.

The problem is that the respective Governments of Wreath and Landfall don’t approve of this development, so Wreath representatives have sent out Bounty Hunters to kill the parents and capture the child and Landfall representatives have sent out Robot Prince IV to kill the parents and kill the child. That might not sound like an interesting summary, but it is a fascinating and engaging narrative that has interesting themes about the impact of war and does briefly touch on PTSD (this is expanded upon in later volumes for both Alana and Marko), the plot and multiple sub-plots are all intriguing and interconnected so no panel is wasted.

~Excellent Characterisation: Along the way, the reader gets to know Marko, Alana and Hazel (an adult version of Hazel is narrating the story). Then there’s the various secondary characters that gravitate towards Marko and Alana like Isobelle and Marko’s parents. The reader finds out small slivers of their back story which made me eager to find out more. The reader also learns about the antagonists as well, like the Bounty Hunter The Will and Robot Prince IV, all the parties involved are playing a high-stakes game but there is an element of everyone being a pawn in someone else’s game-board.

What I Didn’t Enjoy:
~Faux Action Girl: One of the Bounty Hunters hired by Wreath to kill Marko and Alana and capture Hazel is The Stalk (all the freelance bounty hunters are called “The Noun” for some reason), now The Will says there’s no point in him even going after the couple because, as far as he’s concerned, if The Stalk is pursuing them then Marko and Alana are as good as dead.

Through dialogue exchanged between The Will and The Stalk, the reader learns that The Will and The Stalk were involved in a sexual relationship, however, The Will broke it off when he found out that The Stalk was willing to sleep with other people in order to capture her target.

So, thus far, The Stalk is built up to be this ruthless bounty hunter who is powerful, dangerous and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the assignment done (I have no problems with this). The Stalk is also intelligent to know her strengths and weaknesses, so when she feels that she’s out of her depth, she contacts The Will and asks him for help and when he acts like a jerk, she gives him the proverbial finger and hangs up.

So, naturally, what happens by the end of volume one? The Stalk is accidentally killed (more on this later). To me, The Stalk is a fascinating character, but all of her “Action Girl” credentials are told to the reader and not shown. A character needs to be shown earning the title of “Bad-arse”, I wanted more action scenes with her and I feel, as a reader, The Stalk deserved better.

This is also because the relationship between The Stalk and The Will becomes an important factor to The Will’s character development and actions later on. While I will acknowledge that the relationship between The Will and The Stalk is expanded on in later volumes, however, there are problematic elements to this (I’ll expand on this further).

~Stuffed Into The Fridge: The Stalk isn’t killed off accidentally because it’s an organic element of the plot, I know why she was killed, The Stalk was killed off for multiple reasons. Robot Prince IV needed a ship that would take him to where he wanted to go and The Stalk’s ship was conveniently located nearby with information Robot Prince IV needed to know about Marko and Alana.

The Stalk was also killed off so that her death would act a catalyst for character development in The Will, he was talking to her on the phone as she was accidentally killed, so The Will took it badly (he did love her after all). Because of this action taken by Robot Prince IV, The Will is determined to hunt him down and enact revenge against Robot Prince IV. Thus the character The Stalk is no longer a three-dimensional character with her own narrative, but a convenient plot-device and The Stalk deserved better than to be used as a plot-device for someone else’s character development.

Prince Robot IV could easily have kidnapped The Stalk or forced her into cooperating with her, thus the writer could still have Robot Prince IV being able to access her ship. The writer could also still have the revenge antagonist plot between The Will and Robot Prince IV with The Will pursuing Prince Robot IV to help rescue The Stalk, which could have been turned around into an easy subversion (“I didn’t need to be rescued, he was taking me straight to the target”).

I’m not so much annoyed that an interesting character was killed off, there needs to be genuine risks and stakes for a character in order for the narrative to be engaging, it just seemed like The Stalk’s death was pointless and the plot-goals could still be achieved with her being alive. Perhaps if The Stalk had been killed off in Volume Two or Three I would have been able to accept it easier.

In conclusion, it’s a great comic series with an interesting cast of characters and engaging plot, although there are some problematic elements involved. I have enjoyed reading the Saga series thus far and I’m happy to recommend.

Available for purchase from Book Depository and Image Comics