Help, I've been mugged by a volume of shoujo manga!
Yes, it's true. I picked up vol. 4 of Fruits Basket for cheap at Balticon over the 3-day weekend ... and that was the beginning of the end. I've been conquered by "America's most popular shoujo manga."
I have actually gobbled down volumes 4-10, but I'm forcing myself to break it up and think about it a little more. I bought 5-7 on Sunday night, and then picked up 8-10 on Wednesday afternoon. And I want more, more, more. (And so does the Young Lady.)
What was so overwhelming about vol. 4 was that everything was ratcheted up several notches. The humor was suddenly so vivid that I laughed out loud more than once. I especially loved Kyo's reaction to Momiji's wardrobe choice for the first day of high school (probably because I was equally appalled ... >sigh<), and then Hatsuharu's passionate defense of civil rights in dress ... especially his "dirty pool" (on several counts) with the student body president. Ayame is, of course, a scream, and he and Shigure are hysterical together ("Not in front of the children!"). I also think it's interesting that his stories of bamboozling the school authorities with BS and outrageous sexual bravura are told so close to Hatsuharu's similar assault on poor Takei (who may never be the same again ...). Of course Hatsuharu has a lot more emotional investment in what he does, while Ayame is just messin' with their heads ... but it's interesting. And both of them really love Yuki, too.
And then the pathos ... ahh, I'm just a big marshmallow on the inside. Momiji's backstory totally killed me, even though I don't really care for the character. But I've been on both sides of that equation: I've been the child of a mentally disturbed mother, and I've been a new mother with postpartum depression. When Tohru and Momiji were crying, and she hugged him and he turned into a bunny, still crying - well, that was it. I lost it.
And I haven't even mentioned Tohru & co.'s visit to her mother's grave, or Kyo watching Tohru sleep on the porch. And that was all in one volume.
Not everything in every volume is successful. Yuki's various encounters with characters at school - both his fellow student officers and the silly geese in the secret Yuki fan club - don't do much for me. And although Tohru's ignorance of what exactly it was that Hatsuharu showed the school president in the bathroom was funny - and gave Hatsuharu a chance for a marvellously lewd piece of behavior (which very appropriately earned him a smackdown from both Kyo and Yuki) - I'm not sure I buy it. The girl is 16 already, for God's sake ... . And yes, she's just too damn good and nice - but you know, Hatsuharu is even more insightful than she is a good deal of the time.
But so much of it is good and effective and moving: The "Mabudachi Trio" having their heart-to-heart session at the lake house. Hatsuharu calmly letting Kisa, in her tiger form, bite him as he explains what's up with her, because he's so worried. Kisa's mother, at her wits' end and looking so completely tired and bewildered. Kisa turning back into an equally bewildered and miserable little girl in Tohru's arms. Kyo overcoming his famous hatred of leeks to cook a decent pot of soup for Tohru when she's sick. Hanajima's little brother, Megumi, creatively helping his sister get rid of the catty Yuki fan girls. Haru worrying about both Kyo and Tohru in school, and reading Tohru like a book as she frets silently before him, and then confronting Yuki and confessing that he himself is worried as well. Ayame's real joy at having Yuki visit his shop ... and the horrible irony of what he sells, versus the constraints that he has to bear on his own search for romance. Hiro's insights into his own behavior, so mature that they're a terrible burden for a boy of 11. Uo's misery over seeing her friend Tohru in her old school swimsuit, and her determination to solve the problem, and involve all those who love Tohru in the solution.
And the three real killers for me: the whole business over Kyo's other form - and Takaya is very clever in having smell be a part of it: smell is much more visceral and primitive than sight - and his relationship with his Shishou; Uo's backstory and her relationship with Tohru's mother; and Shigure's kindness, which I'm having to question on the basis of things I'm reading in other people's reviews. I have to hope that what he seems to be up to is worth it in the end, for all of them.
Alright, Takaya-sensei: you've got me. I'm in it for the long haul.