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Fruits Basket: v. 19
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Takaya's romantic comedy brims with teenage melodrama, corny humor and hijinks. In the vein of Ranma 1/2, the work's humor also derives from the transformation of humans into animals. It goes like this: Tohru Honda is unsinkable; when her mother dies and her grandfather denies her a place to live, the homeless high-schooler is determined to make it on her own by pitching a tent alone in the woods. En route to her tent one day, Tohru encounters Shigure, who informs her that the tent is pitched on his family property. He's appalled by her squalid living conditions and invites her to his estate. Tohru becomes part of the household on the condition that she helps guard their family secret: when hugged by members of the opposite sex, Shigure and his family transform into animals from the Chinese zodiac calendar. Tohru soon learns Shigure is the cousin of Yuki Sohma, a quiet, mysterious boy at her high school whom all the girls adore. (Yuki, incidentally, has spurned any female advances for fear of revealing his true form: a rat.) And it's not long before she finds out another cousin, Kyo, transforms into a cat. As an animal left off the zodiac, Kyo feels he's been wronged. As Tohru and Kyo become friends, they realize that as misfits they may have a chance at understanding each other. Similar to other romance manga, this tale's illustration style is cartoonish and whimsical. Each panel-packed page conveys a melodramatic event or upturn, giving the story a fast rhythm. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

When Tokyopop polled visitors to its website on what manga they would like to see translated into English, this charming series was the top choice by a wide margin. Nothing can dampen the optimistic spirit of orphaned high school girl Tohru Honda-not even being forced to live alone in a tent. One morning, she discovers a nearby house, where her popular classmate Yuki Sohma and his older cousin Shigure live by themselves. They invite her to stay with them as their (desperately needed) housekeeper, and she soon learns of the family curse: when the Sohmas are embraced by members of the opposite sex, they turn into animals of the Chinese zodiac. Tohru also meets Kyo, the 13th member of the cursed family, who turns into a cat, an animal ostracized by the zodiac members in an ancient legend. As Tohru brightens their lives, they give her something she thought she had lost: a family. The influence of Rumiko Takahashi's Ranma 1/2 is obvious-but Ranma is a shonen title, emphasizing action, while this is a shojo title, emphasizing relationships. Takaya's artwork is quite appealing, and this 11-volume series is highly recommended for teens and adults. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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