The stories behind Yuki's mysterious classmate and Tohru's idolized mother come to light in the sixteenth volume of "Fruits Basket." It's a rather sorrowful volume that shows off Natsuki Takaya's skills with messed-up people finding meaning in their lives, but she throws in some humor at the end.
Kyo looks back on his meeting some time ago with Tohru's mother, who told him her life story: her parents only cared for how she made them look, so she became a brutal, angry gang leader known as the Red Butterfly. But then she met a sweet, caring young student teacher named Katsuya Honda, and slowly fell in love with him.
When she failed to get into high school because of a savage beating, her parents disowned her -- and Katsuya proposed. Their life was full of happiness and love, especially when their daughter was born -- until Katsuya died unexpectedly. Overcoming his loss, and finding something to live for, was the greatest challenge that Kyoko ever dealt with.
On a school trip, the mysterious Machi shows another side of her personality to Yuki, and faces up to her growing feelings for the "Prince." And at the New Year's banquet, tensions are riding high when Hatori faces up to an old debt, and Yuki enrages Akito to violence. And finally, Momiji has an unusual New Year's present for Kureno...
As with many of the "Fruits Basket" volumes, Takaya gets your tears pouring, only to cheer you up with some comedy and healed wounds by the end of the story -- and along the way, she tells of a true love story against all the ods, which ended far sooner than it should have.
The first story is the darkest, especially since you know there can't be any happy ending for Katsuya and Kyoko, but the final one has a balance of darkness (Akito going berserk) and deliciously kooky moments; The scene where Ayame carries off Yuki, screaming that they vowed to die together by the Seine is priceless.
And Takaya's artwork only emphasizes the strength of her writing -- she brings scenes like Kyoko's crying fit and violent past or Kyo's bloodstained nightmare to life, in more detail than ever before. But there are some charming scenes too, such as baby Tohru, or the sight of Haru kissing a sleeping Rin.
Kyoko's not the only one whose past is revealed here -- we also get to see glimpses of how Machi became the quiet, introverted person she is, compared to her outgoing brother. But the regulars get some development as well: Yuki has obviously grown stronger and dmore confident, while Kyo's sense of guilt runs a lot deeper than anyone suspects.
The sixteenth volume of "Fruits Basket" is unusually dark, but is a brilliant exploration of the characters' pasts -- and the grief, hope and love that come with them. And it promises to get better.