Fruits Basket Volume 23 Paperback – 21 Jul 2009
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"Fruits Basket Volume 23" is a deeply bittersweet end to a stunning fantasy/comedy/romance manga series, and Natsuki Takaya avoids the obvious maudlin overtones that the ending could have had. Instead she carefully wraps up the various plot threads as each character prepares to go their own way, pairs off most of the cast, and caps it off with a gorgeous ending that leaves some of the story up to the imagination.
The formerly cursed Sohmas are called to a meeting with a newly feminized Akito, who is painfully changing into a new person as she finally accepts her love for Shigure. In the meantime, the loss of the curse has had some other effects on people's lives -- some of the former cursed Sohmas are suddenly more relaxed in their freedom, while others are unable to let go of their olds wounds and grudges.
Meanwhile, the high school is abuzz with Tohru and Kyo's new relationship, and Yuki and Kyo have stopped fighting altogether -- and Kyo reveals that he wants Tohru to come with him on a long trip. Yuki and Shigure's paths diverge from that of their friends as they start new lives with their new loves, and the other Sohmas begin to learn what life is like without the curse. It's not so much an end as it is the end of the curse, and the beginning of their real lives.
"Fruits Basket Volume 23" is basically all about the united path of the cursed Sohmas splitting off into many different paths -- some are going to college, some are getting married, some are departing on journeys, and others are just continuing as-is but with greater freedom and happiness. The main message seems to be that people must go their own way and make their own path in life, but that they will never truly be apart from the people they love.
The first chapter is a bittersweet experience as a tortured Akito finally deals with the last of her issues, but the stories that follow are just to tie up the emotional loose ends. Loads of humor (just about any scene with Kyo, Saki and/or Uo is crammed with hilarity), a bit of sadness, and plenty of romance (including one for Saki that comes as a shock). It's also much lighter and more humorous than the last few volumes of "Fruits Basket," but there's still a bittersweet pang as you realize that the story of the Sohmas is about to finally end.
And the Sohmas have changed (Momiji's pranks), but in many ways are still the same (Ayame's over-the-top real estate plans), and some of them haven't forgiven Akito for what she's done. But it's also obvious that the main characters have grown up immensely -- Kyo has become a strong young man who wants to forge a new life with the girl he loves, and Tohru has grown past her ditzy anxiety. And a hauntingly lovely flashback to the day Kyoko died reveals what she meant to say to Kyo, and what happened after she died.
And just in case anyone wasn't totally satisfied, an epilogue shows what life is like for a few of the characters, about thirty years in the future. Takaya leaves most of their futures up to the imagination, but the continuing presence of the zodiac figures shows that they are never far from Tohru and Kyo.
The final volume of "Fruits Basket" is everything that made the series great -- overcoming the bitter past and seeking a brighter, happier future, with plenty of laughter and romance. A gorgeous must-read... then go back and read the series again.
Don't know how I'll manage without the knowledge that a new volume is coming out soon, but I'm so happy with the ending that I can't be sad.
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