Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket Another is a spin-off from Fruits Basket. It was serialized from 2017 to 2020, initially in HanaLaLaOnline and then in Manga Park. This review is brought to you by a request and the power of James Not Reading Titles Closely Enough. It is set a generation after Fruits Basket. The whole story fits into three volumes.
Aware that she is a terrible person who is a burden to those around her, Sawa Mitoma tries her hardest to avoid interacting with other students. Late for class on her very first day (because she was detained by her mother’s landlord), she faces inevitable punishment from Takei-sensei for her tardiness… until a handsome prince in the form of Mutsuki Sohma intervenes and she is allowed to go her way without punishment.
The Sohma clan is still as rich and powerful as they were in the original series. Sawa does not know this because she steadfastly stares at her feet whenever she is around other students. Still, she is impressed by Mutsuki’s striking appearance and the ease with which he extricated her from trouble.
The Sohmas are not finished with Sawa. She is drafted onto the student council, a role far more public than she has ever played. Her new position brings her to the attention of the local Sohma fan club. Surely, they can react only with bitter jealousy! But in fact, the fans seem to see Sawa mainly as a potentially useful source of insider information.
Having entangled her in student politics, the Sohmas proceed to include her in their personal social activities. Of course, this cannot last. Eventually, the Sohmas will notice that she is an irredeemably worthless person and discard her, as everyone save her tempestuous mother has done in the past. Nevertheless, timid Sawa enjoys her time with her new friends.
Unbeknownst to Sawa, her family and the Sohmas have unfinished business, dating back to events in Sawa’s childhood. Thanks to the unrelenting drumbeat of parental abuse since then, Sawa has no recollection of meeting the Sohmas. But they most certainly remember her.
The art in this is far more polished than that of the early Fruits Baskets.
Is it still a fantasy if a sequel to a fantasy has no discernable fantastic elements?
Don’t read anything ominous into the Sohmas’ interest in Sawa. There’s a lot of hinting about unpleasant infrafamilial squabbles (no doubt I would understand more if I’d read more Fruits Basket volumes). But rather than perpetuate squabbles, the current Sohma cohort is relentlessly supportive. Not all of the Sohmas are so cheerful (one wonders what’s in their drinking water) — but most of them are. Their quirks are limited to endearing wackiness, not grim, implacable plotting.
To balance this, Sawa’s mother is a complete monster. She seems to draw the line at actually beating her kid, but otherwise anything goes, from habitually abandoning Sawa, to verbal abuse, to actively sabotaging every one of Sawa’s friendships of which the mother is aware. In fact, she is the rock on which the Sohma resolve breaks. Their advice to Sawa is essentially “run away! Run away!”1
Alas, this manga is not for me. It’s just a bit too one-note, a bit too cheerful, with the exception of Sawa’s bottomless self-loathing and her mother’s infinite supply of pure spite. I didn’t enjoy those either.
1: What would be even better is if the incredibly rich Sohmas were to invite Sawa to live with them, but that would probably only result in them being accused of kidnapping or worse by Sawa’s mother.