Hana to Yume Comics, 1999
If I had not originally seen this series in the manga magazine ‘Hana to Yume’, I probably would have passed this series by. The cover art on the Tankoubon, while not bad exactly, is not very thrilling either. The covers are boring, actually. And because I pick most of the manga for this page purely by shallow means (its cover ^_^;) it is more than likely I would have never heard of this series. Fortunately I did see the actual comic page artwork for this manga first. The covers may be plain, but inside, the art is great! The lines are crisp and clean, and there is a lot of detail in the characters. (oh, and the boys are really cute ^_^ OK, so I am still shallow!) This should teach me to stop judging a book by its cover 😛
The story is about an orphaned girl named Tooru HONDA who is living alone in a tent until one day she meets her neighbors (3 guys, 2 of whom are her classmates at school) and discovers their secret- that they turn into animals when she hugs or runs into them unexpectedly! Wow, now that is a strange family for ya! It turns out that they are of a strange race of people that transform into animals of the Chinese Zodiac (plus a cat) when they are hugged unexpectedly by a female who is not a family member! (I also find it amusing that when they change back to human form, they are naked ^_-) Having learned their secret, the family decides to let her move in with them. More and more ‘family’ members keep showing up, and Tooru is continually surprised by all the animal people. The series is cute, and appears to have a love triangle involving the heroine and 2 of the boys- the mouse and the cat. Personally, I am cheering for the catboy 🙂 Right now there are at least 5 volumes of this series and it is currently running in the manga magazine ‘Hana to Yume’.
This series has been licensed for release in English in the US! The manga and a bunch of other adorable Fruits Basket goods can be purchased HERE!