Tohru is a hardworking, charismatic high school student trying to get by and work her way to college. She's had her share of tragedy, as she lost her mother recently, and she was squeezed out of her grandfather's house while he does renovations. At the onset of our story, she is living in a tent on seemingly uninhabited land. Here, she is discovered by the Sohma family, whose land she has been living on. They invite her into their home in exchange for her domestic skills, which they are severely lacking. Here, Tohru finds out their secret -- that they are all members of the Chinese zodiac, and they turn into their animal forms if embraced by a member of the opposite sex. But, the longer Tohru stays, the more she discovers that this might not be the only secret the Sohmas have.
Tohru isn't your typical shōjo heroine. She is bubbly and carefree on the outside, but she has suffered greatly in her short life, and has had to persevere to become the person she is today. Her depth is revealed slowly throughout this first volume, as she imparts wisdom beyond her years to the members of the Sohma family who are experiencing some of their own struggles. I also really enjoyed Tohru's friends, especially Hanajima and her strange ability to sense the energy of others. The personalities of the Sohmas are wonderfully related to the animals they house. Kyo is the cat, tricked into being left out of the Zodiac in the original myth, and he is every bit a moody, lovable kitty who simultaneously needs people and can't stand to be around them.
This collector's edition combines several of the original volumes into one. This series was originally published from 1998 to 2006, and it still resonates with today's audiences. This is one of the more popular series in my library currently.
Yen press rates this for Teen. As there is a lot of romance in this series, and the characters are mostly older teens, this rating seems appropriate.
Sara's Rating: 9/10
Suitability Level: Grades 8-12
Tags: Rating: 9/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Manga, Romance, Magic
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