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Manga Review: Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket or Furuba by Natsuki Takaya is one of the most popular mangas of all time. Beginning in 1999, there are 23 volumes of girly, teal pastely silliness to wile away the time if you are a pretty, pink Lolita who loves puppies and cupcakes. Or, at least that’s what I thought. I never really paid attention to this manga series because of the impression the covers gave me and had my best friend not pushed it into my hand to borrow, I would still be under the misapprehension that Fruits Basket was mindless drivel.

I was mistaken. First, the plot is interesting and the characters likeable. Second, Fruits Basket is a story that any of us can relate to. It’s the story of being forgotten or left out.

I never connected the name Fruits Basket with the game we played as children where everyone is a fruit name and when the teacher yells “Apples and Oranges” everyone jumps up and tries to switch seats like crazy people. Apparently, when the main character, Tohru, was named in this game, she was given the title “Rice Ball” which we all know is not a fruit, and therefore would never be called. This is just one way in which Tohru is treated like an outsider.

An orphan after her mother dies, she is thrown out of her grandfather’s house because he is remodeling. Having nowhere else to go, she opts to stay in a tent in the woods where she will be out of everyone’s way. Luckily, she meets her neighbors who are a group of misfits like her and they offer her to stay with them instead of living in the tent. Soon she finds out that the misfits she’s living with are actually representations of Chinese Zodiac signs and when she hugs them, they turn into the Zodiac animal they embody. Not very ideal for the guy she’s in love with to turn into a rat in the middle of a hug, but this is just another obstacle in Tohru's quest for happiness. For me, the book was a series of Murphy ’s Law illustrations. They are the kind of issues we run into in everyday life. Just when you get promoted, the company closes. Just when you feel on top of the world, something happens that plunges you into depression.  For Tohru, just when she finds a family to love her, they turn into animals.

But Tohru, despite her troubles, has an excellent outlook on life. She is a shining star in the house and seems to make them all reevaluate what problems they have to face on a daily basis.

The beginning few pages of Fruits Basket #1, does have that bad printing that I sometimes talk about. There are extra side notes from the author that we enjoy such as giving insider information, tips, background on character names, etc… The extras in the back include two pages on the Chinese Zodiac, instructions on how to play Dai Hin Min a game mentioned in the story, and a two page interview with the girl who did the voice work for Tohru in Fruits Basket - the animated series.

This manga talks about something that a lot of us fandom enthusiasts already know:

Your friends can be a family.

Even if your parents are dead, your other family members are mean to you or don’t accept you, you can find people who care about you and who truly enjoy spending time with you. Sometimes, these people can be more valuable than anyone who shares your blood. Most of us in fandom understand this and we will always have more enriching experiences because we know there is someone out there that we can relate to.

Quite a bit to discover in just the first book of a series I shied away from for many years. I’d like to say thank you to my best friend Ari for bullying me into reading it. What’s that saying about judging a book by it’s cover? I’m wrong!

Checkout Fruits Basket at Amazon.com while there you can also find Fruits Basket - the animated series.

Remembering the Glory Days

The Passage of Time
Image by ToniVC via Flickr

I find myself thinking about the “Good Old Days” a lot lately.  This is not just a condition of thirty-somethings like me.  A surprising number of twenty-somethings I know are doing it to

Telling War Stories

There is some value in sitting around with your friends telling stories about our pasts.  It is how we come to know each other.

With increasing frequency, I have noticed that stories are not shared as memories, but as a wish for a return to our glory days.

Times Arrow

We are propelled forever into the future, writing ever more moments of our lives into the past.  Everything changes.  What is important is that we do not allow ourselves to become mired in the past.  We can learn from our past, but there is no known power in the cosmos that will allow us to return to a time already lived.

When a chapter closes, we have to turn the page and write the best words we can on the page.

The Best is yet to come

Believe me.  Several times, I have thought my best days were behind me.  The though enters all of our minds from time to time.  The fact is, it is easier to look back than it is to look forward.  We know the past.

Might I suggest we learn how to know the future.

  • Plans help
  • Goals motivate
  • Hope enlivens

We have to find a way to have all three.  That is why I am thankful to Gene Roddenberry.  Star Trek gave me a vision of the future that is hard to strip away from my eyes.  The world I want to live in doesn’t exist yet.  I have too much work to do to waste time looking back.

How do you keep yourself looking forward?

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Feeling Invisible

It isn’t hard to feel invisible in the world today.  So much is going on, and thanks to the internet, the conversation never stops.  It easier than ever to feel like no one sees us.

The trick is to ask yourself:

How do I want to be seen?

I don’t think there is a more important question we could ask ourselves.  Despite what people say, there is nothing we can do to make people notice us.  All we can control is how people see us if they stumble upon us.

Some people call this personal branding… I hate that term.  I am not a Coke!  I have a reputation not a brand!

Authentically Me

I love to see how people react to me when they first meet me.  I am an open book, and many have learned at their own peril not to ask me questions they don’t want me to answer honestly.

You see, in 1997, I lost everything.  My three best friends turned their back on me…

One of them, stole my identity, my college fund, got me evicted from my house, turned my other friends against me, and didn’t even understand how that could have upset me.  I was devastated.  My life in rumble around me, I learned the most important lesson of my life: Never lie to anyone!

I invested years in a relationship with a person who had no intention of being my friend.  He only wanted to use me to make his life better, screw the consequences.

I decided right then and there to be honest with everyone I meet.  No games, no lies.  If people don’t like me for who I am, then they are not the people I need to have around me.  In return, I ask one thing of the people in my life:

Never Lie to me

Trust is a two way road.  I am willing to bear my soul and be authentically who I am at all times, the very least I can expect in return from other people is that they will never lie to me.

I tell people that.  “I consider you a friend now.  I have been honest with you, and I expect you to do the same.  If I ever find out you have lied to me from this point on, I am not sure I can remain friends with you.”

Yeah, it is a little blunt, but that is how I am.  I don’t expect everyone to be as open as I am, but I expect them to be honest in their dealings with me.

Stop worrying about being noticed

It is far more important to consider what people see when you are noticed.  If you are a decent person, they will spread the word.  The truth will always win out.

How do you see your relationships with others?

Do you think there are any other traits besides honesty and authenticity we should expect from each other?

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Being a part of something special makes you special

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

Community is a base essential.  Even loners like to pride themselves on being part of a proud tradition of mavericks.  We all want to belong.  The question is: Belong to what?

There are two schools of thought:

  1. Belong to something popular
  2. Belong to something meaningful

Often, we feel like we have to choose one or the other.

Belonging to something Popular

The easiest choice to make to sign up for what your friends are doing.  I read a lot of blogs that discuss techniques bloggers can use to create this sort of peer pressure among your readers to bring their friends in.  The whole Web 2.0 phenomenon centered around this idea.

  • All my friends are on My Space, so I should be on My Space
  • Now the majority of my friends are on Facebook, I suppose I should join that.
  • Wow, all these people I want to keep up with are on Twitter.  I guess I need to join that

On and on it goes.  Each of these sites give us metrics to make us feel popular: Friends/Followers/Subscribers.

The problem with fame is that the more you have (real or imagined) the more you want.  It is a drug.  Social acceptance is the souls most addictive narcotic.  Like with any addiction.  Our priorities start changing.

My breaking point came when I was promoting Shine Like Thunder.  At one point, I was “participating” in 19 separate social networks on a weekly basis, and 7 more every other week.  Add that to my blogging, podcasting, and I didn’t have any time left to write…  You know, the reason I started this mess to begin with.  I had contact with a lot more people, but made few friends. I was hooked on the drug.  I fed the addiction while letting my passions wither.

Belonging to something Meaningful

All I really want, and I think all any of us really want is the sense that we are a part of something meaningful.

A meaningful community feeds us with enthusiasm and purpose.  That is the cost of popularity.

My favorite band, Kiss, and my favorite show on TV right now, Glee, understand this.  They preach and practice the celebration of difference.  We need to do that too!

Personal Checklist

I realized that in my personal life I need to ask myself some basic questions:

  1. What am I doing that fills my life with a sense of purpose and meaning?
  2. How can I better connect with people to make friends and not just followers.

Social Checklist

And on a broader field:

  1. How can I push the social networks I belong to work together better?
  2. How can I be more social and less promotional and vain?
  3. What can I do to fill my own life with more meaning and purpose?

I am still working on answers to these questions, and I am sure I missed quite a few that should be on the list.  What did I miss?  Do you have any suggestions?

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First look at the chat community imvu

imvu2Recently I had a chance to try out the chat community imvu.  I thought I'd share my first impressions with the dashPunk Community. As far as chatting systems go, this one holds it's own with most.  It is reminiscent of the old Palace chat and Excite bubble chat.

The screen is comprised of two sections.  Your chat window and avatar display and then your buddy column that basically looks like Yahoo Messenger.

For those of you who can not get on Second Life because of graphic card or memory issues, this may be a good alternative for you.  The av's are very 3D and there are excellent shopping opportunities for you to make your av exactly how you want it to be.  When you begin, you are given a choice of many different av styles and a room or apartment where your av can live and chat.  The homes are able to be rearranged by the owner and can be updated by shopping as well. imvu1

Shopping points can be earned in the beginning by completing newbie tasks.  Or you can join and spend real dollars to get points.

The down side to this chat is that if you are used to easy to maneuver real life like chats and games systems like Second Life, you will be extremely frustrated with the lack of mobility your av has.  You can not walk or explore the rooms without clicking on a space and waiting for a chair symbol to show.  Then you can click the chair and you will appear in that next spot as if by magic.  There are also some glitches in the system that for some reason move your av from your sitting spot to somewhere else and it's hard to find where you landed as the screen stays focused on your previous spot.  The chat windows are very laggy like AOL dial-up where several lines of type will show at once.

As far as I could tell, the only way you can get to other rooms is being invited by someone in the room or clicking a CHAT NOW button that plops you into random rooms.  This makes it pretty easy to meet new people, but unfortunately the community goal seems to be about hooking up rather than networking or meeting friends.  imvu3

Nevertheless, it is free to try, so if you're bored and would like to try something new, you can download the software at http://www.imvu.com

I have to thank imvu member Roger for teaching me some of the basics and hanging with me while I got the hang of it.

Project:Shadow 2007 December Newsletter

Hey everyone!

Are you concerned about keeping up to date on the latest Speculative Fiction, Culture, and Tech news? Would you like to talk with other like minded fans of sci-fi fantasy and horror? Then join us at the Project Shadow HQ at  http://hq.projectshadow.com/where you can share with us your favorite finds or talk about your latest fascination. The conversation is here!

 

KILLER REVIEW  

***Eric received a great write up for his novel Legends of the Jade Moon Book One: Liquid Sky here is an excerpt for your enjoyment.

Downwarden com Review by Nick Crabowsky

...What we have here is indeed science fiction ala Dune, though less detailed but just as vividly portrayed. Dorsett deserves praise for the execution of a story less intimidating for one more inclined to read other genres which require far less brain power to understand, breaks through those barriers and develops a narrative which renders a glossary needless and pretty much explains itself as is without asserting its vast mythology in explanatory rhetoric.

I enjoyed the damn thing. I think C.E. Dorsett is one powerhouse of imagination, inspired obviously by the greats of his craft. Liquid Sky is full of mysticism and spirituality, of themes centered on the search for one’s inner self and the meaning of the universe around him, where a youthful monk with adopted parents finds himself catapulted into an interstellar journey fueled by the death of the one he called Father and driven at odds by the results of saving him, by mysterious truth-sayers who aren’t what they seem and personal intuition telling him he’s destined to amount to something greater than himself and the savior of worlds. Ianus’ adventures and intrigue are entertaining and don’t smother us in the sort of over-explanation I’d read in other novels like this one. Liquid Sky is an extremely intelligent, very readable and delightful piece of work, and I’m glad to recommend it...

 

A TEASER

***  We at Project:Shadow have been working hard on completing PROJECT X.  We hope to have an announcement later in the month with a date when project X will go live.  For now all I can advise is to check back regularly for updates.  All that I am allowed to tell you is that Project X is an entire site rework that will bring some really cool things to the community.

 

# 1

***Black Moon Rising is out and is a top seller at amazon.  We want to thank all of the members who have already got their copy of the latest installment in C. E. Dorsett's series Fates Harrow.  If you haven't already got your copy then visit www.ProjectShadow.com/shopping.  

Get your one stop holiday shopping with us at Project:Shadow.  We set up a store so that you can get your holiday shopping done in one stop, stores include Amazon, Hot Topic, and Sharper Image.  We also have cool t-shirts, posters, and other merchandise available.

 

WACHA WATCHING

***Share your favorite video clip with the group:  We now have 112 videos available to members at the ProjectShadow HQ at http://hq.projectshadow.com/.  Its a great way to share your great finds with everyone and also a great way to catch the coolest, neatest new videos that are out.

 

MOON SPOTTING

***Brian posted a review of the Story Black Moon Rising here is a copy of it.

Wow! This is a great story!   5 stars (must own)

The story picks up from where we left off with Adir Radd in the hospital tortured by his visions of the future. I was caught up in Adir’s haunting vision.  It is written so viscerally I could almost hear the screams and smell the stink coming off of the battle field. This heart felt tale took me through the events and choices that led Dov Lavan to become the famed villain I knew him to be from reading Liquid Sky: Legends of the Jade Moon http://astore.amazon.com/projectshadow/detail/0595369162/.  The choices and motivations of Dov were very compelling. Reading his tale turned him into a compassionate and sad character. I could empathize with his frustrations and found myself thinking that if I were caught up in the same situation I would probably make the same choices. The conclusion was extremely rewarding even though I knew how the story would end I still found myself shocked, surprised and brought to tears with a beautiful, rewarding ending. To be cliché for a minute I literally laughed, cringed and cried while reading this.

Dark Moon Rising is the second installment of C. E. Dorsett’s Fates Harrow series which covers three historical characters in the Barren’s End setting. Their tale was first told in the book Liquid Sky: Legends of the Jade Moon but from the Jade Moon’s perspective.

In this episode Dov Lavan fears loosing his friends and culture, longing to save the ones he cares about he takes on a new master who promises to help him lead his people into a safer future. Dov rises to power, forming a new group, encouraging others to join him and stand for freedom. But, his childhood friends Tien Shaa and Adir Radd are concerned with the fire in Dov’s rhetoric, so they set out to try and stop the coming war.

We Love Net Flix!  We have been a member of Netflix for more than five years now and it is great!  Before that we would spend one to three hours in the video store every Friday looking and trying to decide what video we wanted to rent (a large chunk of this time was spent trying to remember what videos were out that we wanted to see), spend all that money on the rentals, and then have to go through the hassle of trying to watch and return the video so that we would not get charged a late fee.  This terrible experience was flipped with Netflix.  Now we have a list of videos that we want to see set up.  Whenever we see a trailer for a movie or show that we want to rent we just add it to our list and when it gets released to dvd about a year latter the video just arrives!  Now every week we get excited waiting for the mail to arrive so that we can see what new videos arrive.  We watch them when we get time to watch them.  Then when we are done watching it (in some cases this can take several weeks to accomplish partially due to some hectic event that takes up all of our time and in some situations it's because we end up watching it over and over again) we just drop it in the mail.  If you don't already use Netflix then go to www.ProjectShadow.com and get your videos today!  

 

PS INFORMANT

***Listen Live, daily, to our new podcast Project:Shadow Informant:  We are doing a live podcast Monday through Friday at 1:30 est on talk shue http://rurl.org/a8j.  You can also subscribe to the podcast by going to www.ProjectShadowInformant.com.  On the Project:Shadow Informant we cover news and topics related to the speculative fiction culture.  Its great fun and a nice way to keep up as per what is going on, join us!

Help support Project:Shadow and get your holiday shopping done at the same time!  Visit our store at www.projectshadow.com/shop/.  From there you can get anything from am azon, Lucas arts, Star Trek, Sharper Image, Hot Topic, Emusic, and your very own Project Shadow Merchandise.

 

What is on YOUR mind

***Have you shared with us your latest comments?  We now have over 60 forum topics up on the HQ.  If you have a forum topic that you would love to share with the group then go to the HQ and add them!  Comments are also back up in the Project Shadow Symposium.  Members may now put comments on any blog post that we post in the symposium.  You will need to use your Project Shadow HQ log in id to have access to the comment ability.  To read the blog posts go to www.ProjectShadow.com/symposium

Thank you for your interest! Supporting Project:Shadow helps us to bring you more and better content! Your support can take a variety of forms like doing your Amazon shopping http://www.projectshadow.com/shop/index.htm through us or making a donation http://www.projectshadow.com/supportus/index.htm! Read our support us page http://www.projectshadow.com/supportus/index.htm for more information and programs.

 

Eric

Project:Shadow

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