Fruits Basket 16 by Natsuki Takaya: A-

From the back cover:
A new chapter is opened in the Sohma family’s story—and the rumors are true! Kyou has indeed met Kyoko in the past… and when he did, she told him the story of how she met Tohru’s father, which he then tells to us: Tohru’s birth… the truth about her mother and father… Yuki’s declaration of independence…

Well, that was a crappily written blurb, wasn’t it? It read as if Kyou was going to tell us about Yuki’s declaration of independence. In actuality, Kyoko and Katsuya’s story occupied the first several chapters, then Yuki’s so-called declaration occured near the end of the volume when the Jyuunishi (and Akito) gathered at the main house for New Year’s.

I really enjoyed Kyoko and Katsuya’s story, especially the latter’s personality. He had good manners and seemed polite, but there was a bit of the mischievous deviant about him. I knew Katsuya would die (this isn’t a spoiler), but Kyoko’s cries of “He’s not anywhere anymore!” were rather upsetting. More hints were dropped that Kyou had something to do with Kyoko’s accident, and in guilt, he pledged to stay away from Tohru and not think of impossible things regarding her.

The focus in the last two chapters shifted back to Yuki and, through him, Machi, the withdrawn and occasionally destructive treasurer of the student council. I don’t dislike Machi, but it was around here that the story started to irritate me a little, because it seemed like nearly everyone had the same problem: their parents were cold and distant and they questioned whether they were really needed in this world. It popped up in Rin’s story in volume 14, Yuki’s in volume 15, and now both Kyoko’s and Machi’s in this volume. I guess Takaya is aiming for some kind of consistent theme, but jeez.

The last chapter was the New Year’s banquet and included another important step in Yuki’s development, though I wouldn’t really call it a “declaration of independence.” More like… an avowal to take personal responsibility for his problems and faults. As an added bonus, there was Mabudachi Trio goodness. Akito’s reaction to Yuki’s statement was interesting, and there was movement on a few other subplots, too. Now I just have to decide whether to take a little Furubreak or continue on to the revelations that I know volume 17 contains.

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