.Fruit Salad article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 5, No. 5, April 2002
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
What's spring without fresh strawberries? In this age of eating apples in April, some of the seasonal feelings fruit inspire may have become diluted, but they still evoke emotional and cultural reactions. Coconuts conjure thoughts of exotic, palm-lined beaches, while apples remind us of teachers' desks and the crisp days of autumn. Most Americans associate Georgia and the steamy Southern summer with peaches, and Fourth of July just isn't right without watermelon. Inspired by the beginning of the fresh fruit season and a new fruity show for the U.S., it's time to take a look at some of anime and manga's fruit flavored series.
FUNimation (of Dragon Ball TV fame) has acquired the U.S. rights to another popular Japanese TV show, and this time, it's a shojo series! Fruits Basket is about a hard working orphan named Toru (long o). She'll do anything to graduate from the high school her recently deceased mother wanted her to attend --even secretly live alone in a tent in the woods! Toru's (long o) life becomes intertwined with that of the cursed Soma (long o) clan (which has lots of cute guys in it). Mix in some eccentric friends and high school angst and you've got a tasty combination of humor, romance and magic. Read more about Fruits Basket on page XX.
One of the biggest fruity hits right now, both in Japan and the U.S., is Miwa Ueda's Peach Girl. This highly addictive high school romance revolves around the spirited but self conscious lead, Momo ('momo' means 'peach' in Japanese). Momo is self conscious because her skin tans quickly and easily. As a result, people think she's a shallow play girl who spends all her time at the beach. To make her life worse, Sae --Momo's so-called 'friend'- is one of the most evil little conniving back-stabbers ever to see print. Sae will do and does whatever it takes to leach away Momo's happiness, making for a tangled web of personal intrigue many readers become irresistibly ensnared in.
In contrast to Momo's social difficulties, Momoko of Wedding Peach is very close to her friends. She has to be, for together they must find the "Sacred Something Four" before the devils do. If they don't, the human and angel worlds will fall under the loveless reign of the devils. To help Momoko and her friends succeed, the angel world has given them the power to transform into warriors of love. They don't actually fight in wedding dresses; that's just a step which builds up their power of love to transform into the next stage. While Peach Girl and Wedding Peach may be vastly different series, both have leads with integrity and inner strength. Perhaps these qualities are a reflection of one of Japan's most beloved fairytale heroes, Momotaro.
Masamune Shirow wasn't thinking of teachers' desks when he began his sci-fi epic Appleseed. After a global war left the world in chaos, the high-tech utopian city of Olympus became a model for the rest of the world. Olympus encourages total global disarmament and economic and political stability, but not everyone agrees with their ideals nor their methods. The leading characters of Appleseed are part of an Extra Special Weapons and Tactics (ESWAT) team responsible for dealing with terrorists and other threats to Olympus. Politics, action and sci-fi blend into a complex classic. Was Shirow inspired by New York City (The Big Apple), Adam and Eve, or Johnny Appleseed while creating Appleseed? He won't say. Instead, he leaves it to the reader to decide the title's meaning.
These days, bananas have become a common, if brightly colored fruit. At best, bananas are an exotic taste of the tropics with a funny name, but in Akimi Yoshida's engaging modern epic, Banana Fish, this amusing equatorial fruit is used to label a sinister and deadly plot element. 'Banana Fish' is the name of a potent secret drug. The government, the mob and other powerful forces are after it. When some of it falls into the hands of a shrewd gang leader named Ash, his already difficult life becomes suddenly more complicated and more deadly. Add to the mix cops, Vietnam vets, and a pair of wide-eyed Japanese reporters, and the result is a complicated action thriller.
Another tropical fruit which has found itself linked to action in manga is the pineapple. The connection between pineapples and the stories of Pineapple Army is a fairly direct one. Sometimes the police and government can't help. That's when people in need call on Jed Goshi. With McGyveresque abilities, Jed uses his military expertise to teach people how to defend themselves. One of the easiest weapons to use is the hand grenade. The texture of a hand grenade resembles a pineapple, and Jed uses grenades often, hence the name of the series.
In the U.S., lemons get a bad rap. If your car's a lemon, it's a problem-riddled financial black hole. But in Japan, where regional produce is a source of pride and commerce, there are more kinds of sassy citrus than you can shake a stick at, so lemons find themselves right at home there. Surprisingly, this tart yellow import became associated with sexuality, thanks largely to a 1980's erotic animated series called Cream Lemon. This "classic" is said to cover a variety of genres but is primarily an excuse to see underaged girls explicitly explore their sexuality. If this sort of thing interests you, look for series with "lemon" in the title.
Around the same time, Izumi Matsumoto chose a slightly sweeter citrus for the title of his titillating high school romance. Kimagure Orange Road (Whimsical Orange Road) explores the misadventures of Kyosuke, a normal boy who happens to have psychic powers. Although used primarily for benign purposes --like catching falling friends or retrieving forgotten items-- those powers get Kyosuke into trouble as often as not, especially since his family is intent on keeping them a secret. With a pair of cute sisters and two girls interested in Kyosuke, Kimagure Orange Road caters to guys, but its light hearted romance and amusing adventures appeal to both male and female audiences. Consequentially, the animated series became a fan favorite and ushered in an era of shonen romance which is still going strong.
This is just a taste of the countless fruit titled manga in Japan, which range from cute and fluffy kids titles to adult erotic epics. Considering Japan's lengthy cultural and culinary history, this shouldn't be too surprising. What's interesting is the number of these titles which use the English name of the fruit, as is the case for all the series mentioned here. While imported words can add spice to a title, this foreign fruit fixation can also be partially explained by the wide variety of fruit introduced to Japan from other countries. But no matter where the fruit comes from, each new title changes our perceptions. Now peaches will remind us of more than just pies and Southern belles, they'll also represent stylish bronzed high school girls and charming heroes as well.