FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 5 - Trampled Affections

Welcome to this week's instalment of Furuba Fridays, our weekly passage through the Fruits Basket Radio Drama. Today we're meeting another member of the Sohma family and the Zodiac - Kagura Sohma, voiced brilliantly by Karley Tufo.
While I can't speak for the whole Furuba fanbase, Kagura is one of my favourite characters in the radio drama and she seems really popular with other members of the cast; without wishing to spoil future interviews (see last week), most of the other actresses involved want to play her. On the basis of this episode, it isn't hard to see why. There's so much fun that can be had from a character who operates at such extremes - and you'll meet at least two more of them in the coming weeks and months. But like Yuki and Kyo, there is also a deep emotional core to Kagura which lifts her appearance out of mere comic relief and makes you really care about her.
Kagura's first appearance in the radio drama epitomises one of the wider characteristics of Fruits Basket, namely its tendency for what JesuOtaku once called "emotional whiplash". We've not seen much of it so far, but as the story rolls on and darker elements are introduced, the story has a tendency to punctuate some really murky and compelling developments with little pockets of fun insanity. It takes some getting used to, particularly if you're not familiar with the story, but it's part and parcel of what makes Fruits Basket so special, and what keeps this radio drama so entertaining.
This episode also sees practical aspects of the Sohma curse being considered. There's an awkwardly funny conversation in which Kagura explains why it would be tricky for curse members to have relations with normal people - which gives Shigure (played by Demoversi) another excuse to play the pervert, not that he needs any excuse. I like this conversation very much, partly because it lays out more of the groundrules of this fantasy world, but also because it does so in a manner which builds up the characters; through Kagura's explanations we come to realise just how unhappy Kyo really is.
I've often commented on the mixing in these articles, and it may seem tedious to keep coming back to something which many would take for granted five episodes in. But this episode is a really good example of how JO uses mixing to make the world of the characters more realistic. During Kagura's fight with Kyo early in this episode, Phil Burgraff and Karley continue improvising dialogue amidst fun sound effects in the background while Yuki, Tohru and Shigure are having the discussion that appears in the manga. It's a small decision which both creates a professional feel and makes complete sense: if they broke the door down, of course you'd be able to hear them in the background.
Another example of inventive adaptation on JO's part comes with Yuki's conversation with the paper boy. In both the anime and the manga, this takes up barely any time at all and consists largely of Yuki just pushing him out of frame with some remark about the weather. Here, on the other hand, Evan Bremer gets to make up an intricate little excuse and play it unusually threatening. Again, it's a small change in the grand scheme of things, but it helps the pacing of the episode and makes Kagura's transformation seem more believable.
For all the frivolity of this episode, there are a number of small bits of foreshadowing, which hint at several darker threads which we'll encounter later. On the one hand there is Kagura's comment about Kyo's "true form" and Kyo's passionate memory of his time with Kazuma (whom we mentioned briefly in Episode 4 two weeks ago). On the other hand there is Shigure's comment: "even I know how it feels to be jealous, Kagura." None of these things may resonate much at the moment, but as we learn more about the curse and Akito's relationship to these characters, they will take on much more meaning...

Until such a time arrives, sit back, relex and enjoy Episode 5. If you enjoyed the interview last week with Heather McDonald and Evan Bremer, you can download it as an mp3 below. Join us again next week for another Furuba Friday, when we will be wrapping up Volume 1!
Download the Interview with Heather McDonald & Evan Bremer here

NEXT WEEK: Episode 6 - Welcome Home