Friday, 22 November 2013

FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 7 - Seal of Approval

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Welcome once again to Furuba Fridays, our weekly examination of the Fruits Basket Radio Drama created by the highly talented JesuOtaku. If you've only just joined us, you've come at a very good time, since this week we're kicking off Volume 2 with Seal of Approval.

 Fruits Basket Radio Drama
Way before I contemplated doing this series, I posted a question in the radio drama's Facebook group, Go Team Riceball!, which is well worth joining for fun discussion and updates about future episodes. I asked which episode fans and cast members would pick as the best episode for introducing new fans to the radio drama, the only condition being that they couldn't pick Episode 1. The most common response, including from JO herself, was this episode - so if you haven't been following these posts since we started, you couldn't have come at a better time.
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One of the reasons behind people picking this episode was its succinct recapping of the story surrounding the Sohma curse, which we heard in its fullest form back in Episode 2. When I've been trying to persuade people to give this a chance, the most difficult hurdle to overcome is the curse and its mechanics - so it's really good to have its details laid out in an appealing and accessible way through our leading lady. Heather McDonald gets to be more upbeat here than she did in last week's episode, even in the more tender moments which will talk about a little later.
I've talked on numerous occasions about JO's approach to adaptation, and how the goal of the radio drama in one sense was to correct or reapproach aspects of the story which had been overlooked or mistreated in the anime version. In terms of pure adaptation, there are a couple of direct departures from the manga, both of which work just fine - these being the omission of Hana's younger brother from the opening, and the insertion of a brief exchange between Yuki and Kyo in amongst Tohru's little story. But the biggest positive change comes in the meeting between Tohru's friends and the Sohmas, which was quite frankly butchered in the anime.
In the anime episode covering the events of this chapter, the encounter between the two parties is staged as a Benny Hill-style set piece with characters falling or running into one another, accidentally transforming and Tohru having to cover it up. Notwithstanding the fact that Japanese humour doesn't always translate well into English, this scene is not in the least bit funny, and makes Uo and Hana appear complete idiots, contrary to the way they are actually written. JO puts this to rights very decisively, maintaining an awkward tone but putting it to better use, and allowing the characters to have calm, settled discussions in Tohru's absence.
Even with the exclusion of stuff from The Benny Hill Show, this is a very funny episode. I've always been impressed by the timing of both JO and the cast, with the pacing in this episode being really great and the moments of confusion being appropriately amplified. One of my favourite moments comes when Shigure high-fives Hana, who then utters abruptly: "A dog." Thinking she has discovered the truth, Shigure begins to panic, but very quickly matters are resolved. There has been speculation on sites like TV Tropes that Hana had secretly cottoned on to the curse but kept it to herself. Whether you agree with that or not, scenes like this are very funny and hold up well to repeat listening.
This episode is also interesting for the role accorded to Shigure, played as ever by Jesse Frola/ Demoversi. For the most part, the episode continues playing out his reputation as a facetious pervert: we discover more about his occupation as a novelist, and are treated to a reading from one of his dirty books, Summer Coloured Sigh. This episode actually begins a running joke throughout the drama, namely Hana loving his saucy novels and reading them out loud during her spare time. But for all the frivolity, we also get a bit of darker foreshadowing during his final scene in the presence of Akito. We'll see more of this side of him as Volumes 2 and 3 progress.
On top of all that, we get another really tender section involving a story from Tohru's childhood. On its most basic level, I love this part because we get to hear more of Katie McAteer as the young Tohru: in case I haven't made it clear by now, she's completely adorable in the part. But it's also a beautifully sweet little tale about a mysterious figure in Tohru's past, showcasing the voice talent while also providing some clues about how Tohru became the person she is during our story. This story will crop up again in Episode 24, so it's worth paying attention.
In short, this episode of the radio drama has something for everyone, and does serve as a very good jumping-on point for new fans who don't mind starting the story in media res. So without further ado, sit back, relax and click below to listen to Episode 7 in all its glory! Don't forget you can download last week's episode at the bottom, and I'll see you next week for another Furuba Friday!
Download Episode 6 - Welcome Home here

NEXT WEEK: Episode 8 - All Shapes and Sizes

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