FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 11 - New Year's Morning

Welcome to the last Furuba Friday of 2013. I hope you all had a merry Christmas. We'll be continuing our travels through the Fruits Basket Radio Drama in the new year, and appropriately enough this week's episode has a new year''s theme to it.
Clocking in at a fraction over 19 minutes, this is the shortest episode of the radio drama so far. I could say it's an episode in which very little happens, but in reality the manga is not so much action-driven as it is rooted in the gradual emotional shift of the characters. In other words, there will be times such as this when very little seems to be happening on a physical level - Shigure, Yuki and Kyo leave for the main house, they meet Hana, and then two of them go home. But on an emotional and character level, there is always a great deal more going on.
New Year's Eve is a time for reflecting on the events of the past year, and this episode's lack of any big spectacle like the Culture Festival allows us to weigh up the emotional attachment we have developed. By keeping things simple, making very few narrative additions or alterations, JesuOtaku allows us to see how strong the ties have become between Tohru and our male leads - even if it takes them a little time and some gentle persuasion on Hana's part to figure that out.
To let these relationships resonate just that little bit more, JO utilises two different elements which blend together very nicely. One is an increased use of echoed memories, with Tohru's laughter and comments about family ringing around Yuki and Kyo's ears as they move away from the house. It's a well-executed decision which puts us more in the mindset of them as characters, rather than relying on Hana telling the audience what is going on. The other is Ken Clayton's really tender piano score, which underscores Hana's monologue about Tohru being alone, giving it a very sad, almost mournful quality.
This episode really sees the voice talent shine through, so that even if you were coming to the drama for the first time, you would understand how much the characters mean to each other. Phil Burgraff does a really good job as Kyo, with the few moments of anger between him and Yuki taking a back seat to increasingly settled dialogue towards Tohru and a growing understanding of how he should be treating her. Evan Bremer's transition is less marked but he continues to perform well as Yuki, with his snarky put-downs veiling his own uncertainties. Both characters are held together beautifully by Heather McDonald as Tohru; she's really on top form in this episode, especially in the moment where she is required to both cry and laugh with joy.
The only real addition that JO makes to this episode comes at the New Year's Banquet itself, specifically in the scene where Shigure informs Akito that Yuki and Kyo haven't come. In the manga, it's very underplayed to the point of barely happening, whereas in the anime it's given a little more room in which Akito does a lot of brooding. For my money, JO gets it spot on here, echoing the hint of foreshadowing given at the end of Episode 7 and setting things up nicely for next week, when Akito will play a much bigger part...
This episode also has a number of nice little moments, sometimes just individual lines, which brighten the experience and add hope to the reflection. There's a nice little bit of foreshadowing in Shigure's description of the banquet, where he mentions the tiger; you can look forward to meeting that member of the Zodiac in Volume 5. We have the first very brief appearance of Haru, played by Liam Cunningham, whom we'll meet properly in grand style in two weeks' time: suffice to say, he's quite a handful. Finally, there is the seeming meeting of minds between Hana and Shigure, summed up by Jesse Frola's wonderfully wry comment: "She's good.".

So, without further ado, here is Episode 11 for your enjoyment. Don't forget that you can download last week's interview as an mp3 at the link below. Have a very happy new year, however you choose to see it in, and I will see you on January 3rd for another Furuba Friday, when we'll be tackling one of my favourite episodes...
Download the Interview with Majorikku and Ben Watson here

NEXT WEEK: Episode 12 - Winter's End