FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 12 - Winter's End

Welcome back to Furuba Fridays, our weekly look at the Fruits Basket Radio Drama created by JesuOtaku. We're now halfway through the current crop of episodes, and following the New Year's celebrations last week, we're kicking off 2014 with one of my favourite episodes.
I've listened to each of the radio drama episodes many times, long before I decided to do this feature to give them more attention. As I've made clear, the vast majority of the episodes hold up extremely well, and I've already highlighted three that I particularly love - Episodes 3, 6 and 7. I love Episode 12 just as much, but for a very different reason: it freaks me out. No matter how many times I hear it, I always get a shiver when I hear the first few lines.
I've already talked about how subtle a character Hatori Sohma is, and how good Ben Watson is at bringing him to life. If you find, as I did, that you don't bond with him all that much during his first couple of episodes, this is the points where the emotional walls come down. He's become one of my favourite characters, since I can relate strongly to the way that he deals with pain, pushing others away to protect them from who he is and the forces who control him. I love Watson's performance in this episode, particularly towards the end where he is holding back tears before Kana.
Special credit must also go to Jez Senden, who plays Kana Sohma. It's a small but pivotal role in the drama, with many people citing this turn of events as the moment which shifted Fruits Basket into a gradually darker direction. Jez does a wonderful job in capturing the bubbly and caring side of the character, showing the similarities between her and Tohru and thereby explaining Hatori's actions in Episode 10. She endears herself to us so much in such a short space of time that it becomes all the more heartwrenching when her happiness comes to an abrupt end.
While Episode 10 had Akito looming moodily in the background, this episode sees him taking a far more active role. Vitamin Three's vocal performance is excellent, beginning as understated and threatening as ever before exploding in a terrifying outburst of violence and manipulation. The eye scene is one of the most traumatic moments in the whole story, made all the more creepy through the great production. The echoes, chimes, gongs and smashing pottery all work wonders to convey just how cruel and twisted the character is, particularly in his chilling final words to Hatori.
This is the longest episode to date, clocking in at just over 27 minutes - and with good reason. While both the manga and the anime can just run straight into the scene without having to set up the mood, JO takes more time to build up to the meeting between Hatori, Kana and Akito. Specifically, she describes the room in which Akito resides, including where each person will be sitting and who can speak to him. Not only does this give us a strong visual image, but having Hatori deliver these lines communicates just how nervous he is.
Many of the other adaptation decisions concern either lengthening or contracting sections of the manga for the purposes of storytelling. On the one hand, Hatori's transformation which takes two whole pages in the manga is reduced to a more expedient 40 seconds; on the other hand, a one-panel discussion of his Zodiac form is given a whole scene of its own. Both work very well with the former leading smoothly into the flashback and the latter giving Hatori's relationship with Shigure more meaning. This latter instance also marks the first appearance of fans' favourite Ayame Sohma; enjoy it while it lasts, since we won't hear from him again until Episode 21.
There's one other subtle change which JO makes which really seals this episode as one of the very best. While the manga ends with Hatori observing Kana and wishing her congratulations, the radio drama ends with Tohru echoing Kana's remarks about the snow. It's a really nice touch, conveying how slowly but surely Tohru is bringing about change in the Sohmas' lives, even if she's completely unaware of it. You'll hopefully see more of that in Hatori when the drama reaches Volume 5.

I think that's enough heartbreak for one week, so here is Episode 12 in all its glory. Don't forget you can download last week's episode as an mp3 file by following the link below the Blip video. Next week we'll be kicking off Volume 3 on a much more cheerful note, and meeting another member of the Zodiac...
Download Episode 11 - New Year's Morning here

NEXT WEEK: Episode 13 - Running of the Bulls