FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 13 - Running of the Bulls

Welcome to another edition of Furuba Fridays, our weekly excursion into the brilliant Fruits Basket Radio Drama. Following last week's fantastically depressing episode, this week we're kicking off Volume 3 in a more humorous vein. We're also meeting a new member of the Zodiac: Hatsuharu Sohma (Haru for short), voiced gleefully by Liam Cunningham.
Haru is very popular among the Furuba fandom, including the cast of this radio drama: Ben Watson, who plays Hatori, said that he was the character he would most like to play in the interview I posted three weeks ago. Technically this is Haru's second appearance, since we heard a brief snippet of him in the ending of Episode 11, but this episode serves as a formal introduction to his character - both of them. Suffice to say, he is an intriguing and entertaining prospect, and Liam brings a great deal of earthy presence to the role, along with a fantastic evil laugh.
But while Haru makes his first appearance here, this episode is mainly dominated by Kyo, voiced as ever by the talented Phil Burgraff. Character introductions aside, he drives this episode, from his opening scuffle with Yuki to his closing fight with Haru near the overpass. That said, it's not so much an episode in which Kyo does stuff, so much as an episode in which stuff happens to Kyo - and not in a good way. JesuOtaku is fortunate to have found in Phil an actor who is so brilliant at reacting both believably and comedically to even the most bizarre things that befall him (no pun intended).
While the last few episodes have been driven by character interaction and flashback, this is a more action-packed episode, perhaps (and quite fittingly) the most action-packed since Kagura's introduction back in Episode 5. There's a lot of foley art and sound effects in this episode, with Kyo bashing into things, people running and getting beaten up, vehicles coming and going, a little bit of choking and even some psychic torment courtesy of Hana. This is also the first of several two-part stories which we will encounter as we progress through Volumes 3 and 4 - the danger being that we could end up with a lot of sound and fury, signifying relatively little.
Fortunately, JO grabs this chapter by the scruff of the neck, delivering something which is technically accomplished but also serves a wider narrative purpose than simply setting up next week's instalment. She whizzes through the opening section, ignoring the unnecessary opening panels about the turn of the millennium and being extremely faithful and efficient towards the dialogue prior to the endurance run. But she also takes time for a number of helpful additions along the way, including more funny lines for Tohru's teacher Mayuko while she explains the endurance run.
One of the big successes of this episode, which demonstrates JO's skill as an adaptive scriptwriter, is how she is able to take what are essentially visual gags and make them work in a non-visual environment. The episode is very well-mixed, particularly Kyo running in and then out of the mix during the run and his background shouting after Haru has tripped him. But she is also aware at just how much or how little dialogue she needs to add to make a joke work in addition to all the effects. Some, as with Haru's famous getaway, stand up on their own; others, like the leek joke, need a little something to help them along. The only line that doesn't quite come off is Haru breaking the fourth wall to advise the audience about not tripping people up when they're running: unlike Hana's commentary two episodes ago, it jars with the storytelling, albeit just a little.
This is one of the funnier episodes of the radio drama - which we desperately needed after the events of last week. The slapstick is very well done, but there's also room for verbal humour, with Hana's traumatising of Minami (a follow-up to Episode 2) and the running joke about her reading Shigure's dirty books (Episode 7). But it's not all fun and games, with a teasing little bit of foreshadowing regarding the colour of Kyo's eyes. You'll hear more about that in around a month when I post up an interview with the voices of Kyo and Shigure - suffice to say it has something to do with Kazuma, whom I've mentioned on numerous occasions...

Here then is Episode 13 for all your enjoyment, and hopefully no bad luck thrown in. Don't forget to download last's weeks episode via the link below, and I'll see you next week where we'll round off this two-parter in another Furuba Friday!
Download Episode 12 - Winter's End here

NEXT WEEK: Episode 14 - Beast of Burdens