Saturday, 25 January 2014

FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 15 - Unspoken

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Welcome to this week's edition of Furuba Fridays, our continuing look at the Fruits Basket Radio Drama. Valentine's Day may be three weeks' away for us, but it's come early in this week's episode, which kicks off another two-parter.

While Episode 15 is the start of another two-part story, it's also an episode of two parts in and of itself. Its first half is very cheery and playful, dominated by Kyo's comic interactions with the other characters and the re-emergence of Kagura (see Episode 5). The second half, by contrast, is a lot more sombre and uneasy: while Kyo is still very much the centre of attention, comic relief as very far from the author's mind as humanly possible.
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Not only is there a big emotional shift in the episode overall, but this episode also requires several of the characters to undergo quick but convincing transitions. Kagura, for instance, has to go from blushing to angry to crying, all in the space of about 10 seconds. Karley Tufo does a wonderful job, upping the energy at just the right moments and striking a good balance between gentleness and out-and-out comedy. Likewise, Phil Burgraff is a lot more edgy this time out, delivering his lines like he is trying to keep the lid on a pressure cooker that could explode at any moment.
The best way to look as this episode is as a two-headed monster, like the Roman god Janus: one half looks back to the lighter territory that has gone before, the other half to a more uncertain and tempestuous future, where much darkness has been hinted at but thus far unexplained. The first half sees us returning to the classroom and some welcome banter with Uo and Hana, something that we've not enjoyed in any great detail since the Culture Festival. The latter section is much closer to the forbidding discussions with Hatori in Episode 10. From this perspective, it's not a bad episode at which to join the story, at least in terms of giving you a tonal idea of where we're at.
In each case, this episode requires a lot more active adaptation on JesuOtaku's part. Unlike Haru's introduction, where a lot of the panels could simply be reprinted with slightly different words, many of the manga panels in this chapter are completely blank. There's a lot more dialogue and description needed to both explain what's happening and make the episode feel a lot meatier - otherwise the latter section could appear atonal and inconsequential.
As you might expect, JO pulls it off, in both the comic and dramatic moments. Melle Teich's extended monologue about the "cuckoo chicks" really brings the scene to life, and Victoria Olivier is given more room to build on her spiky relationship with "cat man". Jesse Frola (Shigure) is also let off the leash a little more with his pervy comments at either end of the episode. But the moments that work best involve Tohru discovering Kyo in the woods after he has run off; the dialogue is beautifully judged so that the scene feels emotionally resonant even though very little information has been given away.
There's other little touches to this episode which deserve a brief mention. When Kagura turns up, JO departs from the manga by having Kyo climb a tree to escape from her. It's a nice little touch which makes the exchange more animated, and nods back to Kyo's numerous escapes to the rooftops in Volumes 1 and 2. There's quite a bit of foreshadowing in this episode, with the recurring sounds of a train which will make a little make more sense when we reach Episode 24.  Finally, there's Ken Clayton's ever-brilliant soundtrack, this time offering up portentous piano during the scenes with Tohru and Kyo.

I think that's enough to mull over for this week, so sit back and enjoy this episode as you start to make your own plans for Valentine's. Don't forget to download last week's episode at the link below, and join me again next week, when we'll see a very different side of Shigure...
Download Episode 14 - Beast of Burdens here

NEXT WEEK: Episode 16 - Catch Me If You Can

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