FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 16 - Catch Me If You Can

Welcome to this week's edition of Furuba Fridays. Profuse apologies that this is late for the third week running - I'm mid-way through performances of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with Broadclyst Theatre Group. Once the show is over tomorrow I'll be able to get back up to speed and get these things out on time again.
Fruits Basket Radio Drama
Today we continue our journey through Volume 3 of the Fruits Basket Radio Drama with one of the more unusual and mysterious episodes: mysterious for its content and implications on the narrative, and unusual in that it revolves around Shigure. Up until now Shigure has been much more of a supporting character, adding comic relief with his perverse remarks and occasionally winding up Lord Akito. Today all that changes, and we get just a tiny glimpse of what he's really up to.
That being said, this is a very difficult episode to talk about. It's not that there isn't a great deal going on in it, or a great number of aspects that are interesting or praiseworthy. The problem is that very little about this episode can be explained or analysed without spoiling any part of either the plot or the characters. I will do my utmost to stick to my original promise that these segments would be spoiler-free, but equally I don't want to cheat you out of the insight which I hope these pieces provide.
When I've highlighted examples of foreshadowing in the past, it's usually been in relation to events or character developments that we will encounter in the not-too-distant future within the scope of the radio drama. In this episode, however, there's a lot of discussion between Shigure and Hatori about matters which won't be explored until the final volumes of the manga. We can't talk about any of that, save that it involves some rather murky details about Akito, but what we can discuss is how the shift in Shigure's personality is executed.
Up 'til now, Jesse Frola has done a great job with the more facetious aspects of Shigure; the role is something of a gift to any comically-minded actor. But this episode brings out a more threatening characteristic to his often breathy voice. His delivery is more guarded than normal, in terms of its harsher sounds, and yet there's something hypnotic about it: he both shows his hand in admitting his Machiavellian outlook and keeps his cards close when it comes to the details. Put simply, it's a great performance, which will alter the way in which you listen to both past and future episodes.
The entire episode is something of a verbal duel between Frola and Ben Watson, who recently celebrated his birthday. It's not so much a shouting match as a game of chess, in which both parties know their opponent's thought process and are trying to manoeuvre in such a way as to avoid giving anything away about their own. Both men are masterfully subtle, so that even with all the additional dialogue that JesuOtaku feeds them, it is their delivery which ultimately suggests or informs more than the line itself.
Truth be told, this episode has a lot of additional dialogue, despite the fact that very few of its panels are completely blank. Michan's answerphone messages are extended at the beginning of the episode, and Yuki gets a small soliloquy before they enter the cinema regarding his relationship with Shigure. But what's just as interesting is the alterations that are made to some of Hatori's responses to Shigure. Some of these alterations are designed to remove exposition, but others seem to alter the meaning from the manga; for instance the line about Hatori "admiring" Shigure is removed. It may be, however, that this is a case of bad translation on my part: I am working from the online scanlations rather than the official English version of the manga.
All of these changes and more work really well in their own right, and this episode is one of the most gripping and intriguing in the whole radio drama. It's also really funny in places, whether in its recreation of Mogeta: The Last Crusade or Kagura's line about "honeypants". Michan's comic relief is one of the highlights of the episode, and while it is played a lot less broadly than in the anime, there's still plenty of room for Gemma Peters to get hysterical.

Here then is Episode 16 for your enjoyment and consideration. Be sure to download last week's episode as an mp3 below, and join me next week for another (hopefully on time) Furuba Friday!
Download Episode 15 - Unspoken here

NEXT WEEK: An interview with Kyo and Shigure...