FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 17 - The Foolish Traveller

Welcome to another edition of Furuba Fridays, our weekly jaunt through the Fruits Basket Radio Drama. This week we're kicking off another two-part story, which sees the welcome return of Momiji Sohma (well, welcome to everyone except Kyo, that is).
Out of all the episodes in the radio drama thus far, Episode 17 is the one that took the longest to grow on me. While I now hold the episode in pretty high regard, when I first heard it I was left rather cold or confused by 'The Foolish Traveller' element. It took a long time for the the penny to drop about the story's true meaning and implications, which probably says more about me than the story or the manner in which it has been told here.
Without giving away too many details before you've actually had the chance to hear it, the story is deceptively touching, and chimes with Fruits Basket's underlying themes of love and redemption. JesuOtaku brings the story to life through a large number of extras, each of whom compliment their fleeting parts and give the story a three-dimensional feel. We do genuinely get the sense of being in the town and the wood with the traveller, forming pictures in our heads arguably more vivid than those in the manga.
The story of the Foolish Traveller does have greater significance within the Fruits Basket manga, but we can't say much at this stage save that it involves Akito and won't happen for an awfully long time. What we can comment upon is how the story comes across, namely as a poignant, well-judged interlude to an episode which is otherwise dominated by comedy - and quite raucous comedy at that. Momiji's story aside, this episode rivals the Culture Festival in Episode 9, at least in terms of the high energy the characters experience, and the violence that ensues between Kyo and Momiji.
There is an awful lot of fun conflict in this episode right from the get-go, whether it's Kyo and Uo bickering about studying for finals, Momiji winding Kyo up (mostly without meaning to) or the fall-out from Momiji's hot spring revelation, which will be borne out next week. Phil Burgraff mentioned in his interview last week that he used his exchanges with Momiji as a way to get back into character after the radio drama had taken a slight break. It's not hard to see why given the material, and those scenes really do hit every mark set for them.
This episode is very much dominated by Momiji, with Majorikku once again doing a great job with his voice. The character spends much of the episode being appealingly obnoxious (if that's not a contradition in terms), with the crying being funnier and more plentiful this time around. But Majorikku also handles the more sensitive moments very nicely, slowly toning down her voice during the storytelling to allow it to sink in. You can hear more about her performance in the interview she recorded with JO and Ben Watson (who plays Hatori) here.
There's also a couple of really nice adaptive touches in this episode which bring a number of smaller details to life. Yuki fangirls Minami Kinoshita and Mio Yamagishi make a welcome return, having not seen them in great detail since Episode 9; JO takes a single panel in the manga and, if you'll forgive the awful pun, makes it more animated. Tohru's conversation with her teacher is kept silent but both Yuki and Kyo's reaction is fleshed out more, preventing the scene from dragging. And then there's Heather McDonald (as Tohru) singing 'Heigh-Ho' from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: it took a while to stick, but now I like it.

So without any further ado or analysis, here is Episode 17 for your enjoyment. Don't forget to download the interview from last week as an mp3 via the link below, and I'll see you next week for yet another Furuba Friday! Oh, and belated Happy Valentine's Day :)
Download the interview with Phil Burgraff & Jesse Frola here

NEXT WEEK: Episode 18 - A Royal Getaway