Sunday, 2 March 2014

FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 19 - High School Reunion

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Welcome to another edition of Furuba Fridays, our weekly canter through the Fruits Basket Radio Drama created by JesuOtaku. Apologies that this week's episode is extremely late - I've been busy all weekend with Broadclyst Theatre Group, first with a party for the cast of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and then rehearsals for Two Fat Men (which you should come and see later this month).

This week we're kicking off Volume 4 with the first of four truly great episodes, beginning by going back to school. Throughout the radio drama, the school corridors and classrooms have proved fertile beds for memorable comedy, and this episode is perhaps the best example of the trend. Like many episodes of the drama, it's an episode in which little happens in terms of ground-breaking events, but a lot of richness is added to the characters through this little vignette.
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I've consistently praised JO's technical prowess throughout the drama and particularly during the school scenes, where loads of extras are needed to create a feeling of hubbub or pandemonium. This episode ups the ante from the Culture Festival in Episode 9, with dozens of freshmen (first-years to we Brits) running around on their orientation day. Those that do get more prominent parts acquit themselves really well, particularly the two creepy male voices who try and prey on Tohru when Kyo's back is turned. In short, the mixing for this episode is great, balancing out all the different voices and effectively creating an ideal atmosphere.
On a character level, this episode is an early opportunity to enjoy the company of many different members of the Sohma family. Later on in the manga Tohru goes on holiday with many of the Zodiac members, and as we meet and more members larger family gatherings become more commonplace, for reasons that must be kept secret due to spoilers. All that being said, this episode is dominated by Haru, with Liam Cunningham turning in another nuanced and wickedly funny performance.
The meat and drink of the episode concerns Haru's conflict with student council president Makoto Takei, whom we last encountered in Episode 8. It's one of the funniest sequences in the manga, and also one of the most fondly remembered parts of the anime. In fact, JO cited this sequences as her personal favourite joke in all of Furuba - and you can check out this video she produced if you don't believe me:
Humour is one of the hardest things to translate, with cultural references and social attitudes often failing to be conveyed in more literal adaptations. JO works overtime on the dialogue of this episode, adding a lot of extra little phrases to make the conversations feel more rounded and believable. To her credit, she resists falling into the trap of making the conversations sound less Japanese through these additions: while all the jokes make sense in English, it doesn't feel like we've wandered into an American school as a result.
This episode is one of the funniest in the radio drama, with a number of callbacks to previous episodes, such as the nod to Yuki's crossdressing at the Culture Festival or Haru's usual hair from Episode 13. The adaptation and production are so adept that we can forgive the one so-groan-inducing-it's-good pun - and no, I'm not going to tell you what it is. But, as so often happens with Furuba, there is a sting in the tale. Suffice to say, the final scene sets us up for a really edgy episode next week...

Until then, here is Episode 19 for your enjoyment. Don't forget you can download last week's episode as an mp3 at the link below. I'll see you next week for another Furuba Friday - and since it will feature my favourite episode, I'll make damn sure that it's on time. See you then!
Download Episode 18 - A Royal Getaway here

NEXT WEEK: Episode 20 - Indelible Scars

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