FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 21 - Barely Brothers

Welcome to another edition of Furuba Fridays, our continuing series examining the Fruits Basket Radio Drama. This week things take a turn for the flouncy and flamboyant, as we dive into the first of two episodes devoted to Yuki's older brother, Ayame Sohma.
Having encountered a younger Ayame briefly in Episode 12, this episode gives us a formal introduction to one of the Furuba fandom's most beloved characters. Ayame is one of the most fun and flamboyant figures in Fruits Basket (try saying that three times) and he brings enormous energy to the story, frequently dominating the conversations that occur in his presence. While we'll have to wait a while to see him, Shigure and Hatori all together as 'The Three Musketeers' ('The Mabaduchi Trio' in the manga), this episode should give us some idea of Ayame's relationship to the former.
While many of the zodiac members are intensely subtle creatures, Ayame's characterisation is much more broad and energetic. Xander Mobus (a.k.a Motly Fool)'s performance has often been compared to Tim Curry, and it's not hard to see why: it's a big performance, but there's just enough by way of humour and humanity to prevent it from being completely hammy. If done badly, Ayame could be reduced to comic relief and become tiresome very quickly, but here both actor and director do a great job of at least hinting at the character's hidden depth.
This episode is much more comedy-oriented than last week's - which, all things considered, is just what we needed. Ayame's voice alone will induce a fair few giggles, and "How I've missed the bumping of fists" never fails to crack me up. But this episode also finds time to be poignant, with the exchange between Ayame and Tohru in the restaurant really chiming with the events of last week. While its consequences aren't as immediately obvious, they do have a part to play, and the conversation does contain some interesting foreshadowing about Akito's precise role in the zodiac...
As per usual, the production on this episode is sublime. The dialogue is beautifully mixed, particularly in the busy restaurant scene, and JesuOtaku makes a number of subtle yet fitting decisions which just add that little extra spark. One such decision is with the soundtrack: the music which accompanies Ayame's talk about Akito's relationship with Yuki is the same threatening track used when Akito is addressing Tohru at the school. It's a neat little touch which brings an unease to the scene, and might explain why "Akito's little more than a figurehead" always gives me the shivers.
This episode also required a lot of adaptive script work, specifically to add a lot more dialogue to make the conversation between Tohru and Ayame more realistic. It feels so realistic, in fact, that when I referred back to the manga in writing this, it felt like the manga was a severely edited version of what I had come to expect. JO's writing is so adept when it comes to rounding out and elaborating that it never feels like filler or exposition, even when she takes a single panel of Tohru's thoughts and turns it into a massive internal monologue.
While JO's adaptation is generally very faithful, she did have to make one big alteration to Ayame's character. In the manga Ayame is an Anglophile who occasionally speaks in English, just as Momiji likes to sometimes speak in German. In translating the manga into English, all his jokey English eccentricities are lost, such as his nicknames for Kyo and Shigure. To combat this, JO has made him a Francophile, slipping in odd words of French here and there (a challenge for Xander, who doesn't speak a word of it). While it might offend purists, it does succeed in making Ayame appear more pompous and theatrical.

Having endured all that, here is Episode 21 for your enjoyment. Don't forget you can download last week's episode (my favourite episode) as an mp3 by following the link below this video. Since two straights weeks of Ayame would be something of an ordeal, next week we'll be enjoying an interview with the voices of Uo and Hana. See you then!
Download Episode 20 - Indelible Scars here

NEXT WEEK: An interview with Uo and Hana... 

P. S. It's not too late to sponsor me for the Exeter YMCA, which is taking place this weekend. Click here for all the details.