FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 22 - Halfway

Welcome to this week's Furuba Friday, as we continue our journey through the Fruits Basket Radio Drama created by JesuOtaku. Today we're picking up where we left off a fortnight ago, and returning to the company of Ayame Sohma.
As last week's interview implied, this episode of the radio drama came after a rather lengthy hiatus, during which time JO devoted her energies to other projects and the creation of JesuOtaku.com. This is one of only three episodes produced in 2013, in contrast to the nine episodes released in 2012 and the ten produced in 2011. But rather than complain - as so many tiresome folk have - we should appreciate how long these episodes take to assemble and how hard it is to maintain such a high standard over so ambitious a project. Quality always trumps quantity here, so that regardless of how far the drama eventually gets, we shall be left with a treasure trove of episodes.
In a way, the hiatus brings something extra to this episode. Not only does it begin with a bang (I won't spoil exactly how), but the long gap between episodes adds to the central conceit of Ayame outstaying his welcome at Shigure's house. This episode is a great depiction of how exhausting it can be to be in the presence of someone so energetic and flamboyant for long periods of time, especially when the other people in the room are so reserved and withdrawn by comparison. Speaking as an introvert, I sympathise entirely.
Like the first part of this storyline, this episode is dominated by the brilliant performance of Xander Mobus (a.k.a. Motly Fool). This time around he's given the bulk of the dialogue, flouncing his way through lengthy, pompous monologues which are both funny and ridiculous. It's a wonderful rendering of the character which manages to be less grating than the anime version while still conveying how insufferable he is to be around.
Xander's performance leads us on to JO's adaptation, which is surprisingly minimal this time out. Because this episode consists largely of Ayame's whimsical storytelling, intercut with the reactions of Yuki et al, there is less need for additional dialogue to explain what is happening in a given scene. There are some examples of creative additions towards the end, when the episode focusses on Tohru's thoughtfulness and internal response to Yuki's comments about his brother. But by and large Ayame is doing enough of the talking to render this technique unnecessary, at least on this occasion.
This episode also features one of my favourite cameos in the radio drama: Kyle Kallgren, a.k.a. OanCitizen, as Ayame's high school principal. I've spoken about Kyle and his show Brows Held High on Blog Spot about a year ago (here), in which I cited some of his previous collaborations with JO. They clearly work well together, and he's perfectly cast here as the uptight enforcer who struggles to rein Ayame in. It's a very fun cameo with some good acting from Kyle, who acts as a great foil to Xander.
There are many other little details about this episode that I love. Having teased it briefly two weeks ago, we do get a brief sequence where Ayame, Shigure and Hatori are all together in one place; you can feel hints of the chemistry between them, which will be explored in more depth in the future. The choice of music is excellent, with the more upbeat themes at the start of the episode gradually giving way to more gentle and contemplative pieces. Above all, this episode is an awful lot of fun - and considering what's coming next week, that's just what we need.

Without further ado, then, here is Episode 22 for your enjoyment. Remember to download last week's interview with Victoria Olivier and Melle Teich as an mp3 via the link below. I'll see you next week for another Furuba Friday, when there will be tears a-plenty. You have been warned...
Download last week's interview with Victoria Olivier & Melle Teich here

NEXT WEEK: Episode 23 - Memorial