Friday, 11 April 2014

FURUBA FRIDAYS: Episode 24 - Still Sleeping

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Welcome to another edition of Furuba Fridays, our weekly look at the Fruits Basket Radio Drama created by JesuOtaku. And after the best part of six months, we have reached the final episode of the drama as it currently stands.

Of course, this is not where the story of Fruits Basket ends. It's not even where the radio drama is planned to end, with a further twelve episodes being somewhere in the pipeline. JO has been devoting her energies to other projects since this episode aired, including her main anime reviews and her contributions to the Anime News Network, and it's unclear as to when she'll be returning to the project. This episode, then, leaves us hanging in more ways than one, with many questions over the future of the characters as much as the project as a whole.
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Much like Episode 15, which I covered way back in January, this episode finds both us and the characters looking in two different directions: backwards towards a warm past, and forwards into an uncertain, unfamiliar future. Not only does the episode flesh out some details about Tohru's mother Kyoko (explaining Uo's dress sense in the process), but there are lots of nods back to previous events between the characters, either directly in the manga or hinted at by JO herself.
Some of these nods take the form of dialogue from older episodes being repeated with added echo, such as Grandpa's "take good care of Kyoko" in Episode 6 or Tohru's remarks about colds in Episode 13. Others take the form of recurring sound effects, such as the train sounds from Episode 15 which preceded Kyo running off into the woods. Others still are continuations of existing events, with the story of the baseball cap from Episode 7 finally getting a conclusion. This latter example also sees the (sadly) brief return of Katie McAteer as the young Tohru, and she's just as adorable as ever.
In addition to all the references to past events, there's a lot of foreshadowing in this episode, which might explain why it took so long to grow on me. Much of Kyo and Hana's conversation, which forms the centrepiece of the episode, concerns events which won't be explored until much later in the manga. I can't say much without giving everything away, but suffice to say Kyo may be closer connected to Tohru's mother than events so far have led us to believe.
This conversation, brilliantly played out by Phil Burgraff and Melle Teich, has a great sense of threat to it which balances out the brighter banter with Uo and Tohru. JO reuses one of the musical pieces from Akito's meeting with Tohru in Episode 20, with the gender dynamic being reversed so that now the male participant is being intimidated. There has been much discussion on sites like TV Tropes about whether Hana knew about the Zodiac curse all along, a matter I previously floated in my review of Episode 7. At this stage, it's more a case of her looking through a glass darkly; however much she can perceive, it's not an accurate reflection, though it's still more than enough to spook Kyo.
Like last week's tearjerker, JO adds a lot of extra dialogue here to fill the various silences littered throughout the manga. Much of Kyo and Yuki's time is spent in quiet reflection, as they try to rationalise the strange feelings brought to the fore by visiting the grave. Kyo is given extra conversations with Tohru which adeptly illustrate his distant, distracted nature, while Evan Bremer keeps things settled while hinting at more complex thoughts beneath the surface. JO also omits the last four pages, which would be a problem were they not simply an advert for a CD drama based on the manga (it would be interesting to hear her thoughts on it, if she has heard it).
The acid test of any gripping drama is that it leaves you wanting more. You want to find out what happened to the characters next, entertaining many possibilities and speculating as to what the finest details of their conversation actually meant. Being a big fan of Fruits Basket, I'm obviously keen for the drama to continue for as long as energy allows, but even if you're less of a fan this episode leaves you dangling in a very engrossing way. It puts us right in the situation of the characters, uncertain as to what we should think but compelled to carry on searching for answers.

So without further ado, here is the last episode of the Fruits Basket Radio Drama that has been produced to date. But while the drama is over (at least for now), we're not quite done with Furuba Fridays yet. Come back next week when we'll give a fair hearing to some of the cast members who have yet to make an appearance. See you then!
Download Episode 23 - Memorial here

NEXT WEEK: The Other Cast Members...

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