A few years ago, I read and reviewed the whole Fruits Basket manga, one of the most popular shoujo manga series in both Japan and the US. I found its storylines compelling, its character arcs both tragic and sweet, and its overall concept enjoyable. But I would never have gotten into the series had it not been for the work of JesuOtaku, an anime reviewer from That Guy with the Glasses whose love of the manga led her to create a radio drama adaptation.
However, I imagine that some people, including non-manga readers, might have some questions about my enthusiasm for this series.
Why Fruits Basket?
By its definition, shojo manga is marketed to girls between the ages of 10 and 18. However, as so many fandoms have proved, age and gender demographics don’t mean much when it comes to interest in a good storyline.
On that note, Fruits Basket is more than the story of a girl named Tohru Honda who gets involved with the Sohma family, many of whom live under the curse of transforming into one of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, with Kyou Sohma (The Cat) being an odd exception. It sounds like your typical romantic comedy with a supernatural twist… except it’s not typical.
This is a story about broken-hearted people, from the main cast to the least obvious side characters. By exploring every story and character arc, we get a rich tapestry of old wounds, inner growth, joy, depression, and relationships both healthy and toxic. Thanks to the excellent cast of voice actors chosen for this project, every character is unique and the actors deliver their stories wonderfully.
Why a Radio Drama?
Radio dramas had their heyday back in the Thirties and Forties, when people were more likely to gather around the radio for their entertainment, following serial dramas with a set troupe of actors and attracted to every musical note and sound effect the studios provided. Of course, once TV came along, we found our drama there, but the art form hasn’t died out completely.
What works about the Furuba Radio Drama is the quality of both the story and the sound effects. Because JesuOtaku is adapting every manga chapter into its own episode, we get a complete story for each sitting. This fits both the appeal of following a comic book series and the ease of listening to new tracks of a story on your computer or car stereo.
But more importantly, I like the fact that you can listen to a great story delivered through dialogue, sound effects and the occasional bit of narration from Tohru. The radio play lets you create the scenes in your head, carried along by a great delivery of every line, whether hilarious or tragic (or sometimes both).
Where to Start?
At the beginning, of course! I recommend visiting the official website and downloading one or two MP3 tracks for a good taste. The cast interviews are also available and you can get updates about the series on the Facebook page Go Team Riceball!
Even if you don’t care about anime, manga, or Fruits Basket in general, I ask that you give this radio drama a chance. It’s a very clever project put together by enthusiastic people and delivered with high-quality acting, editing, and sound effects. Projects of love always deserve a chance and this show is no exception.