Friday, July 22, 2011

And now for something different, Furuba fan radio drama

I know that this is a bit different from what I normally cover but, since the tagline of the blog is "if it has a plot I have something to say about it!", this actually fits in with that better than some of the nonfiction I've reviewed in the past. Plus, I know I don't have that many readers but it's worth a shot to see if I can introduce anyone new to this rather interesting fan project.

So, most anime and manga fans have probably heard of Fruits Basket, a 23 volume manga series that did well in Japan and became one of the first shojo hits in America which also got a 26 episode anime series (recently re-released here by Funimation). Fans of the series will know that the anime wasn't very faithful to the manga at the end (plenty of important characters from later on never got introduced and it created it's own ending) and it's well-known on the animenewsnetwork forums that the manga-ka did not get along with some of the staff on the show (I believe it was the director) which is why a second season was never made. So what's a fan to do when they really love the show yet the anime just isn't cutting it? Clearly the answer is to do an adaptation of the manga as an online radio drama with the intent of producing the entire series and going much farther than the anime did. JesuOtaku of That Guy With The Glasses and the d2brigade is the director/scriptwriter/producer/crazy person who came up with this whole idea and new videos (audio only) of the show go up every Wednesday on TGWTG. 
Quick note, since the show is audio-only I won't include a separate audio section for this review, it would be a bit silly, and this review covers the first six episodes (ie the first manga volume which I also reread recently). 

Furuba Radio Drama (volume one)
Art by carrie-ko
Summary: Tohru Honda is an orphan living in a tent in the woods while her grandfather's house is being remodeled, as she would hate to impose on her friends for such a long time, and discovers one day that she is camping out on the property of the Sohma family where her classmate, the princely Yuki, lives. He and his relative Shigure convince Tohru to live at their house for the rest of the renovation (especially after her tent is destroyed in a mudslide) and when a third member of this dysfunctional family shows up, the fiery Kyo, Tohru discovers an ancient family secret that may or may not have to do with a curse, the Chinese Zodiac and close physical contact.

The Good: For a fan project that is being completely produced by amateurs, some of whom aren't even huge fans of Fruits Basket, this is really good. Some of the voice actors already sound a little similar to the English dub voices (although it sounds like they are trying to avoid that and not sound like they are simply imitating the dub) but within just a couple of episodes the four leads sound very natural and comfortable with their roles. The sound effects sound right and having animal noises when certain characters are talking is amusing yet works well. The script is based off of the original manga and therefore follows it pretty closely, adding in details when things aren't apparent from the dialogue alone or to pad out the episode an extra minute or two, so people who are new to the series won't be missing out on anything.

The Bad: While the main cast has already hit their stride, extras or side characters who haven't had much air time yet sound a bit flat and it's jarring to hear the difference between the two groups. Everyone's acting with certainly get smoother, that's what happens with experience after all, but this is one of the cases where the difference between a professional voice actor and an amateur are obvious.  There are also places in the story where it is a little hard to understand exactly what is going one but this is hardly surprising, going from a no audio, all visual medium to the exact opposite isn't easy but there are a few places where a quick line of description or establishing background noise would be nice. Finally, the narration at the beginning of each episode has begun to get a little dull and if manga readers haven't managed to figure out who's narrating this series, which was actually a rather clever idea, then they really need to reread the series pronto.

In short, this is a pretty amazing fanwork that can only get better as it goes along, people who haven't checked out the series before and those who have alike should really try this out. New episodes go up most Wednesdays on or on the radio drama's main website and most episodes are avaliable for download as well.  

Sorry this is up so late guys, I was messing around with tvtropes earlier today and that really does eat up all your time. But I would like to also say that I'm going to try and put up something different each Thursday until I go back to school just to add a little more variety to the blog. So next Thursday expect to see me ranting about common problems in science-fiction settings. I've been on a sci-fi kick lately so I've seen a lot of stuff I like and a ton that I haven't and, for a genre that is supposed to be about the new and cool there is an awful lot of similarities between the sub-genres....