Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen Episodes 1 & 2 (First Impression)
The Winter season is saved once again.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is definitely a diamond in the rough. It was a very unique premise that takes on a traditional Japanese entertainment in the form of rakugo, which is a type of storytelling. The closest comparison I can make it to something in the West is stand-up comedy, and yet that’s not exactly right either. Rakugo mostly tells comedic stories, but it’s an art form where the storyteller remains kneeling and doesn’t move from that spot. They sit in front of an audience and tell their story, changing their voice and expression to match the characters in the story while using little to no props. The trick to rakugo is entertaining the audience by basically being a good storyteller.
This type of premise turned people away, or just did not interest people in the slightest. Rakugo’s first season aired in last year’s Winter season and I actually hadn’t seen it. I watched the hour long first episode and loved it, but I put it on hold because I had a feeling that the show would be really slow and I’d enjoy it more if I could just marathon it. I marathoned the entire first season a few days ago and Shouwa Gneroku Rakugo Shinjuu has easily become my favorite anime of 2016, and also one of my favorite anime ever. It told such an interesting and heartbreaking story full of complicated characters, and if anyone mildly curious about this series is reading this right now, go watch the first season right now. Right now. It’s has a beautifully constructed story that I wished people had really given the chance to watch. This series has a very small fanbase and gets little to no attention and it breaks my heart because I feel like people are missing out on so much. I’m just surprised that this series was able to get another season and I’m grateful for that.
The first episode starts off with Yotaro giving us a brief recap of what happened in the first season, and he told it in the form of rakugo which I thought was genius. We learn that 10 years have passed from the time of the first episode when Yakumo was telling Yotaro and Konatsu the story of his past, and the time after we learned his past. So it took Yotaro 10 years to become a shun’ichi and everyone is celebrating. Yotaro has become pretty popular in the rakugo world and everything in his life is going well so far. He’s also taken the Sukeroku name (I’m still going to call him Yotaro), and Yakumo was completely fine with it.
As usual, large chunks are dedicated to watching the rakugo performances, this time both by Yakumo and Yotaro. It’s always interesting to see what stories they’ll tell. Both of their rakugo are completely different yet entertaining. Yakumo’s is more polished and slow, but he puts personality in the characters. Yotaro’s is loud and energetic but that doesn’t pull away from the story.
I can’t exactly tell what kind of relationship Konatsu and Yotaro have. They’re both going to get married as Konatsu agreed to Yotaro being the father, since we still don’t know the baby’s father. Konatsu never leaves a clue to who it is. But she shows doubts in their decision because Yotaro is kinda dumb, poor, and doesn’t exactly act mature. But Yotaro is dead set on being there for Konatsu and her child because he says he loves her. He says he doesn’t know whether it’s romantic love or not, he just loves her because they lived in Yakumo’s house for so long so he really cares for her, and he wants to be there so she won’t struggle with the baby by herself. There was lots of blushing and embarrassment between them. I know they do love each other, but I don’t know if it’s romantic or not. All I know is that the baby is in good hands. Thankfully in the end, Yotaro asks Yakumo if he and Konatsu and the baby could live with him again, so they can all be together as a family, which is very sweet. It’s funny how Yakumo and Konatsu try so hard to be alone and miserable, but Yotaro won’t have any of that and brings them all together. Such an optimistic guy!
We get one new character in this season so far, a man named Higuchi. He stops Yotaro after his performance and tells him how much he loved it and he takes him out to drink. Turns out, this man was the boy from the first season that wanted to be Yakumo’s apprentice but was rejected. After the rejection he gave up on rakugo, but instead he turned to writing. How came upon Yotaro in order to make a deal with him. He wants to write new rakugo stories with Yotaro so they can create a change in the industry. Make it modern but don’t overly change it. It really reminded me of what Sukeroku told Yakumo (Kiku…Bon…whatever) about wanting to change rakugo so it could still continue and never die out. Yotaro really seems to want to try this and goes to Yakumo to tell him and basically tells him to do what he wants, though he thinks writing new rakugo stories is heresy. Actually, he still wishes that rakugo would die along with him, and whenever he says things like that it really depresses me. But of course, Yotaro won’t let that happen.
In episode two, Yotaro is now facing many struggles as the press keeps bringing up the story of Yotaro being an ex-yakuza member. This is now ruining his reputation and he’s earning less jobs. It’s really affecting his gigs as now the audience is half full, he works in smaller venues now. All of this pressure is really affecting him and his performances take a large dip. The two rakugo performances were absolutely painful to watch, the second one more so because we saw all of it. The first one, Yotaro was obviously anxious and he was speaking extremely fast. One man from the audience yelled at him to now copy his predecessor (the previous Sukeroku, who also spoke quickly) and also yelled that his performance was boring. He then picked a fight with one of Yotaro’s fans and it turned into a shit show.
The second one was even more worse. He performed in a smaller venue and again the room was half full, and it was a really small room. One of his colleagues before him performed and he bombed hard. No laughs, no smiles, a kid was playing on his Game Boy, and got a lackluster applause. It was sad. Because his friend bombed, and it was raining outside, Yotaro decided to cheer everyone up with a funny story to get them laughing. But the problem was he was trying too hard. First off, he was speaking too loudly as usual, but I feel like even more so. He was trying too hard to be funny, that it wasn’t funny at all. Also, whenever he would deliver one of the punchlines, he would stop and look at the audience to see their reactions, and that completely ruined his timing. On top of all that, he was obviously nervous. He was sweating and fidgeting, and he never got the response that he expected which just made him feel even worse. And to top it all off, he stripped himself half naked, which is completely unheard of in rakugo. Tl;dr, it was terrible. Some serious second-hand embarrassment throughout all of that and I wanted the show to skip it, but it was necessary to see how badly Yotaro fell. It’ll just make us much more happy to see him improve and deliver a good rakugo again.
Just like how Kiku struggled in the first season, Yotaro was told that he doesn’t have his own rakugo style yet. From the press guy with the dumb clothes, he said Yotaro was probably feeling pressure from both Yakumo and Sukeroku names, and I agree. He doesn’t know whether to have his rakugo be like Yakumo’s, or have it be like Sukeroku’s, and it’s become this strange mish-mash of both styles. But it’s not Yotaro’s style. And being a shun’ichi, this is just added pressure because by this time he should have his own style. But the added pressure also comes from the press tarnishing his reputation.
Yakumo had some nice scenes this episode. He gave Yotaro a wonderful piece of advice in the end, of accepting his past and sins and not ignoring them, which is probably what Yakumo is doing after all the horrible things that happened to him in his past. It really cheered him up so he went off to practice. Yakumo also had a scene with Konatsu’s baby, which was adorable. The “Your baby has something on its mind” line killed me, showing just how…Yakumo can’t be around babies. His scene with Konatsu was bittersweet, as he recited the rakugo that made her sleep as a child, but Konatsu still has hatred towards him. Even though she knew it was an accident that happened to her parents, she still thinks it as murder. She still wants to kill him, but then again she doesn’t because then her baby won’t be able to hear his rakugo, so it’s a lot of conflicting emotions in her. I think she’s being unfair to Yakumo. It was an accident, and although Yakumo committed a lot of mistakes when he was younger, the balcony accident wasn’t his fault.
Yakumo is just so…miserable. He was saying that he was waiting his whole life for Konatsu to kill him, but now with the baby she probably never will. And we saw in the finale in the first season what kinds of suicidal thoughts he had. He’s just so sad all the time looking at him breaks my heart. I really love Yakumo, yeah he made shitty decisions and said bad things, but he wasn’t a bad person. He wasn’t the only person at fault with all the messed up drama in the first season. We got some mystery in the end with Higuchi somehow knowing about Miyokichi, so more pain and drama for Yakumo. The OP for this season was pretty creepy and the visuals spell either two things: Yakumo is going to die by the end of this season, or the OP visuals just show how dead and miserable Yakumo is on the inside. The sublety isn’t here in this OP so that’s a shame for me since I really liked that about the first OP, and I like the other song much more, but the title of this song is interesting.
This season feels exactly the same as the first one. The story now is focusing on Yotaro and his life in rakugo, and also the development of rakugo. Will it die out, or will they somehow change it so it can somehow strive in modern times? I don’t know what this season will bring, but if it’s anything like the first season, lots of laughs and tears.
Possibility of watching: Guaranteed
Possibility of blogging: Guaranteed