Every episode leaves me speechless, but this was certainly something else. I feel like my review won’t do this episode any justice, but I’ll do my best.
If I had to pick a specific theme for this episode, it would be closure. Things came full circle and moments of forgiveness and regret were presented that in the end came to a close. The stories Yakumo performed this episode all had to do with him, but also with people that are and used to be in his life.
The first story was rather sad, so sad that it was enough to make the prisoners show their emotions. The story told of a man that was locked up for 100 days carrying out a sentence, exactly like the men Yakumo performed for. He had fallen in love with a geisha and vice versa, and she would write him many letters all the time. However the letters would never reach them and the main character only found them out when he finished his sentence. Running off trying to find her, he found out that his love had committed suicide. The main character lamented this and prayed for her and then saw her spirit where he yelled apologies and many other things at her. The more Yakumo performed this bit, the more the prisoners cried. Whatever crimes these men committed, Yakumo made it clear that there had to be some people that were waiting for them, such as the Boss Man’s son. But with this story, it mostly related to Yakumo himself. As Konatsu started playing the shamisen and singing, the image of Miyokichi appeared once more. But this time, there was no fainting. As Yakumo continued to recite the story, the words he was saying were basically his own as he apologized over and over to Miyo for the way he acted towards her, that he loved her and knew she loved him. Instead of her laughing like before, she smiles and wraps her arms around him, signaling that the dilemma between them has come to a close with forgiveness. The performance was so touching that even Konatsu was crying as she watched. It was very powerful and emotional, but at least some good came out of the performance.
But I knew that once I saw Sukeroku’s red eyes in the opening once again, I knew something awful was going to happen. Even though the performance at the prison was bittersweet, I still had that lingering uneasiness. In the scene before this in the bathhouse, Yakumo had said that he wanted to die while doing rakugo. For some reason Yotaro didn’t find that strange and just said that he needed to start doing rakugo again, and little Shin hops in and says the same. Later on he hands Higuchi the fan of Sukeroku, telling him to “take care of Yotaro”. Um, red flag! Things were getting more and more weird, and I got more and more worried as Yakumo performed “Shinigami” to an empty theater.
The “Shinigami” story served two purposes this episode. One, it was the rakugo story that Yakumo performed in the prison Yotaro was in that set his love for rakugo that very day. Yakumo’s performance practically saved his life as he threw away his gang life and decided to become a storyteller, and when they both entered the prison together it was like it all came full circle. In the end, Yakumo seemed to want to make “Shinigami” his very last performance. It was the same powerful and haunting performance we had before, but the fire added to the uneasiness. Telling the story brought out his own shinigami in the form of Sukeroku, who he always thought of as the “God of Performance”. From the hints we got this episode, I had a feeling that Yakumo really did want to set the theater and himself on fire. He was alone and no one would stop him, but then as he spoke with the ghost of Sukeroku I wasn’t sure if he hallucinated or not.
Sukeroku was always an important person in Yakumo’s life. He was the force in his life that pushed him to do things that he probably would never do, or just have trouble doing. Yakumo knew what he wanted to do, dying with rakugo, but he felt the guilt and regret of killing Sukeroku’s dream. But in the end, this time when he was so finally close to his death that he always wanted, Yakumo realized just how terrified he was as Sukeroku pointed out. No matter was emotional weight he carries out in his heart and mind, he’s scared to die just like any other person. And just like Yakumo said in the previous episode, the love of the people around him just won’t let him die. Yotaro, who’s life was saved by Yakumo, now took the role of savior and saved Yakumo’s life. And it left me speechless. I really thought this was the end of Yakumo, that Yakumo would burn and die in the theater because the death flags were everywhere. But I imagine upon receiving the Sukeroku fan, Yotaro knew something was definitely wrong.
This episode was fantastic. I feel like after this, Yakumo will probably be able to move on. Everyone in the preview looks pretty happy, but I’m not sure what can happen next now. If I remember correctly, I think that was the last theater in the city where they could perform rakugo, so what will happen next?
I’m not sure, but I’m so glad Grandpa Yakumo is still around.