The human mind is capable of doing the weirdest connections; for instance, as Episode 10 of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu was at its climax and the pillow shots were succeeding one another, I thought of Roberto Benigni and his amazing, otherworldly, and definitely not Oscar-y celebration when La Vita e Bella won Best Foreign Language Film back in 1999. He was flabbergasted enough to climb on the front seat and celebrate the one thing that we all forget as we grow up: how to behave as a child. At least in this episode, Shinnosuke was there to remind us how some silliness just reinforces the fact that vita is bella.
The theater is burned down and Yakumo is for the second time at the hospital. Nothing new here, except for the discussion between the owner and Yotarou. The theater was the symbol of rakugo in the city. It housed the art and it was natural that many people were devastated seeing it burned to the ground. But an art is not tied to matter, but instead matter is used to serve the art. ‘As long as we stay healthy, we can do rakugo anywhere.’ As long as they love their art and stay united, rakugo will survive. The art refuses to burn down with any theater. As long as there are rakugoka who love storytelling, there will be rakugo.
There will always be rakugo and this family whose whole existence felt like a rakugo story. Life is a never-ending yin-yang of happy and sad moments. We have experienced both during the first and the second season of this series, but the levels of euphoria that we saw in the scene between Konatsu and Yakumo were unprecedented. Yakumo is old and weak. He has no power to focus on rakugo and with his resistances down he instead starts to notice the things he has been missing all those years: first, a daughter who is grateful for all that he has done to her. ‘Thank you for taking care of me. I am the reason you’ve suffered so,’ whispers Konatsu only for her father (yes, I insist) to respond, ‘How could I find the time to die when I was taking care of you? Thanks to you, I never found the time for regrets either.’ How beautiful. And then comes Yotarou on the radio and small Shinnosuke reciting along with his father and throwing sakura petals in the air. This is one of the rare moments when even the universe is smiling. How could Yakumo resist?
Konatsu: I think I’ve talked a bit too much about the ‘feels’ of the episode and forgot to mention that Konatsu is finally going to do what she was always destined to: professional rakugo. She is after all her fathers’ daughter (that possessive is right where it should be) and it’s difficult to avoid a calling when it’s there to haunt you 24/7. Sure, learning shamisen was a good distraction and a skill that will never go to waste, but she is Sukeroku and she is married to a Sukeroku and she gave birth to a Yakumo (if I had to guess the little guy’s title in the future). This is a rakugo family, and since Yotaro asked sensei about a story that can could be funnier if told by a female performer, I am guessing that soon enough we will see Konatsu on the stage again.
I’m a slave to my blood
Baby: Yotarou is going to be a father, again! This time the baby is his, not that Shinnosuke is any less his son. Yotarou cried like a baby at the news, and to be honest, I did too. This episode was full of happy little moments.
I think the more things you love, the better
Themes & Trivia
Dango: That weird looking skewer that Yotaro gave Konatsu was a dango, a Japanese dumpling and sweet made from rice flour (mochiko). It is traditionally served with green tea and there are varieties for every season. Each skewer often has three to four dango.
Master and Apprentice: The kind of master-apprentice relationship that Yotarou suggests is one of the healthier I’ve ever encountered. Most similar dynamics are perplexed by a desire from the side of the apprentice to surpass the master. That desire prerequisites that the apprentice has entered this relationship with an eye on personal growth and personal gain. Not that such a goal is unwanted, but if it becomes an obsession it can lead to self-destruction. On the other hand, Yotarou believes that each time someone starts on a path, that path is his own until the end. No one can step on that path, and therefore there is no need to surpass anyone. Master and apprentice have their own careers to look after.
I cried so much in this episode. Call me sentimental if you will, but I was waiting for that moment between Konatsy and Yakumo. Despite how unfairly the past may have treated them, and despite the terrible secret Yakumo kept inside all those years, the reality of their situation remained the same: the reason Konatsu grown to be a woman with a loving husband and two children is Yakumo. He is a father to both her and Yotarou and the best grandpa to Shinnosuke. And let’s not forget all the people that circle around this ever-shining sun of rakugo. We had more than 30 pillow shots focusing on that love.
La Vita e Bella
Life is good. With all its ups and down, life is good. With all its tears and smiles, life is wonderful. With all the regrets and the surrenders and the desperate times when nothing seems to fit in, even then life is amazing. Rakugo is amazing. Yotaro and his family are amazing, and I just can’t wait to see in what tone this series is going to end.
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