This is it, anime fans. One of the best series of the past decade, and a title that will go on to join the best of what anime has to offer, ended with one of the best conclusions ever experienced in the medium. Episode 12 of the second season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu makes my life hard because I find it extremely difficult to focus on the events at hand without going back to the series as a whole. Yet, I will try to narrow my attention to what happened in these 24 minutes and leave the rest for the series review.
The future belongs to the new generation. In my eyes, the last episode was the true climax, the ending to the tragedy of a man who lived a life full of passion for an art and a guilt for what never came to be. 16 years after his death, Shinnosuke is a futatsume and resembles his grandfather a little too much (more on that in the themes section). He has grown into a fine storyteller who is infatuated with his grandfather and his style of rakugo. His little sister Koyuki, on the other hand, is her daddy’s daughter; she loves Yotarou’s style of storytelling. She is also part her dad and part her mom; she is full of an energy that borders to aggression: Konatsu x Yotarou.
Konatsu aged well. She is now a proper middle-aged lady and also the first female rakugo performer in history. I’m not going to dwell too much on her conversation with Higuchi-sensei now. Go to the Themes section if you want to read my opinion on the parentage matter. The theater has been rebuilt, Yotarou is becoming the 9th generation Yakumo, and Shinnosuke is going to leave his current name, Kikuhiko, and inherit the name Sukeroku. Aside from the beer-belly, Yotarou has matured into a true leader who could lead rakugo into the future. He takes rakugo by the hand and transforms it into something that is closer to his cheerful personality. Rakugo is a celebration. It is joy. It is also legacy and history, and we are reminded of that as Yotaro gives his son a piece of it: the old fan that has the letters ‘Sukeroku’ on it.
Before we go to the performance, I have to say a few words about Matsuda. I have to admit that I thought he was dead. It seems that his presence in Yakumo’s afterlife sequence was a miracle, or as I suspected, just Yakumo’s mind bringing to ‘life’ the people who played an important part in his story. But he is alive and he is 95 years old and as cheerful as ever. In my eyes, Matsuda has been the person who kept everyone together through his kindness. In a weird twist, his wish to become a storyteller actually came true. He is the only surviving witness to the whole story, the true ‘storyteller’ of this series.
After the customary rakugo stories (which in this episode were a bit more than that) the series decided to wrap up things on another conversation between Higuchi-sensei and Yotarou. Their talks were always profound, but this one was also enlightening and the perfect ending to an amazing series. Yakumo’s desire, as he has shared with us so many times, was to take rakugo with him when he died. He failed to do that not because he hadn’t tried but because his truest desire was to get rid of the burden. He did get rid of the burden, even if he did in an indirect manner when he took Yotarou as an apprentice. He entrusted him with rakugo and Yotarou brought rakugo to a very bright future.
Shinigami: Shinigami was the central rakugo story of this series. It was the story that brought the most changes, from the burned theater to Yotarou seeking to be an apprentice under Yakumo. It was only fitting that he would inherit the name of his master telling one of his best stories. And it’s perfect. The eyes are perfect, the voice is perfect. In fact, it’s so perfect that at the crucial moment, Yakumo comes to remind him that his own candle (life) is slowly drifting away.
Themes & Trivia
LUKE…: I know that the conversation between Higuchi and Konatsu implied that the father of the child is Yakumo. I know that many have suspected it from the beginning. I know that even more are convinced that’s the truth. Not me. I refuse to accept it. Not because I am against stories that depict romantic relationships between fathers and daughters (who are not related by blood – please) but because I still think that Konatsu and Yakumo’s behavior would have been totally different if Yakumo was the father. At least, I am really glad that she didn’t confirm sensei’s suspicions, and all possibilities are still open. And I am voting for the Boss.
I really can’t believe that Shouwa Rakugo is over. From the first episode, I knew that the show wasn’t going to be just about rakugo. Unlike Japanese calligraphy and kabuki (Spring 2017 brings us Kabukibu!) I knew almost nothing about rakugo. I had a faint idea that rakugo was about telling humorous stories, mainly from what I have read about another Japanese standup comedy style, manzai. After two seasons and a tangled web of dubious relationships and questionable family trees, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is a testament to the industry’s ability to produce works of art. A big chunk of the success of the series must go to the original creator, Haruko Kumota, for writing a story worth telling, but also to Studio DEEN and Director Hatakeyama Mamoru for his masterful direction. Shouwa Rakugo is a story about life, about love, about hate, about the past and the present and the stories we tell to cling to the truth that we feel is connected to us and this reality.
Something this good…
Something this good could never go away…
Yotarou had to end the series with that quote. He had to remind us that true art, that is art that reveals the truth of us and of who we are, can never go away. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has already booked a place in the medium’s Hall of Fame.
Expect a full series review pretty soon, but until then, why don’t you check the rest of our final episode reviews for Winter 2017? You can also see our review list for Spring 2017: