Rakugo is a story about stories. It turned out that the greatest story of all was the one that Yakumo told Yotaro and Konatsu during the first season. If you were still in doubt, then Episode 7 of the second season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has probably convinced you that when it comes to stories, this is as good as it gets this season.
I rarely comment on the animation, but this episode deserves a mention. Yakumo is still recovering from his collapse. He looks so fragile, a remnant of the man he used to be with a trembling voice and an even more trembling hand. He comments on his own inevitable death, a death that is symbolized by the imagery around him. Golden leaves are falling from the trees, as nature approaches the end of another cycle. Everything has a beginning and an end. Everything is transient. As this year will end and give its place to a new one, this aged rakugo performer will need to do the same if only someone can convince him that he doesn’t have to take rakugo with him to the grave. I think that he still insists on that.
Your life isn’t yours alone
He is not alone on that bench, however. Konatsu is one of the few persons in whose presence Yakumo can be, if not 100% percent himself, frank at a certain extent. There is another, more real reason behind his complain that if he returns to the stage he will embarrass himself: He is afraid. He grieves not for his shaky voice, but for his lost desire to perform. Without rakugo, without the need to do rakugo, he is just an empty vessel, like the one that Sukeroku is revealing in the opening theme by opening his yukata. Konatsu, his ‘daughter’, his best friend’s daughter, and the daughter of the love of his life, shares that moment and reacts with that Yakumo-like sarcasm she inherited from him. She clearly respects and loves him. After all, Yurakutei Yakumo is not just one person. He is Sukeroku, He is Miyokichi. He is her family.
The inability to speak properly is hell
I’ve spent a lot of words analyzing the first scenes of this episode, because I try to avoid thinking about the second. I am one of those lucky people who haven’t been spoiled before the episode aired. Since in MANGA.TOKYO we write all our reviews from the point of view of your otaku friend, we assume that you have seen the episode before reading this, but I have to be careful: If you haven’t seen the episode, stop reading. Major twist incoming.
I was overwhelmed with emotions as I saw the film playing. The first season was one of the most beautiful stories I have ever seen in anime, a blend of love and tradition that reminded us what anime is capable of when it is bend to deliver quality. This episode took us way back to the Sukeroku and Bon’s performance at Ikeda. Do you remember Ikeda? It was the place of the tragic accident, where Sukeroku and Miyokichi lost their lives. We saw again their performances, both Akegarasu and Shibahama, but their stories of people who were lied to made even more sense after Matsuda revealed the secret that he has been sharing with his Master for years: the tragic accident was indeed a tragic accident, but it was not the same as the one that Yakumo recounted in his story. The truth, always, is more horrifying, and less staged than the fiction version that we heard from Yakumo. The way the event unfolded in Yakumo’s version always felt a bit forced. Like a stage play where the lines were carefully selected and the hero a bit too… heroic. The story was told from the perspective of the villain, a person who tempted Yurie to the balcony and who destroyed a true love that would have probably lasted until their olden days if only the balcony didn’t fell under their feet. And that story served only one purpose: to protect Konatsu from the truth.
Like in every good tragedy, our hero is burdened with the truth he could never reveal. The questions now is: Will Konatsu find out what really happened that night?
Yotaro in the Past: I had to go back and rewatch last season, but Yotaro’s seat in the flashback scene is the same as that of Konatsu when she was a little girl. Probably because she is the only one that Yotaro already knows in the present, but maybe it could have been a subtle reference to what was going to happen next.
Themes & Trivia
Here Lies…: Namu Amida Butsu is a Buddhist mantra – prayer that is directed to the Buddha of compassion. To be honest, I’m not really sure I understand the full meaning of the mantra, but if you want to learn more you should read this treatise.
Shibahama: I am terrible at making the connections between the rakugo stories and the themes of each episode, but this one was a no-brainer. Both Akegarasu and Shibahama are about people who are lied to. But Shibahama is about a person who lies in order to help the person they love, a direct reference to Yakumo’s burden.
Unreliable Narrator: An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised. The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction. Rakugo made use of its dramatic use by making us wait for almost half a season until unveiling the reason Yakumo has a tendency for darker stories and a stubbornly insists on taking rakugo with him.
Now that Yakumo is the perfect example of an unreliable narrator, it makes me wonder: how much of the first season was actually true? I want to believe that everything up until the performance was a somewhat colored version of what Yakumo remembers, and the only altered fact is the twist in the end.
A Story of Stories
Rakugo is about stories. And how could a story about stories be less rich, less beautiful, and less colorful than this? This is an epic story, a tragedy that will soon reach its inevitable conclusion.
Did you like Episode 7 of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check the rest of our episodic reviews. You can also read more about the series in this article: