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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

I have been contemplating for a while whether I should write about rakugo, or specifically an anime with rakugo as the core. Some readers might be familiar with this traditional art form, in which a sole performer takes centrestage in a seiza position and plays out a variety of stories and characters using only his voice, head and hand movements. This one-man show is witty though it would probably require a substantial understanding of wordplay from the audience in order to even remotely appreciate its essence. I haven't watched an actual rakugo performance before, so my appreciation for now is purely built on the presence of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. Does it seem familiar to anybody? I watched the first episode of the anime adaptation and fell in love with it right away.

My impression of this refreshing title is that while we get to appreciate what goes on before, during and after a rakugo performance, the gist falls much on character development and human drama. There are three story arcs here, which play out from the early years of Shouwa (before the war) till the beginning of Heisei (1989). The first one takes the audience back to the mid-seventies (Shouwa 50 onwards). A delinquent by the name of Yotarou finishes his jail term and is determined to start life anew under the tutelage of the famous rakugo artist Hachidaime Yuurakutei Yakumo. Because Yotarou had listened to Hachidaime Yakumo's rendition of Shinigami while serving his term, he became transfixed by the idea of rakugo as the ticket to his survival.

Interestingly, the master readily agrees to take in his very first apprentice much to Yotarou's delight. Yotarou gets acquainted with Konatsu, whose late father was also a rakugo artist who went by the name Nidaime Yuurakutei Sukeroku. Konatsu is foul-mouthed and quite the chain smoker, but she isn't unkind towards the ever enthusiastic Yotarou who practically throws himself into every inch of an opportunity. However, Konatsu bears a deep grudge against Hachidaime Yakumo due to some unfortunate events. As all of them stay together under one roof, one would think that there is still some extent of civilness around. Yotarou begins his apprenticeship shortly with the master.

The saying that there is more than meets the eye definitely runs across this beautiful series. The thin line between jealousy and envy; desire and need; love and infatuation, and many more boundaries cross one another either subtly or more openly. Yotarou learns and understands through hard and occasionally brutal ways of the purpose of life. He eventually realises that he has to be his own rakugo artist, instead of living in somebody else's shadow. Hachidaime Yakumo recounts his past with Sukeroku which becomes the gist of the second and third episode. I wonder how the anime is going to play out the rest of the arcs as there are 13 episodes in total. The manga is still moving strong with eight volumes and an official anime guide book.  

Hmm, I'm rather tempted to check out the manga and such as there is something about this whole experience which lingers on, and it makes a pleasant aftertaste that unapologetically lures the viewer even closer to the heart of rakugo. I'm only worried about my command of Japanese at this point. After all, an art form like rakugo requires more than just a growing interest. But I'm definitely following the rest of the anime! Anybody else fancies this glittering gem?  

Eccentrically Yours.

Written by J.Fluffysheep ♪

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