The Innovative Rakugo Performer!
- Episodes: 13
- Genre: Drama, Historical, Josei
- Airing Date: January 2016 – April 2016
- Studio: Studio Deen
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Preview (No Spoilers)
Anime Preview (No Spoilers)
Born as a manga from the prolific and loved manga artist Haruko Kumota in 2010, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is a rare gem among the josei manga and had an anime adaptation in 2016. The story revolves around Yotarou – a former yakuza member – who just got out of prison, with a single thing on his mind: to beg Yakumo Yuurakutei to take him as his apprentice. Yes, because during his time in prison, Yotarou had all the time he needed to fall in love with Yakumo's performances of Rakugo. Yotarou is determined; he won't stop his pleas. Yakumo has nothing left to do; in fact, even though, through the years he had always refused to take apprentices, he is now forced to accept his first. That's a chance for both of them. Yotarou will learn Rakugo's secrets from the “Master” of Rakugo, while Yakumo will have the possibility to revisit his past and remember the person who was his greatest rival, and his biggest friend: Sukeroku Yuurakutei, with whom he shared an unfulfilled promise. Yakumo will reveal Yotarou all the hardships, all the struggles he and Sukeroku went through, and the sad epilogue.
Seiyuu Name: Kouichi Yamadera
Shin – his name before becoming Sukeroku – was an abandoned child, and his life as a mendicant changed when he met a Rakugo street performer, named Sukeroku, who decided to train him. Shin will never forget Sukeroku; in fact, once apprenticed under Yakumo Yuurakutei, he was given the name of “Hatsutarou”, but he refused it, proudly becoming the “Second Generation Sukeroku.” Sukeroku's personality is sparkling, flamboyant and boisterous. It goes without saying, but his Rakugo was as peculiar as his personality: a passionate style of performing, that divided the public opinion. On one side, there were those who enthusiastically accepted this new Rakugo; on the other side, there were the traditionalists who resented him. Sukeroku's love towards Rakugo, though, was stronger than anything else, and so it was his relationship with Kikuhiko, who was an apprentice under Yakumo Yuurakutei alongside him. In fact, the two of them made a promise: to guarantee the survival of Rakugo, Sukeroku by innovating it year after year, Kikuhiko by remaining true to the traditions. Since life happens, though, their promise will stay unfulfilled and Sukeroku will face a cruel destiny, leaving behind only the weight of his memory.
1. Undisputed King Of Rakugo
Sukeroku loved Rakugo more than anything else, and what made him an undisputed “King” of Rakugo was the fact that he could do it as easily as breathing. First of it all, there was his personality. Sukeroku was sparkling and yet unruly, and often showed a disregard towards higher-ranked Rakugo performers – attitude which lead him to be forced to leave the Yuurakutei household and resulted in Sukeroku getting involved with Miyokichi, the woman of his life.
That boisterous personality of his showed very well through his Rakugo. In fact, Sukeroku's performances were very brash, sometimes schmaltzy, and often irreverent. He didn't care for the social constructs that the traditionalists of Rakugo wanted to build, he just wanted to make people happy and his idea was to perform a Rakugo that was as close as possible to people. Despite making the traditionalists unhappy, he gained popularity among the audience and his performances were way better appreciated than Kikuhiko's. Even after his death, his name remained unforgotten and shadowed Kikuhiko through years.
Having to differentiate Sukeroku and Kikuhiko's performances, we would say that Kikuhiko struggled for the idea of perfection of Rakugo, while Sukeroku performed with his own heart in his hands, and that was what touched people – and viewers – deeply.
2. Friend And Foe
Throughout Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, it was impossible to ignore a subtle bromance between Sukeroku and Kikuhiko. Their relationship was enviable and multishippers around the world actually glimpsed a feeling of romantic love between the two of them. Kikuhiko and Sukeroku are on totally opposite sides; while Kikuhiko is stoic, serious, strict and totally intense when it comes to women, Sukeroku is hyperactive, carefree and enthusiastic. So yes, they are perfect complements to each other, it's not a stretch to see bromance between them.
It's impossible to forget the wonderful moment when Sukeroku returned from the war in Manchuria, and met Kikuhiko once again. Their tearful reunion brought to tears viewers, as well, as it was powerful and showed how much worried both of them were, at the thought of not being able to meet each other once again. Nor it is possible to forget episode 8, when Kikuhiko confessed to Sukeroku how much he enjoyed being with him and listening to his Rakugo. Their relationship kept building among ups and downs, arguments and revelations, and their bond grew stronger and stronger.
Friends, brothers, rivals and foes: they were all of this, and much more. Sukeroku never failed at spurring Kikuhiko to give his best, and always tried to get his spirits up. On the other side, Kikuhiko was good at reprimanding Sukeroku. Multishipper fans were right, Sukeroku and Kikuhiko were probably meant for each other.
3. Born Unruly, But True To Himself
Sukeroku's being a troublemaker pops up since childhood, since the first episodes of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. We see him refusing to take baths, running here and there, dirty and sweaty. Growing up, he maintained consistency, and his being a rebel showed even more and in different areas. For example, Sukeroku refused to wear anything different from a yukata, because he could feel comfortable only with it. Since he liked drinking and smoking, he kept asking money to Kikuhiko, as he basically kept spending everything.
His unruly personality basically caused his own downfall. In fact, Sukeroku's disregard for high-ranked Rakugo performers, and for Yakumo – his master – who kept demonstrating his insecurities towards Sukeroku's way of performing Rakugo, resulted in him being forced to leave the Yakumo household. That was the moment when he met Miyokichi, and eloped with her. Miyokichi had had her heart broken by Kikuhiko, whom she loved. Basically, Miyokichi and Sukeroku's interaction had roots in the disappointment they both had faced. Miyokichi wanted a way out, far away from Kikuhiko, while Sukeroku wanted a way out from the world of Rakugo that didn't seem to accept his way of performing.
We can appreciate Sukeroku even in those agitated moments, as he proved once again to be able to remain true to himself and his own ideals. But what we probably loved the most about him, was his way of loving unconditionally.
4. A Caring Lover, A Loving Father
Point 3 leads us directly to point 4, as a consequence. Did we mention Sukeroku's way of loving unconditionally? Well, when he eloped with Miyokichi, he knew very well how she actually was in love with Kikuhiko. Sukeroku, though, loved Miyokichi so much so that he showered her with affection and attention. Eventually, she became pregnant with their daughter, and gave birth to the little Konatsu. Miyokichi, then, showed her true colors: she didn't care for Konatsu or Sukeroku, so she left. That's when Sukeroku's life turned for the worse, inexorably.
Left alone with her daughter in the countryside, Sukeroku holed himself up in a room, depressed and wretched. Only his love for Konatsu could spur his spirit. In fact, their relationship was totally enviable. Konatsu praised his amazing father, who could perform a wonderful and funny Rakugo, with all the people in the village. And Sukeroku gladly performed for his little girl.
Maybe because those episodes state subtly how Sukeroku's life is about to end, but there's a lingering feeling of sadness and forthcoming tragedy that pull viewers heartstrings, as Sukeroku appears like the ghost of the man he was and is totally lifeless.
5. The Unforgettable One
When Kikuhiko, out of concern for Sukeroku's life, went in the countryside looking for him, he encountered Miyokichi once again. She had turned to prostitution to earn money, and seeing Kikuhiko she tried once again to seduce him. Kikuhiko rejected her for the umpteenth time, and she attempted suicide. It was Sukeroku, still in love with her despite everything, who managed to convince her to step back from that idea. When she slipped from the balcony, though, Sukeroku followed her. They died together, under the shocked eyes of Kikuhiko and Konatsu.
Sukeroku's death was a terrible event to swallow for everyone. It's right after his death, that everyone realized the impact that his personality had in their lives, the importance of Sukeroku as a friend, as a father, as a Rakugo performer, as a person. It's interesting to see how his presence will be felt throughout the show, until the very end of the second season. In fact, Kikuhiko will turn into an even colder man, never once forgetting his friend and rival, to the point that he will start seeing his spirit due to the fault he feels about his death. Konatsu, taken and raised by Kikuhiko, will turn into a woman full of resentment, towards Kikuhiko and Miyokichi. The world of Rakugo will miss the funny performance, so near to people, that Sukeroku only could manage. His character and his deeds with Rakugo will influence even Yotarou who, after listening to the story, decides to become the Third Generation Sukeroku.
It's right in the second season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu that we understand how Sukeroku and his brilliant personality will always be unforgotten, because the lives of those who had met him, were changed one way or another, just to demonstrate how amazing, charming and lovable he was. As a Rakugo performer he had his own way of doing things, and his own ideals, and he never compromised just to follow the tradition. As a friend, he gave Kikuhiko a brother, a troublesome one, but at the same time, he gave him a rival to help Kikuhiko give his best. As a father, he loved Konatsu with all his might, bequeathing the love for Rakugo to her. And, finally, as a lover, he went as far as to die with the woman he loved, even though his love was one-sided. That's why he remained everlasting in the other characters' lives... And in the viewers' hearts, as well.
These five highligths were meant to remember the most amazing character in Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, who basically stole everyone's heart. Sukeroku, with his sparkling personality, managed to drew people near, and viewers, too. He was always up for some booze, liked women, slacked off, tried to avoid troublesome things... Basically, a man like many others, a “deeply human” character, who was able to cry even though he was a man and had to keep up appearances. Well, then, we gave you five highlights for this amazing character, now please show us how much you love him, too, in the comments below!