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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo
- Episodes: 13
- Genre: Drama, Historical, Josei
- Airing Date: Jan to April, 2016
- Producers: Starchild Records, Mainichi Broadcasting System, Kodansha, DAX Production
Showa Genroku Rakugo Preview (No Spoilers)
Some otaku might think that a show about traditional Japanese stand up comedy might be boring, especially if they have had a taste of what Japan offers in modern TV programs. There can be so much slang and cultural references, that some might feel lost. Yet, don’t worry, we must insist on giving Showa Genroku Rakugo a chance. Through this anime, we can travel to the old Japan of the Second World War and around 20 years after (somewhere between the sixties and seventies).
In this vintage atmosphere, we will be submerged in the world of the rakugokas from their training to their professional performance. However, artists are human above everything else, so we will be able to also know their motivations, highs and lows.We have dozens of stories within one story in Showa Genroku Rakugo, so come along and enjoy the show with us! Just be careful. Let’s proceed with caution because we have some spoilers out there.
Yotarou Yuurakutei’s Bio
Voice Actor: Tomokazu Seki
The protagonist of our story (originally named Kyoji), Yotarou Yuurakutei, has a bag full of tricks. No, really, Yotarou Yuurakutei, with light brown hair and a sly face, has a story with the yakuza. He was in jail, but once he was set free, the first thing he did was buying a suit, cutting his hair and go straight to the theater. He had the firm objective of meeting the great rakugoka Yakumo Yuurakutei and become his apprentice! Thus he receives a new name: Yotarou (“fool” in the rakugo slang).
Yotarou Yuurakutei’s Highlights
1. Yotarou Yuurakutei gets a second opportunity
Many of us could do with a second opportunity in life. In the case of Yotarou, we can say he hit the rock bottom. Yotarou Yuurakutei went to jail instead of his boss, so we might expect Yotarou was going back to his gang once he was fred. Heck, even his boss himself thought so!
However, Yakumo Yuurakutei gave a performance in jail that Yotarou really enjoyed. That changed his life views forever and encouraged him to change his career. We should say it was a clever thing to do, as these type of artists are distinguished by the effort and years of training they dedicate to their art. Their background counts much less. Thus, Yakumo noticed Yotarou’s enthusiasm from the beginning and decided to help him getting his second opportunity in life.
2. Yotarou Yuurakutei is impulsive
We have to credit Yotarou for not being a shy and timid violet. Who would have the guts to request a great artist to make them their apprentice? And making the request to one that has never taken disciples on top of that! Yotarou also challenges other students because he wants to be the very best. Oh, and should we mention when Yotarou was so desperate to captivate the audience that he showed off his yakuza tattoo? ^^U
Nevertheless, Yotarou Yuurakutei does his homework as well. Sometimes this creates conflict with Yakumo, as their rakugo style is quite different. Master and disciple quarrel often, but that does not stop Yotarou’s aim. He stays up late or wakes up early to listen to old rakugo records, particularly the ones from Sukeroku Yuurakutei. Yes, even if Yakumo disagrees with that performing style. Yotarou can not avoid being impulsive.
3. Yotarou Yuurakutei’s resourcefulness
Maybe we can infer that Yotarou is a person that can improvise in compromising situations, as he used to be a criminal. However, he also translates this resourcefulness to his new life. To be a successful rakugoka, Yotarou needs more than simply memorization and repetition of tales. A master can read the environment and their public’s reactions. They can also improvise on the spot, and in the case of Yotarou, he nails it. Actually, the first time he goes up, Yotarou takes advantage of his previous experiences in life and tells the comic tale of a burglar.
Yotarou also knows how to be a team player. He meets Eisuke Higuchi, a popular writer, and they decide to push the boundaries of rakugo. They research old and unknown pieces while Eisuke writes new performances. Yotarou also uses the power of television to keep rakugo alive in the hearts of the Japanese people.
Another aspect of Yotarou’s resourcefulness is when he makes people happy outside the scenario. It is not obvious because he usually is relaxed and smiling, but for example, he is always pushing Konatsu to go after her dreams. This translates to bluntly telling Yakumo about Konatsu’s exercises, or when Yotarou arranges for her to perform in the school of her son Shinnosuke. All in all, he does not stop his spontaneous interventions until Konatsu becomes the first female rakugoka.
4. Yotarou Yuurakutei is not all about laughs
Yotarou would be a boring character if he was only sly and comical. From the very first episode of Showa Genroku Rakugo, we experience some sad and touching moments by his side too. We can mention when master Yakumo expelled Yotarou for falling asleep in the middle of his performance (gulp!). A touching moment might be when he offers Konatsu to become her baby’s father. How about when Yotarou’s past as yakuza was a bit embarrassing for his career? He ended up embracing it fully and even got his yakuza tattoo completed. Or how about when the police interrupts the rakugo performance to arrest one of Yotarou’s former companions, so he ends up drinking together with them remembering the good, old times?
However, perhaps one of the most impressing and artistic scenes from the show is when Yakumo performs his tale Shinigami (the one Yotarou enjoys so much) in the empty theatre. He ends the narration knocking down a candle and hallucinates with his former comrade Sukeroku, representing the Shinigami. Yet, just before surrendering to the flames that are consuming his surroundings, Yotarou comes to save him. In the end, Yakumo decides to live and lets his disciple carry him away. That is an excellent metaphor of the new saving the old… and Yotarou behaved like a cool guy in the scene 🙂
5. Yotarou Yuurakutei ends up winning all the hearts
Some comical characters in anime can get in our nerves. Nevertheless, Yotarou is charismatic because he is funny when it is required but he also has depth. He wins the hearts of his audience since his first performance, which is vital for his career as a rakugoka! Yotarou even dissuades his former boss from taking him back to the road of crime. We should learn from Yotarou, as maybe all that some bad guys need is a good laugh.
Going back to the point, perhaps the most difficult conquest Yotarou achieved in his personal life was that of Konatsu’s heart. Although he was always there by her side, Yotarou had to wait patiently for years. Yes, imagine that! Yotarou called Konatsu sister all the time, but he managed to convince her to let him be Shinnosuke’s father. Some time later they married and finally, they had a daughter (Koyuki) together. Yotarou is what we would call a winner, because he also has conquered our otaku hearts with his adventures!
Showa Genroku Rakugo brings back to life an era long gone that has resisted the test of time to a certain point. We still have rakugokas in these days afterall! In Yotarou Yuurakutei, we get the perfect incarnation of a devoted artist of traditional storytelling. Why do we say this? Well, because he was capable of finding his own unique performing style. Yotarou also was able to experiment and create something new out of the old style rakugo. Because he was in love with this art, Yotarou made use of any resources at his hands to protect it and diffuse it. Although his master Yakumo did not approve, Yotarou had the guts to step into the future. He also had the insight of including women to help rakugo survive. And for that, we are deeply grateful to him 🙂
Which of the mentioned points is your favorite about Yotarou Yuurakutei? Are there any other qualities that you think make of him a great character? What do you think about Showa Genroku Rakugo? Don’t forget that we are open to all your comments and suggestions. See you soon!