- Episodes : 12
- Genre : Drama, Josei
- Airing Date : January 2017 – March 2017
- Studios : Studio Deen
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen Introduction and Story (Spoilers)
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen opened with our much-missed Yotarou sitting on the zabuton and recounting the entirety of the first season as a rakugo. As a Shin’uchi and Yuurakutei Yakumo’s apprentice, Yotarou now takes the name of Sukeroku and begins to garner people’s attention. He marries Konatsu, who later gives birth to a son named Shinnosuke, and faces the world of rakugo as it tilts back-and-forth between dangerously weakening and revived by the attention Yotarou brought back to it and efforts of revivals by people such as Higuchi. Sukeroku Futatabi-hen sees the journey of Kikuhiko, known as Yuurakutei Yakumo, closing to an end with a fulfilling way with rakugo protected in this constantly changing era, despite Kikuhiko’s wish to have it die along with him.
In this second season, not only we will see the depth of Kikuhiko’s guilt and love—both to the late Shin and Miyokichi and to rakugo itself—but also see the shocking reveal of the truth lies behind the lovers suicide story Kikuhiko had told Konatsu and Yotarou in the first season. We’ll also get to see the heartwarming relationship between Konatsu and Yotarou and how they make a family out of what they have. We’ll also see Yotarou struggle in finding his own style of rakugo—what differs him from his teacher, or from Sukeroku whom he took his name after? How would rakugo survive, and how would it be handed down and inherited by the next generation?
What You Liked About Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen
There would be a lot of fans of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu out there who would give up in trying to put into words what exactly they like about the series and would just put it down as “it is an immensely beautiful show.” In many ways, this rings true. Not only it has a solid storyline and a heart-wrenching human drama, its exceptional directions and voice acting as part of its entire storytelling is astonishing. Like the first season, the second season uses a lot of symbolisms that might just fly over your head in the first watch (or second rewatch, even).
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is a story that simultaneously represents itself through rakugo, but also mirrors the fate of rakugo through its characters and the conflicts they face. Should we cling to the old and the classic and leave them unchanged, and let the older generations bring them to their grave like what Kikuhiko yearns to do? Or should we trust in the changes to preserve it, despite the fact that it might change the meanings they originally hold? Ultimately, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu leaves you with a satisfying and fulfilling ending—one that can be arguably a happy one for all.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is known amongst its fans as a series that breaks hearts, and yet very hauntingly beautiful in many ways. The first season portrayed the turn of pre-Shouwa era Japan into Shouwa era, but Sukeroku Futatabi-hen would give you the turn of Shouwa era into post-Shouwa era Japan. In this setting, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu unfolds a story not much unlike a rakugo classic—it brings its audience into a breathtaking journey of Kikuhiko, a.k.a Yurakutei Yakumo, the people that surrounds him, and of course, the fate of rakugo itself. If you’re easily bored with human drama, or completely uninterested in depictions of traditional Japanese culture and art forms, then this series is not for you. However, if you’re willing to try appreciating them and is fond of a gorgeous storytelling rife with symbolism, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu would not disappoint you. Of course, to those who watched the first season, Sukeroku Futatabi-hen is a must-watch!
1. A very fulfilling, solid human drama storyline.
Like the first season, this second season tackled a heartrendingly beautiful human drama flawlessly. If season one brought the audience along the young Kikuhiko’s journey, season two shifts the focus to Yotarou, who now takes on the mantle of Sukeroku and shoulders not only the responsibility and weight of it and the expectation of him as Yakumo’s student, but also the responsibility of forming a family—both as a husband to Konatsu and a Father to Shinnosuke. All of these happen in the critical time of the rapidly changing world of Rakugo, tittering in-between its death as Kikuhiko approaches the end of his life, or surviving as Yotarou slowly becomes the representation of the future of Rakugo.
In a way, the drama unveiled in the first season is much less complex than this second season. In this Sukeroku Futatabi-hen, the story delves into each character’s conflicts and how the world of Rakugo and its future hinges on their decisions. From Yotarou’s struggle to face his dark past when it begins to smear his career in Rakugo, Konatsu’s stubbornness to create her own happiness, Higuchi’s efforts to revive and change Rakugo, to Mangetsu’s decision to come back to do Rakugo. Of course, there’s also Kikuhiko and his intention to bring Rakugo to death with him, but this time the bomb drops on the audience when Matsuda revealed the truth about the night of Shin and Miyokichi’s double suicide and how Kikuhiko had lied to Yotarou and Konatsu about what actually had happened that night to protect Konatsu.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has always been a story about tragedies, and this second season guarantees that your tears would not dry just yet, presented in powerful symbolism and breathtaking storytelling. However, it does offer you a, as heartbreaking as it is, very fulfilling and happy ending.
2. Hauntingly beautiful soundtracks.
After the first season, it is hard to imagine watching Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu without a set of hauntingly beautiful music. Hayashibara Megumi came back in Sukeroku Futatabi-hen not only just as Miyokichi (whose presence in several episodes, except for the last one, will send chills down your back), but also to once again sing the opening song for Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. Titled “Imawashi no Shinigami (The Death in His Dying Moment)”, the song is the child of her collaboration with the famous Sheena Ringo. Coupled with the opening animation sequences, it is extremely haunting and fitting, and at the same time impressively heavy and almost depressing.
The ending, while it’s still sounds notably a bit more hopeful compared to the almost chilly opening with its brass band sounds, still feels beautifully haunting especially on the piano parts. Like the first season, the ending piece is an instrumental-only piece. Similar to other instrumental pieces in Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, it has a rather unique vintage feels to it, making it sound fresh compared to the music you’d been hearing in other anime.
3. Gorgeous way of storytelling.
Sukeroku Futatabi-hen did not disappoint its audience in this department, even with the expectation bar set high after the first season. It’s still rife with symbolism that sends you reeling; the opening sequence itself is basically made out of symbolism hinting at what’s yet untold in Sukeroku Futatabi-hen, especially regarding Kikuhiko’s character and his intention to bring Rakugo with him to the grave. The scene where Shin hugs him from behind and opens his coat to reveal nothing inside Kikuhiko but bones really drives home how empty Kikuhiko sees himself at this point, nothing but a vessel of Rakugo stories to fulfil the promise he made with Shin once.
Of course, each episode is astonishingly filled with meticulous details and symbolism that might require its audience to rewatch over and over again to catch everything. The easiest example of this to notice might be the subtle changes of lighting directions suiting the nuances in different Rakugo performed by the characters. Another one is in later episode where Yotarou watched the recording of Sukeroku’s last Rakugo performance, in which an attentive audience would notice the details presented similarly to the original performance back in season one, only with different angles. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu tells its stories not just by unveiling the human drama, but also from the unique but gorgeous angles of its directions, the stories delivered as rakugo itself, the voice acting, and the details offered in each scene. It’s one of those anime excelling in show-not-tell, which perhaps only serves to make the dump of emotions the audience feels even more powerful.
4. This is where the top seiyuu show-off their acting skill.
For fans of veteran seiyuu, especially, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has always had this additional allure of top seiyuu flaunting the best of their acting skill, especially considering what a challenge this series must have been for them. For the main cast, not only they would have to act the characters, they would also have to essentially perform rakugo despite not being a rakugo performer. That this series was presented to us flawlessly perhaps is because Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu’s production had been careful in involving an actual rakugo performer supervising the entire recording as well, but it’s certainly a testament to the seiyuu’s acting skills as well.
While in the first season our ears were mostly treated by Ishida Akira and Yamadera Kouichi’s breathtaking execution of rakugo stories, Sukeroku Futatabi-hen gave us not only Seki Tomokazu’s, but more pleasantly surprising, also Kobayashi Yuu, Yusa Kouji and even Ono Yuuki’s brief rakugo performance. Some of the scenes with incredibly excellent voice acting is, of course, where Miyokichi hugged Konatsu and apologizing for stabbing Shin, in which Hayashibara Megumi presented a broken, terrified Miyokichi flawlessly. Also of note is Ishida Akira’s astonishing performance as Kikuhiko in general—listening to the few last rakugo that Kikuhiko did, it’s really captivating how Ishida changes his voice subtly to showcase how Kikuhiko is slowly losing his voice, both to age and to his personal agony and exhaustion. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu definitely had shown some of the best acting performance of the seiyuu involved, and made them part of its genuine storytelling.
1. Don’t watch it for comedy elements.
But Rakugo is comedy storytelling, isn’t it? Yes, it is. And Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu certainly stayed true and accurate to the portrayal of the art form itself. Most of the rakugo performed in the story are of comedic elements, and for some of the audience it might even serve as a really great laugh. But Japanese traditional humor is, crudely put, an acquired taste, and even with subtitles the humor of the art might go over your head. Considering this, for most of us, the rakugo performance might not be interesting at all, much less serves to make you laugh. Outside of the rakugo, the human drama Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu offers would definitely not make you laugh, so if you’re looking for comedy elements, this series is not for you.
2. Requires appreciation of Japanese art and culture traditions.
A common complaint about Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu coming from non-Japanese audience is how they couldn’t get into the story because it gets boring. This might be because the series portray rakugo performance in its entirety, which means to audience who couldn’t appreciate rakugo’s style of storytelling, it’d only feel like a boring monologue of one character for an endless three minutes. This, coupled with the heavy symbolism, scenes made out of miniscule details, and the slow human drama, might easily bore some of the viewers. However, if you keep in mind that humor differs according to the culture it comes from, you might just rapidly grow fond of the stories presented in the rakugo performances. Still, if you get bored easily with culture or art that you don’t know about and don’t understand, then this series is not for you.
3. Watching the first season prior is required.
Either you watch the first season, or you read the manga Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is based on. Sukeroku Futatabi-hen is not a season you can delve in without knowledge of what actually happened prior, so it’s obviously not geared towards new fans who did not watch the first season nor read the manga. Without it, Sukeroku Futatabi-hen would make absolutely zero sense. It also goes without saying that viewers who couldn’t like the first season would definitely not be able to enjoy the second season. For those who couldn’t be bothered to watch the first season or read the first five volume of the manga, it’s better to skip on Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is a not just about rakugo. That, everyone who had watched and loved the series probably would agree. Some would even call the series a masterpiece, and the anime certainly lives up to it. It’s hard to actually say why you should not try this series out, other than the fact that everyone’s taste is different. Simply put, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is a beautiful show. It is about a journey, both of humans and of rakugo, how they are both protected by people around them, and how they could both be dark and lonely. It also gives you food for thought, especially about humans in general, and most importantly, about culture and traditions. Like humans, it is beautiful. It is sophisticated, and yet surprisingly fragile in the midst of change. And yet, through it all, like humans, it survives.