Master Yakumo is making a slow, but steady recovery following his collapse in the theater a few weeks prior. While looking after Shinnosuke he’s visited by Higuchi, who shows off newspaper articles and other memorabilia from his early days in rakugo during and immediately after the war.
Yakumo’s reaction to the pictures reveals his general softening as a character, as well as providing a poignant moment for the viewer to recall the journey we’ve all taken along with him. Looking upon the black and white photos in the picture book, you have a moment of nostalgia as well as you remember Sukeroku and the stories he told.
After Yotaro and Konatsu encounter Yakumo on a nearby bridge, they realize that the old rakugo master is contemplating suicide. Having lost the ability to tell his own rakugo, he is terrified at the thought of an existence within which he can no longer perform. Yotaro and Konatsu both implore him not to kill himself for very different reasons: his student still has much to learn and wants his master to share his rakugo despite his failing health while Konatsu still insists he has yet to atone for his sins.
Her furious gaze carries with it a deep sadness, as it is alluded that she is aware of what really happened the night her parents died.
Yotaro is committed to helping his master re-discover his love of rakugo, and so in typical Yotaro fashion he plots to gather some of Yakumo’s biggest fans and encourage him to tell one more story. Yakumo is unimpressed and nearly walks out when the Mistress of the Inn grabs him by the collar and throws him into the room.
A comedic moment executed perfectly, Yakumo is given no choice but to face the audience. In scanning the room he realizes that there are still quite a few friends that he knows and respects that are desperate to hear his rakugo once more, and the revelation gives him encouragement. Before conceding, however, Yakumo allows Yotaro to perform for them first, as there’s a story his student is desperate to have him hear.
Yotaro takes the stage and performs a masterful rendition of “Shibahama”, and this is where the emotional power of the episode hits its apex. Thanks to Higuchi, Yotaro witnessed Sukeroku tell this story first hand, and as a result he is able to effectively channel the spirit of Sukeroku. His mannerisms and storytelling ability are so similar to Sukeroku’s, in fact, that both Konatsu and Yakumo are visibly moved by the performance.
As Yotaro concludes his story in tears, he tells his Master that he was able to learn how to perform Shibahama properly by watching the video, and that he had seen Yakumo perform rakugo and he seemed so happy then. Even with his master’s voice failing, Yotaro fails to see why Yakumo should abandon rakugo altogether.
Konatsu also has a confession of her own, handing Yakumo the fan that he had dropped that night in the theater.
Overwhelmed by his student’s performance and the realization that Konatsu is becoming increasingly aware of his love for her late father, we see Yakumo embrace the opportunity to tell one last story.
Unfortunately for Yakumo and the rest of the party, that’s when the authorities decide to show up to arrest the mob boss.
Uncivilized heathens! Don’t they understand what they’ve done?! That was basically my response once the door slid open.
Another week, another fantastic episode of my favorite series this season. Whether Yakumo tells his story now or later…I know there’s one great story left in Master Yakumo, and I can’t wait to hear it.