Miss my last review for Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu? Check it out here!
It’s been a couple weeks since we checked in on Yotaro, Konatsu, Yakumo, and the rest of the Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu crew…let’s take a look at what’s happened in the last couple episodes.
BE WARNED! SPOILERS BELOW!
Following the tragic fire at the theater, the future of rakugo seems bleak. Amidst the uncertainty, Konatsu shares some life-changing news with her idiot husband, Yotaro.
That’s right, Yotaro’s going to be a Daddy (again!) She confirms that it’s his (phew), and Yotaro is over the moon with excitement and happiness.
While Konatsu and Yotaro prepare for the next chapter in their lives, Yakumo and Konatsu attempt to bury the hatchet once and for all in a tender, sunset scene.
Yakumo continues to bear the burden of a double suicide that the viewer knows by now is a wishful illusion, kept up over the years for Konatsu’s benefit. Konatsu realizes that Yakumo has remained alive as long as he has to look after her, despite the tremendous sadness in his heart over the fate of his dearest friend, Sukeroku, as well as his former love, Miyokuchi.
The two reconcile, and look on with content smiles as they watch Shinnosuke perform enthusiastically while listening to Yotaro’s rakugo performance on the radio. As they share this moment, however, Yakumo finds himself transported away to another world, which promptly concludes the episode.
As Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu approaches its end, it was refreshing to see two key relationships tended to in episode 10. Yotaro and Konatsu’s pending child paints a bright future for the couple, as Konatsu’s determined to “Get it right this time”. Yotaro, the well-meaning dork who loves rakugo more than anything, is committed to taking care of his wife and family, and is thrilled at the opportunity to bring another storyteller into the world.
Konatsu and Yakumo’s scene was very poignant, and perfectly timed. Taking place at sunset, alluding to the twilight hours of Yakumo’s life, the two finally begin to understand one another as Konatsu seems to grasp that she doesn’t have much time left. She doesn’t wish to harbor these feelings of hate towards him any longer, and in fact asks him if she can be his apprentice in the closing moments of the show. He accepts her on with a smile; all the more tragic when you consider what happens literally moments later.
The moment the collective audience has dreaded has finally arrived with episode 11: Yakumo is dead. The 8th generation storyteller who dutifully cared for Konatsu, was a loving grandfather to Shinnosuke and worked to brighten the lives of millions has passed into the afterlife. Of course, who else would greet him on the other side but Sukeroku?
He apologizes for the rather drastic encounter they had before; apparently Death took over Sukeroku’s body halfway through and intended on transporting Yakumo to the afterlife right there and then had it not been for Yotaro’s interception.
Sukeroku introduces Yakumo to the perks of the afterlife, including changing age at will. A beautiful storytelling device throughout the episode, both Sukeroku and Yakumo begin as children. Wandering through the afterlife, Sukeroku and Yakumo (though he’s often referred to by his other names, Bon and Kikuhiko, as the journey continues) recount old times with fond nostalgia.
Yakumo encounters Miyokuchi, who has surprisingly come to terms with her relationship with Sukeroku. She understands his sincere kindness, and they both have regret that they left Konatsu behind.
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu’s depiction of the afterlife is pure catharsis, and the episode, while certainly carrying a burden of sorrow, beautifully transports Yakumo from a place of uncertainty regarding his death to ultimately accepting the life he led and be able to pass on into the next world peacefully.
Episode 11 did so many things right, it’s hard to imagine that it actually had one more episode to follow (that review is coming soon). Many fans argued that the show could have ended there. I would agree – with the minor caveat that the final time-skip in episode 12 really broadens the scope of the series and still manages to execute the finale in a memorable way.
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is easily my anime of the season, and taking both seasons into consideration, I would rank it among one of my favorites of the decade so far. In a series that relies so heavily on storytelling, episode 11 is a masterwork of character development, emotional catharsis and ultimately, closure.