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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen – 08 »« Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen – 06

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen – 07

「#07」

In the end, all great stories are just well told lies.

And here we have it: The big reveal. The twist that no one saw coming, unless you, like me, were spoiled for this detail minutes after the deaths of Sukeroku and Miyokichi last season. Some manga readers just couldn’t contain themselves, and while browsing discussion forums I came across spoilers that I wish I hadn’t seen. All this time, I knew that Miyokichi in fact stabbed Sukeroku, and that the version that Yakumo told Yotaro and Konatsu was fictitious, making the situation so much more romantic than it actually was. I wish I hadn’t known so I could be as shocked as many are right now, but knowing the truth all along has had its rewards. I knew the meaning behind Miyokichi’s presence in the OP, and I read every scene with Yakumo as so much more tragic than we were initially led to believe. He was willing to take this secret to the grave, to be the villain, all to keep the gruesome and tragic truth hidden. But now the cat is out of the bag, though the girl who gave that final push is none the wiser.

I was floored by the version of events that Yakumo told at the end of last season, but I knew others felt it didn’t fit with the tone of the series up until that point – that it almost felt too fairytale like to be believable. And guess what, they were right. What they perceived as bad writing was a calculated ruse, told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator who makes a living out of telling stories. He sells tragedies with a wicked smile, and this was the greatest story of all. We don’t know when exactly the truth becomes fiction in his version of events, but we can piece together that when Miyokichi arrived that day to the performances, she came with a vengeance.

So in the end Miyokichi was the villain that everyone thought she would be. She was the bad bitch who came and ruined everything. But she was also an innocent and sweet girl in her youth who worked as an assistant at that very inn where she would later die. She knew Hii from when he was little and treated him like an adorable little brother. She and her family them moved to Manchuria, and over the war-torn years her family died and she was left stranded. She had to fend for herself, sell her body, appease men to stay alive. When she returned to Japan, she was a changed woman – a scorned woman who saw the grimness of the world and wasn’t the pretty young girl that she seemed on the outside. Hii saw her once more when she was deep in love with her Kikuhiko, and there we have it, in case you thought she was always plotting this and was a cruel mistress from the start. She loved Yakumo. Loved him more than she should have, after every horror she experienced at the hands of men. That’s why when he cast her aside in the way he did, he set off a chain of events that he had no means to prevent.

The debate in the comments two weeks ago about whether Miyokichi is a feminist character was an interesting one to have (you can read my full thoughts here), especially since I knew the truth of that night all along. I suspect even those who thought fondly of her and didn’t hate her like the majority of viewers do will now feel much less sympathy for her, but even knowing that she stabbed Sukeroku, I don’t hate her. Not one bit. Yakumo may be the best-written character of the series (and after this episode, perhaps one of the best-written characters in anime/manga as a whole), but my heart is absolutely with Miyokichi. In my introduction post for RandomC, I mentioned that I loved characters that aren’t often appreciated, or are even hated. Heck, Sansa Stark is my favourite fictional character ever. I make life harder for myself for trying to defend these difficult-to-comprehend characters. Miyokichi doesn’t have the depth and focus that Sansa does, but I disagree with those who think she’s nothing more than a plot device or is an example of a badly written female character. She anything of the sort. She is a woman who has suffered through so much, survived, was the victim of love, had agency when it came to her own long-lasting revenge in stealing Sukeroku from Yakumo, but who still wasn’t satisfied until she took her one true love to Hell with her.

We don’t know the exact events prior to Konatsu arriving to the scene, but my assumption is that Miyokichi didn’t intend to hurt Sukeroku. They were still married at that point, even if distant. That look she gave when she watched Yakumo perform now makes sense. That was the look of someone prepared to kill. Maybe she just wanted to hurt him, but from what we saw she didn’t kill Sukeroku either; he was still able to move swift enough to come to her rescue before falling to his death with her. In the end, the love he had for kicked in despite everything that occurred in that room, and when Konatsu pushed her mother off that balcony in a fit of rage, he went with her. And Yakumo, in that defining moment, chose to grab onto Konatsu to stop her from tumbling with them. So in truth, it was Konatsu who killed her parents, and Yakumo who saved her, and Yakumo who in turn kept that from her for her own good. She’s hated him her entire life, and he’s lived with that for her benefit, which adds a whole other layer to his already fully-realised and compelling character arc.

If you paid attention, you’d have noticed the discrepancies in Konatsu’s gory memories from the premiere compared to the fictional events that Yakumo claimed took place. Funnily enough, I never saw anyone piece those two things together, yet the evidence was there all along. I expect many are still in shock over this revelation, and I don’t blame them. It changes everything, for all of our characters. It shows that Miyokichi was prepared to kill, even if she wept her apologies when she stabbed the wrong man. It shows that Hii, who looked up to her from when he was young and who is only part of this story because of her, will have lingering and complicated feelings for Yakumo now that he knows the truth. It means Matsuda may face consequences for revealing what Yakumo has tried to hide for so long. It means Sukeroku’s final moments were even more tragic than Yakumo’s fairytale made it appear. It means Konatsu is a murderer, whether she knows it or not. As for Yotaro, it means he loves her, now more than ever before. And by that final embrace it appears she’s grown used to his company as well. They seem like a genuine man and wife now, and in the five episode that remain I cannot wait to see where their relationship goes.

Will Konatsu ever find out the truth? If so, how would she take it? I would guess horribly, and would cause her to take drastic actions and reflect on everything she’s done as a mistake. She doesn’t need to know, but I’m keen to see whether she will find out or will be left in the dark forevermore. Will Yakumo die before the series ends? He promises that he will never perform again, with his weak voice and his fear of shame after what just happened. We’ve followed this man’s life for several decades, and as cruel as it may sound, I hope he does die before it’s all over. This is his life story, and seeing him reach the end of it would be the best ending of all, allowing for Yotaro to take the helm and bring rakugo to the greatness that Sukeroku once dreamed and that Yakumo constantly feared.

This story is so rich. So layered. So beautifully and tragically written. Every character feels real and vital and it’s like watching a grand yet intimate epic unfold over many, many years. I don’t want it to end, but after this episode, it feels like we’re getting close to that inevitable conclusion.

 

Preview

February 17, 2017 at 5:53 pm
17 comments »
  • February 17, 2017 at 7:17 pmPanino Manino

    Fast!

    I already wrote a lot about Miyokichi and how Kiku really hurt her even before abandoning her.
    Then she went to live with Sukeroku and their daughter and she did what Kiku told to her the way she could, work to sustain, not only herself, but her husband and daughter, and wasn’t appreciated. Sukeroku was a bum and Konatsu hated because she loved her bum father more.
    Then she discovers that Kiku is in the city, with her family, organizing a show… Imagine her going there believe that after that they would go to Tokyo leaving her behind, and she hears Sukeroku performing Shibahama… We can easily understand her rage.

    But anyway, poor Kiku.
    Maybe even after what happened in that room he would still try to reconcile with Miyokichi and take her with then back to Tokyo? Maybe, maybe he could at least try?

    But Konatsu, that didn’t understood her mother and how she suffered with those to man came to hate her and desire that she died, really killed her. Thinking back the way she talked about her mother, and how she promised to kill Kiku… How he must have felt? He can trace back the reasons for that tragedy to him and he was the only who survived at the end, forced to love with the person who killed his most than best friend and the woman he loved.

    This is just a marvelous history, with a wonderful execution and dignified production values.
    Truly one of the greatest gems in this medium.

    One thing that someone asked, teapots may symbolize something? They seem to appear at especially selected scenes.

    And Matsuda, what maggot.

    Oh, the only thing that Konatsu remembers is Kiku’s glare of hate directed to her.
    Maybe she wonders what’s the reason for that.

  • February 17, 2017 at 8:05 pmusanotsuki

    just thinking of the burden that kikuhiko carried all this while,with konatsu unknowingly and openly hating him make me all teary again..i cried during every episodes of s2 although not all are tear-inducing like this one.. the lingering poignant feeling from s1 continue to haunt me, and added with the revelation on what actually happened at the inn.. every new episode of the series continues to impressed me.. this anime might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s definitely one of the best i’ve watched ever especially on character depth/development and story flow..

    - it was great to see young kiku and sukeroku performed rakugo again!.. love yota’s reaction and proudness seeing his younger master performance.. and i also like that we get to see how yota get transported in the rakugo story; that kind of reiterate how he sees rakugo and why his rakugo is different than the two masters

  • February 17, 2017 at 9:17 pmZ88

    Oh gosh where do I start. First, I do not think Konatsu is the murderer. Although when I think about it, the topic is more of here nor there and it’s a whole new conversation. I do have an affinity towards underrated, under-written and most of all characters who are easily despise by the majority but Samu, I think you are, not to say manipulated, but more of a sense of ‘through rose coloured eyes’ when it comes to Miyokichi. In that regard it’s hard for me to take your evaluation as a systematic analytical review of her character. There are several oxymoron in your sentences when you breakdown her reasons for said act, and I feel as though you are trying to justify her foul actions knowing however immoral it is in our worldview today in society.

    I won’t go as far as to say she is the bad bitch who ruined everything and I take back on what I’ve come to agree from last week’s debate on she is a product of her time. Before knowing anything beside Miyo – The Geisha, I thought – this is coming from my experiences reading historical Japanese literature where most of the girls were sold to a geisha house, hence it was implied here with her situation. Although in Miyokichi case, when she was young she had a stable job as a maid. We don’t know what happened when she moved to Manchuria other than what was spoken out of her mouth, but the hypothesis I’ve come to is clearly that she chose to be one. Why did she not go back to being a maid, or even a nurse after the second world war if she is so to say smart as you said she was? As to why I do not agree she is the product of her time is, A) she chose the route of her life as a geisha B) the phrase of product of your time is how the philosophy and sociology of the place you lived at said time and era influence your way of thinking rather than affect you as a whole being. Now, you can either choose to take it in a positive or negative way is up to the person however, all of her series of unfortunate events is the product of her actions rather than the time she lived in. When was it in the series that she experience horror at the hands of men? What scene and which episode? Was it implied or suggested in any shape or form? Because I missed that. In any case I do not think it is as atrocious, disgusting and derogatory as what Jude went through from A Little Life. And I can say that because you have to understand how a geisha business operates at the time.

    Why I won’t say she’s a bitch who ruined everything is as we discussed. Each character in this show is liable to their actions and that paved a cause and affect to the recipients as well as the narrative. I do agree she intends to kill Bon and Shin stepped in between. With this truth, Bon is the most sympathetic character in Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – from being forced to change his line of artistic expression, to taking up a prominent name due to a sense of duty he had toward the 7th generation, the seesaw of his inner battles of what rakugo means him, to his wish for the four of them to live under one roof together. I don’t think he will die anytime soon as it is more poetic if he lived to see the ending of how things come to be if it choose to end on a bittersweet note. As to Konatsu being the murder, I would put it up as to each their own because it is truly base on the readers interpretation on how they witnessed the scene. I can see the author wants us to ask the question (who is at fault, who instigate it etc), and this was done brilliantly as soon as the whole picture was revealed in the next page/scene as a nugget of reward to her readers. IMHO it really boils down to common sense.

    • February 18, 2017 at 4:32 amPanino Manino

      Miyokichi is not a “bitch” and also not “bad”.
      What she is is a woman, and a person who had a (fictional) life and made mistakes as does the other two. Both Kiku and Sukeroku had a part in all that “tragedy” but people insist in only talking about and blaming Miyokichi. Even if he was the one o “pull the trigger” she doesn’t deserve to be the only one analyzed in this situation.
      Another thing I’ve been noticing is that when talking about time and place and what meant to be a woman in those times, there’s a tendency to forget the male aspect of that society. Not only woman “had” to change, men also, and unfortunately for Miyokichi she was surrounded by man that still cherished the old fashioned ways.

      Seems like this trio had a bad ending.
      Miyokichi died not being loved and hated.
      Sukeroku died poor and forgotten.
      Kiku is dying alone in his shell and without his reason to live on Rakugo.
      The three ended walking the path they tried to flee.

    • February 18, 2017 at 5:50 amSamu

      Miyokichi is simply the sort of character that resonates more with me on a personal level. When women get abuse from audiences for not falling in line with what they want/expect, I latch onto those characters and defend them until the bitter end. I understand Miyokichi isn’t the good guy in all this, but I do think she’s a fully realised character, even if she is minor in comparison to Yakumo and Sukeroku.

      The story of what men did to her was told in the episode where we saw the flashback of her (episode 8). It may not have been shown in present time, but it was used to explain her attitude and it made sense.

      She’s still my favourite of the original trio, even after this episode. I don’t exclusively blame her.

  • February 18, 2017 at 3:16 amParu-u

    As Matsuda san says, they were all victims in the end (and so poor Matsuda san, as he had to watch all the lives of his loves ones turn so tragic). This episode was really brilliant, and the layers of drama added in this season to the layers of drama created in the previous season made this show so emotional. For Konatsu, I would really like that she would never know the truth. She has grown as a strong woman (thanks to Kiku) but I don’t think she will be strong enough to bear the truth. But I would like that she knew that something is wrong with the story of Kiku, and that he is definitely not the villain he claims to say.
    And Yota was finally able to meet Sukeroku. He was definitely a kind of master for him, nearly as Kiku. In his beginning of his life as a zenza, Kiku didn’t teach him much and he learns a lot of things by listening Sukeroku performances, and he copied his style a lot of times. He often said that he felt frustrated that he never had the chance to see him alive, in contrary of every person he lives with. And finally, he had the chance to see him perform rakugo. And this particular performance ! And he was able to understand him so precisely after watching him, this relation between this two is really a particular one.
    Miyokichi loved so much Kiku. We were able to see that she was a kind person when she was young, and staid a kind person in the core, but she had to live so many terrible things in her life that she has started to break herself. And her love for Kiku was so strong.

    I have one question, maybe you all talk already about this so I am really sorry to talk about this again, but I thought about it when Konatsu talk about Shin chan. Kiku used to call Sukeroku Shin san when they were young, and so times after. Was the real name of Sukeroku Shinnosuke ? I don’t think there are many people who know about Shin san, Kiku for sure, maybe Konatsu as well ? Is it possible that the name of the little Shinnosuke was chosen by Kiku ? (if it is, this man is really good for hurting himself..) By the way, we don’t know about the real name of Kiku (it is certainly not “Bon”) ?

    Thanks Samu for the critic, it is as pleasant as ever to read and the commentary part is really interesting~

    • February 18, 2017 at 5:52 amSamu

      Thanks for the kind words! As for the name Shin-chan, I’m not an expert, but I’m willing to guess it’s just a common nickname that fitted both of their names. Konatsu likely named him that intentionally.

  • February 18, 2017 at 5:41 amJJ

    A quick thought about Konatsu – while she may not be consciously aware of it, I think she does know on some level that she was the instigator of her parents’ deaths (I hesitate to use the word responsible, there’s only so much blame I would put on a 6-year old reacting utterly instinctively), and that her resentment of Yakumo is at least partially because he has taken all the blame onto himself. If she truly blamed and despised Yakumo, after all the time she has spent in his care she would know that the best way of hurting him would be to leave him alone, Matsuda aside.

    This series seriously needs to stop being so good, I only have so much effusive praise I can give!

    • February 18, 2017 at 5:53 amSamu

      You may be right, Konatsu still has those visions of what little she does remember, so she likely knows Yakumo is keeping secrets from her. Perhaps she’s prepared herself for the truth all long, we shall see if she ever does know the full story.

  • February 18, 2017 at 9:38 amneko_in_blue

    I’ve been following this series since the beggining, loved Sukeroku deeply and Yotaro know. When this scene appeared I was like “QUE PORRA É ESSA?” our Brazilian equivalence for WTF. I started shouting to the TV and until now Im in utterly shock. I still cannot feel sorry for Yakumo, since he was the responsible for eveything that happened with Miyokichi, he just crushed the girl’s heart with intent. I trully believed she only got envolved with Sukeroku on the hopes Yakumo would be jealous, but she failled miserablil, since Sukeroku was, until today, the most important person to him. I really believe she lost her mind for good in the end. And I dont think he saved and raised Konatsu with anything but guilt and trying to atone for his sins. I think the biggest weight was on Matsuda-san who spent so many years protecting this awful truth for his master’s sake and Konatsu’s as well. I wonder how Yotarou will deal wih this huge lies that has endure for so long. They were all Yakumo’s victim for so long.

  • February 18, 2017 at 9:46 amArchiepiscopus

    Well, I don’t feel so strongly about this plot twist but I do think it’s disappointing and rather dumb.

    How old was Konatsu? 5 or 6? A child that small pushed a grown woman several feet and down a balcony? What? I dunno, it just seems stupid. And also Sukeroku being unconscious one second to leaping forth and grabbing her in the blink of an eye. It seems very contrived to me, much more than the romanticized lie Yakumo spun.

    Not to mention it just shits on Miyokichi’s character. Now it’s not like I dislike her, but I can’t feel any sympathy for her. She literally ruined everything, destroying lives and Yakumo’s happiness forever.

    • February 18, 2017 at 11:23 amjoyofthejoui

      She staggered backwards in an emotional state without realizing the balcony was behind her. There’s nothing to indicate Sukeroku was unconscious, probably semi-conscious with the pain, the voice of his daughter crying out would definitely have caught his attention.

      We already knew Miyokichi tried to murder someone. It was Kiku in his romanticized story, which obviously was told for Konatsu’s benefit, that her mother wouldn’t have hurt her father.

    • February 18, 2017 at 10:05 pmYukie

      There was a shot in the anime where it shows Sukeroku opening his eyes from Konatsu’s wail and another one showing Kiku trying to stop Sukeroku from going but to no avail.

  • February 18, 2017 at 5:15 pmdanny

    I was also spoiled but was able to mentally gloss over the finer details. Konatsu is not a “murderer” and she didn’t murder her parents. We could just as easily blame Matsuda, who collapsed instead of taking Konatsu out of the room as Bon demanded. If you want to tag someone with “murderer”, Miyo was the only one with anything like murderous intent. She was the one who brought a knife and actually used it. But there truly is no murderer here which is part of what makes everything so complex. It was a tragic accident.

    But the truth in this sequence is unchanged from Bon’s fictional version: it’s a chain of events without a singular starting point. Does it start with Miyo’s experience before she met Bon? Does it start with Bon having been abandoned as a child? Does it start with Miyo abandoning her family, or, earlier, her hating on rakugo and eventually her own child because of her similarities to her father? Does it start with Shin being a horrible, lazy, irresponsible husband and father? Because the chain doesn’t start with Konatsu pushing her mom in anger anymore than it began with Miyo pushing against a rotting railing in angry reaction. I think it was clever to have this reveal in the same episode Konatsu mentions karmic retribution to Bon. Any number of different decisions and actions could have prevented the accident but each one which led up to the accident seems unavoidable. Anything else would have been out of character for all of these people.

    I do agree that I don’t dislike Miyo. I don’t admire the decisions she made after Bon broke up with her and, as a woman myself, I don’t like her begging style of dealing with men. I wouldn’t defend decisions she made and think some were absolutely terrible. But women are just as capable as men are of making terrible, selfish, awful decisions and I truly appreciate Miyo for being a fully complex, deeply constructed female character. No, she’s not a feminist hero with only admirable traits. She’s not an overbearing, unkind villainous woman, either. She’s a woman of poor, selfish decisions. I not only don’t dislike her, I actually do like her. I like watching her in this show and appreciate how difficult it is to build a character who has fault but cannot be simply and easily blamed. Everything bad does not rest on just her.

    About this version of events: I do wish it had been presented more realistically because Bon’s version actually made more sense (if still unlikely). If this is supposed to be more believable, from how it’s visually presented it’s not. If we had seen a glimpse of Shin beginning to move towards his wife and child; if we had seen Miyo framed by the window before Konatsu pushed her…. but that setup is missing.

    I didn’t expect to see Bon so weak, exposed, and vulnerable in the scene with Konatsu. She’s going about their usual sparring and he offers none of it in return. Their spiky relationship, the gestures of caring and affection quietly occurring even as they trade nasty barbs… I hope for some sort of positive resolution to it before he lets go of life.

    • February 18, 2017 at 5:28 pmdanny

      Also, wanted to mention how, it appears that from Bon’s own perspective, he is the murder regardless of how it was carried out. His life has been one of regret ever since he realized he missed Shin and Miyo and wanted them back into his life. He had been an insecure and arrogant young man who rejected the two people he loved because he was convinced it was the best for all of them. He seems to be fully accepting of that responsibility and I don’t see him as being untruthful in letting Konatsu believe he was the killer. He hates himself as much as he’s let her hate him. It’s why he’s been able to keep Konatsu away, emotionally, and expects to take rakugo to the grave with him, because he’s only destroyed everything he’s openly loved.

      I don’t agree with him, only offering it as what I believe his perspective is.

    • February 18, 2017 at 6:33 pmPanino Manino

      “if we had seen Miyo framed by the window before Konatsu pushed her…. but that setup is missing.”
      I don’t see a problem with this, that’s the “non romanticized” version anyway, what happened in those last moments was unexpected to everyone there, no one was predicting what precisely would happen next, everyone was take by surprise.

  • February 20, 2017 at 8:04 amNikki

    For those saying Konatsu should not have been able to push Miyo obviously have not worked with children. I am a preschool teacher, and when children are angry they cannot control their own strength. I have my fair share of bruises and sprains caused by upset children. If they are put through something traumatic, they can retaliate. I would not be surprised if something like this could happen in real life.

    Anyway, Yakumo is seriously cementing the spot as one of my favorite characters of all time, and I have not had a character like that since, well, I first started watching anime twelve years ago. I also still do not hate Miyo, but I would not be surprised if she was planning to try to kill Yakumo and Sukeroku protected him.