The Trials of a Rakugo Performer:
I would be lying if I said this episode didn’t impress me as much as the previous three. Much like Boku Machi, this was the slowest one so far, with no sign of us returning to the present any time soon. Where the last two episodes covered several years each, this one didn’t go too far ahead. Instead, we mainly focused on the daily livings of Yakumo and Sukeroku and how their relationship with rakugo is unfolding. Yakumo is getting better (and by the sounds of it he has moved up a rank), meanwhile Sukeroku gets by solely by doing his performances, partying with girls, and having a laid-back attitude to what comes his way. Yakumo’s story is different, as he has to take on part-time job while giving his smaller venue performances to make ends meet. While the aftereffects of the war aren’t getting much focus, it’s clear that the time he spent by himself has made him more passionate about rakugo; he’s still not there yet (as we see him struggling with the erotic stories), but it’s nice to see him progress.
In comparison, Sukeroku is as good as ever. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, delivering yet another exciting performance. I wasn’t as captivated as I was with his last one, but I did get a chuckle out of the “samu-die” line. My main problem with it, however, was how it didn’t feel near as polished as the rakugo performances that have come before it. The first thing I noticed was the very simple lip movements. It’s something that very rarely stands out when watching animation, but when it does, it’s not usually a good thing. It seemed like they were lacking in-betweens, or there just wasn’t enough detail or variety put into the character animation this week. It was noticeable throughout the whole first half of the episode (the restaurant scene especially). It still looks good enough, but compared to what the first three episodes offered, it just doesn’t pack that same punch.
Miyokichi Arrives – The Beginnings of Disruption:
Thankfully, the second half of the episode looked a lot better, and introduced the final member of the cast that we’re yet to meet: Miyokichi (Hayashibara Megumi), and she certainly makes a memorable first impression. I can already imagine the torrent of hate she’s going to receive for (a) coming in and ‘ruining’ Yakumo and Sukeroku’s relationship or (b) for daring to be attracted to Yakumo. It’s bound to happen, especially after us witnessing the growing bond between Yakumo and Sukeroku; we’ve seen them since they were children, now in their early 20s, and for the first time it feels like their relationship may hitting a bump in the road. While that isn’t the most heartwarming thing to watch unfold on screen, it’s certainly interesting (and expected). You have to remember, after all, that Sukeroku will die at the end of the flashback. We don’t know how exactly, but we can assume that something goes wrong along the way, and a strain in their relationship is the logical first step.
The other thing we have to consider is Konatsu. Now that Miyokichi has been introduced as a geisha, that’s all the confirmation we need that she is Konatsu’s mother. I expected this to be the love story between her and Sukeroku, but in fact, it’s Yakumo who she is attracted to. It’s difficult to tell if he feels the same, but there’s certainly something there. That leads to an interesting question: who will Konatsu’s father be? We’ve assumed (and been told) that it was Sukeroku, but given Konatsu and Yakumo’s temperamental relationship in the present, it feels like there’s more we’ve yet to uncover. Could Yakumo actually be her father? Or will Miyokichi end up with Sukeroku? It’s a difficult situation for the characters involved, especially when we know the tragic ending, but I can’t wait to see how this all comes together.
Overview – What’s Next?:
While this was my least favourite episode so far, it was still great, and it’s still the best show of the season (although Boku Machi is fantastic as well). Part of me wants us to speed through this flashback a little more, but then another part of me wants to know every little detail before the inevitable despair. Next week’s preview shows Yakumo getting cosy with Miyokichi, while he and Sukeroku put on a performance together (with Yakumo dressed as a geisha), which may hint that their friendship isn’t in tatters quite yet.
Well, my apparent less than glowing love with this episode came from the fact that it felt like its OST this time is really too sparse and the distant (but still well done) execution. It feels like I knew Kikuhiko and Sukeroku last episode but for now, it felt like I was watching a well told story from a distance. Part of this show’s charm is its ability to immerse the audience in its world…
… even so…
This is still by far the best new show and the best episode so far this week (well, the Lupin 2015 version is a far runaway winner this time IMO). Now that I addressed my concerns, let me go to my praises:
I only noticed it now that this show loves to rely on body languages to make its point – and man, these are really subtly delivered. From Sukeroku’s sudden change in facial expression (jealousy) to Kikuhiko’s eyes in showing conflict in giving in to his desires or keeping up with his straight-laced facade. The characters remain rich… Kikuhiko is excellently developing as ever and to Sukeroku to a lesser extent.
Just to add: Is it true that the next week’s episode will be 55 minutes?! COLOR ME EXCITED.
I did hear that it was 55 minutes, but then according to syoboi it just looks like a different timeslot, rather than double-length. I hope it is 55 minutes, but I’m going to assume otherwise.
To be honest, I didn’t notice the lack of animation that much – which is why I found this episode pretty enjoyable. I actually found sukeroku’s rakugo pretty enjoyable and probably the funniest out of all of them so far. While I agree that this episode was pretty slow plotwise, I think a lot of important things happened too – aside from Miyokichi’s entrance, I loved focus on Yakumo and Sukeroku’s lives and how much they’ve changed and not changed. I’m loving Miyokichi already (not least because of her voice tbh) and I can’t wait to see what drama she’ll bring… also, I hope we get to hear Yakumo’s erotic rakugo LOL
The first thing I notice when watching anime is the quality of the art/animation. I wish I could say it didn’t bother me, but as someone who studied animation it definitely affects my viewing experience. Just the little things like the limited mouth movement and the lack of detail in the character art (especially in the restaurant scene) is glaringly obvious to me.
If the rumour about next week’s episode being 55 minutes is true and they are penny pinching here for next week’s episode, it would be churlish to quibble.
Ah, fair enough. The one thing that DID stand out to me was how long the camera(?) focused on Sukeroku’s back at one point during his performance. The background art of the town was pretty, though.
And sadly, it’s just being broadcast at 2:55 am in Japan, not a 55 minute episode. :'(
Yeah, it seems it’s just a shift in timeslot. :<
The main avenue of Ginza used to have willow trees planted along its sidewalks; a legacy of the Meiji era reconstruction of the 1870s.
The willow trees have since been removed from the avenue, although some other roads in the Ginza area still have willow trees along the sidewalks.
That’s very interesting – thanks for sharing!
The usual case of Japan’s ruining its environment? I’m not surprised.
You actually walk on a street in Tokyo, then you will find the air is clean, green is everywhere and virtually 0 garbage on the street. The usual case of Japan’s ruining its environment? C’mon. You are accusing one of the least guilty parties among advanced states in terms of pollution.
Miyokichi is suspicious. NEVER trust a geisha lol.
I am itching for the fifth episode’s overview. Fanboy mode: ON.