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.