A Character Study – Yakumo “Kikuhiko” Yuurakutei:

Watching Rakugo Shinjuu is like watching an exquisitely well made, critically acclaimed live-action film. And not many anime can achieve that level or quality. Although there are dozens of factors to Rakugo Shinjuu’s polished delivery, the most important may be its characters – more specifically, Yakumo. I feel bad for not loving him in the premiere now, because damn… he’s such a compelling individual. More than ever, this episode felt like a character study – showing his deep (and occasionally depressing) thoughts and allowing us to bear witness to his rakugo struggles. I had previously noted that this whole flashback feels like a rakugo performance itself, and that still remains the case. This episode in particular felt like he was reading off the pages of his memoir, showing us the moment where he realised what rakugo was to him and how good he could be at it.

The death and drama hasn’t come yet, but there’s still the occasional moment where Yakumo feels disheartened or disappointed when compared to Sukeroku, who has all the charm and talent for being a performer. It’s been a harder journey for Yakumo, but finally he’s realised why he does rakugo in the first place. As we know, he was forced into this position at a young age. He didn’t appear enthralled by his master’s storytelling when he first began, and it took him all this time to understand that he does rakugo for no one but himself. As selfish as it may sound, it makes complete sense. As someone who aspires to be a writer one day, it made me think to myself: Do I write for other people, or for myself? Of course, I write for others to read, but I write because that’s the stories I would like to read. That’s how Yakumo must feel; he’s finally found comfort in a particular style of rakugo that suits his upbringing and his demenour. We saw it come out in last week’s play when he was fully dressed up as a woman, but even without the make up he’s able to confidently play one without succumbing to his earlier nerves.

Cursed with the Wrong Body:

I appreciated Yakumo reflecting on his pre-rakugo days when he was born and raised in a geisha household, taught how to dance despite being born a man. It was a life he would never be able to live, even if his leg never got damaged, so having him embrace his femininity and familiarity with being around woman is wonderful to see conveyed on stage. Finally, he’s delivering a confident performance that resonates with the audience. He doesn’t aim for the gags like Sukeroku does; instead, he embodies the characters with precision and tells a captivating and occasionally amusing story. It’s less sit down comedy, and more sit down poetry.

What stood out to me from seeing a younger Yakumo get cast from his home was how his story ties with Konatsu’s in the present time. I’m missing her plenty (we may see her as a child before too long), but the line where Yakumo was unfortunate to be born a boy struck a chord with me in the same way that Konatsu’s struggles did in the first episode. If only they were born in different bodies, able to live the lives they desired, things may have been very different. Perhaps that’s why the pair have a sharp relationship in the present; they’ve both had to struggle with what they can and can’t do because of them being born a man or a woman. We know (and witnessed in this episode) that rakugo did work out for Yakumo in the end, but I can only hope that Konatsu gets her time to shine and prove that women also deserve to sit on that stage. Given that there are female performers in real life nowadays, at least we know that rakugo did eventually move with the times.

An Abundance of Anime Original Content:

Would you believe me if I said this episode was 75% anime original? The only scenes that were directly adapted from the manga were the moments shared between Sukeroku and Miyokichi at the start of the episode, Sukeroku laying his head on Yakumo’s lap and talking about doing rakugo for the audience, and Yakumo realising the crowd were enjoying his performance. Everything else was extra, and you would never have been able to tell. A sizeable portion of this adaptation thus far has been anime original, filling in the gaps and giving more life to the characters and the world they inhabit. All the stuff with Yakumo reflecting on his past, meeting with Miyokichi in the cafe, getting emotional over him not knowing why he does rakugo, watching Sukeroku perform, and then the details of the full performance, weren’t there in the manga.

I must mention Omata Shinichi once again, as his directing is something special. I haven’t seen his previous two DEEN titles (Rozen Maiden (2013) and Sankarea), but from what clips I have watched and things I’ve heard, they were among the most acclaimed DEEN shows in the longest time. Once again, he’s killing it with Rakugo Shinjuu; and now we can say that it isn’t all down to the source material, as so much of this original content has been fantastic and almost essential in hindsight. There were so many “wow” moments this week that had me thinking just how well put together this show is. Whether it be the drip of the kettle symbolising Yakumo’s tears, Yakumo carefully taking a step back whilst watching Sukeroku’s performance, the audience being transported during Yakumo’s double suicide story, or the many well composed, wonderfully lit shots that filled this episode from start to finish. I hate to sound like a broken record… but it’s all so damn good!

Overview – What’s Next?:

Once again, another A+ episode. Rakugo Shinjuu can do no wrongs in my books. Initially, I thought I would be desperate to return to the present, but the more time we spend in the past, the longer I want to stay. I want to know every little detail. I want to witness every rakugo performance. I want to see the highs and lows and everything in between – and by the looks of it we may get that next episode. It’s hard to tell whether we’re going to get more original content or whether we’re diving headfirst into the source material, but by the looks of it Miyokichi isn’t too happy. There’s bound to be trouble in paradise, which may lead to the inevitable deadly consequences.

Full-length images: 03, 07.




  1. I also didn’t notice it was mostly anime original until I saw one of your tweets Samu when I searched for the #rakugoshinju hashtag.

    Then we are off again to another excellent episode of Rakugo! Great. I just want to emphasize the genius of that director during Yakumo’s breakdown. I mean, when he realized that Sukeroku is way ahead of him then he rested his head on the wall. That moment he smiled (he just gave up) but his lips began to tremble. We didn’t see him cry but.. darn. We were given some subtle scenes that he did. WOW.

    I also love the moment when he watches Sukeroku’s performance and found out that he really hated the latter’s goal of performing rakugo. This stare…


    … then he almost walked out due to his depressing realization. Then boom. He found his reason for doing rakugo.

    I have a super minor quip in this episode. Some transitions from one scene to another felt too abrupt. It kinda reminded me of Gangsta.’s lovely fifth episode when a piano piece was played but cut midway at the end of the episode.

    PS: Yakumo and Shin-chan, just kiss already! Mou. Kidding.

      1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_UxWeBT1BY

        The full OP. Darn, I am so loving this show.

        Well, I really hope not. As much as this is really ridiculously well written and directed, many are not yet ready to see an excellent story having a label of shounen ai in it. Which is a shame. Ugh.

        PS: I want to read the manga but I want to savor this show ’til the end. That’s why I appreciated Ouran and Kids on The Slope even more because of their anime adaptations.

      2. @ Samui, “Is that so? Then all the more reasons for me to be glad. I want to be surprised.”

        Well, it’s indeed good when you don’t want to be spoiled when watching the anime of one of your fav titles, but it’ll become a problem when said title didn’t get any continuation or full adaptation of the whole original material like plenty of animes out there and there’s no way to read the original content, because there’s no one that willing to work or publish it legally where you live, unless you can read and speak Japanese.
        From the way it’s doing now, it’s bd/dvd sales are projected to sold around 2-3K copies, it’s manga probably got a very tiny boost cuz the boost is not apparent at al unlike bokumachi (the manga only sold around 26K copies on the 1st week) and it’s going to end on the 10th volume anyway, so unless the production committee is willing to spend more budget/funding or there’s someone rich enough that willing to fund more on the continuation, I’ll find it chances to get the 2nd/final season pretty slim. Maybe more ovas to tie up the loose end and finishing the whole story>.< Even, the mangaka (Kumota Haruko's sensei has been advertising the bd/dvd's through her twitter….so the chances for more are dependent on how it's performance in bd/dvd sales+etc.
        Let's just hope that whoever on production committee find/deemed the sales/overall profits of this series later on enough to give it one more season or more ovas to adapt the whole story.
        I've been enjoying this underatted gem very much, so I very much hope to see the whole manga can get adapted well like what we got now….but, if it turns out it didn't get any continuation at all then I guess I'll just have to satisfy myself with the manga only.

  2. Rakugo Shinjuu speaks to me like almost no anime did before. At first I saw that episode extremly annoyed with Yakumo’s character.

    When he’s alone he has such a gentle, fluid line of thought, and all the deepness is lost whenever he interacts with another person, he’s just rude and/or cold. And at first I thought I was annoyed with him as a character from an anime.

    But when I began to explain my fellings to a friend, I noticed that no, that I was annoyed with him as a person, because he himself is so self-centered that that’s the only way he knows how to interact with others.

    And that’s exactly what Rakugo Shinjuu does to me. It makes me feel towards the characters and the story in a personal level. It makes me feel bored watching a Rakugo presentation without making me feel bored with the anime. It makes me feel annoyed with a character without being annoyed with his existance. It’s an anime that provides a level of emotional immersion that, as I said up there, almost no anime did before. And that’s where it shines so bright.

    1. It’s a good thing that Rakugo Shinjuu is able to make you feel that way despite enjoying it, but I think Yakumo’s character has only gotten more fascinating as time has gone on. I’ve admitted that I wasn’t too fond of him in the present time, but here he’s utterly compelling to me now. I certainly don’t think his performance here was boring (if that’s what you were referring to).

      1. In the bored part I was talking about the one that made Youtarou fall sleep. I was feeling also feeling a little bored watching Yakumo’s rakugo (even though his interpretation was awesome), so I could really relate to Youtarou.

  3. I’m amazed that the anime original content did not feel out of place or out of character within the story. It does make me wonder and a little worried that they’ve decided to use so much anime original content. Having never read the manga, I wonder if it’s because they’ve decided to focus on Yakumo and Sukeroku’s past for the main part (and thus have to stretch things out) or was the original manga not long enough for one-cour?

    1. Since the manga is ending with the 10th volume there should actually be enough content for a second season. But I do think they wanted this season to focus (almost exclusively) on the Yakumo/Sukeroku flashback. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I’m glad we’re getting even more details than the source material offered. I kind of don’t want it to end!

  4. It’s incredible how close we can get to these characters. Kudos to the choice of shots and framing. I’m still amazed at how they manage to make so little say so much. For me, what really draws me to this series is how well all of the characters are fleshed out and yet how little useless information is given to us. So much love for this series. 🙂

  5. I know it’s been said again and again, but Ishida Akira’s delivery is completely flawless. I keep thinking that I’ll get tired of the rakugo scenes, but each of them have been unique and captivating in their own way. His impression of Miyokichi was close to perfection (although I think Ishida’s always been good at female/effeminate characters).

  6. I’ve been in love with rakugo shinjuu since the first 40 minutes episode, partly because of good directing and unusual setting (ex-prisoner MC, rakugo and 60’s era) but mostly because of the characters especially Yakumo.
    In episode 1 I already attracted to his character more than the MC but the flash back episodes really makes his characters even more compelling. I never believe he really hate his deceased friend and had a fall out with him, and the flash back episodes made me even sure of that. They had such a tight/brotherly bond to be damaged by outsider even more a girl.
    With this kind of directing, quality and characters I don’t want this story to end. And it’s not a surprise that it’s an anime from DEEN because they had quality anime before like rurouni kenshin. Rakugo shinjuu is definitely my favorite this season and maybe this year.


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