A Breather Episode:
Another week, another episode of Rakugo Shinjuu. The best way I’d describe this week’s offering is that it’s a breather episode – there’s no big rakugo performance to keep us entertained, the drama isn’t heavy (just yet), as we focus more on Yakumo entering a new stage in his rakugo career. It’s good that we got this time to collect ourselves and simply enjoy the characters chatting, drinking, or feeling scorned, because I suspect this will be the last time before the inevitable downward spiral that’s bound to follow.
One reason for the drama taking time is because of the anime original content injected into the series. I mentioned how majority of last week’s material expanded on what was in the manga, but this episode was entirely anime original. Yet, just like last week, it feels essential to the characters, their conflicting emotions, and the individual arcs they have. Yakumo (I should probably call him Kiku or Bon, but I’m so used to calling him Yakumo by this point that I can’t stop) has finally found his passion for rakugo and is being recognised for his ability. For once, his master is choosing him rather than Sukeroku for his tour. Meanwhile, Sukeroku is being forced to shape up and dress properly if he’s to make that final leap. And then there’s Miyokichi, who wants nothing more than to be with Yakumo… but he’s doing everything he can to shun her without being totally honest. So whilst the episode itself wasn’t packed with action, it’s certainly setting up for things to go awry.
A Heartbroken Geisha:
Poor Miyo. Her time on Rakugo Shinjuu has been interesting, even if her entire story is about her love for Yakumo. I’m typically not a fan of a woman’s entire story being based around a man, especially when the men have their own goals, motives, and interests that they aspire for. Yet, I can’t help but love this tragic tale that’s unfolding. Perhaps it’s because Miyokichi is a much more fascinating character than I (and many others) gave her credit for. I never disliked her, but I expected fans to jump on her for being a “homewrecker” or for outwardly expressing her love for Yakumo and now getting in the way of his relationship with Sukeroku. Perhaps those who watch Rakugo Shinjuu aren’t as quick to judge female characters. Either way, I can now say I enjoy her character and her story just as much as Yakumo and Sukeroku.
It’s painful to see how desperate she is to be with Yakumo, who clearly doesn’t feel the same way. He does have his reasons; first and foremost, he’s focusing on his rakugo career more than ever before, while Miyokichi is technically his master’s side piece, so you can tell he feels guilty for that. Yet, his master doesn’t seem as affected by it as Yakumo is himself. Clearly, he prefers the company of Sukeroku to Miyokichi; if you didn’t know any better, you’d think Yakumo were Sukeroku’s partner – they go shopping together, Yakumo picks out his clothes, they bond and drink when no one else is around, he lets him sleep on his lap (which we’ve seen several times now), and he even cleans his ears, which from what I understand is considered an intimate gesture in Japan.
When Miyo arrives on the scene, she’s desperate for the same affection, but he’s just not giving it. He held back on telling Sukeroku about the tour (perhaps because he felt guilty for taking his spot), but if he hadn’t passed by Miyokichi in the street that evening, he likely never would have told her he was leaving. That’s a dick move no matter how you look at it. Yakumo clearly has a lot on his mind, but he has no intention of sharing that with her. He’s stilted when conversing with her, while she tries her best to comply and please him. It’s unfortunate, because earlier on in the relationship it was Miyo who was the driving force, and Yakumo seemed to get swept up in her initiative. Yet here we see her in a meeker state, doing everything she can to please her boyfriend, and getting nothing in return. The kick in the teeth comes in the final moments of the episode when Miyo promised she would wait for him to come visit, to which Yakumo only said “goodbye”, before getting merry with Sukeroku, leaving a heartbroken geisha waiting for a man that’s never going to return.
Overview – What’s Next?:
Initially, I wasn’t as in love with this episode as the previous few, but now that I’ve thought more about what this does for the characters (mainly Miyo and Yakumo), I’ve got to say this was another brilliant episode. The art was shoddy at times and there wasn’t much animation to speak of, but damn, the composition and lighting is ever impressive. The scene where Yakumo and Miyokichi meet in the alley was utterly gorgeous – every detail was crisp, and the colours of the sunset (and Miyo’s painted tears) were perfect for the mood of the scene. Looking ahead, the preview doesn’t give too much away, but it does seem that Sukeroku makes a move on Miyokichi, perhaps when Yakumo is away on his tour. Will he return enraged with his friend or perhaps upset that he (repeatedly) messed up his opportunity to be with Miyokichi while he had it?
Full-length images: 35.