Reunion in Hell:

We’ve been gradually building up to the moment where everything would go horribly wrong, and now we’ve reached it. Rakugo Shinjuu is a tragedy in the making, and watching the horror unfold week by week is proving equally painful and brilliant. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say this was perhaps the best episode yet (or at least at the same level of quality as the 1st and 3rd episodes), and easily the most breathtaking. From the opening shot of the ocean ripples, I knew we were in for a treat. This whole episode was a masterpiece, from the crisp and colourful visuals to the powerful OST in the moments that demanded our attention. I found myself pausing from time to time just to take in what was happening and how beautiful (and tragic) it all appeared.

The most powerful scene has to be the final encounter between Yakumo and Miyokichi. The dim lights, the purple petals, the distance between them… it’s a perfectly set up scene that was destined to happen. It started off well, as both the characters and the audience knew this was going to be their “breakup” scene. Yakumo was as frigid as ever and tried to encourage Miyo to take a different path now that she’s being forced to retire as a geisha. But as everyone in this show makes terrible decisions from time to time, she instead digs her heels and insists on being by a man’s side. While I would normally hate this sort of confession, after getting her backstory last episode I can totally see where she’s coming from – she finds comfort in being with someone, in acting like the person they want her to be. It’s part of her job, but it’s clearly rooted in who she is a person after being left in a foreign land with no family and nowhere to call home. Of course, she doesn’t react kindly to Yakumo’s words – the pair don’t even know each other’s real names, to top it off. When she stands up and the wind blow the petals into the room, and the music swells with Miyokichi’s words, it’s easily the most striking moment of the entire series, made even more spine tingling by her deadly promise, of which I believe every word:

I will have revenge. Perhaps I’ll die and haunt you… What is it? Is it that funny? The next time I see you will be in Hell.

The Gift of a Title:

Meanwhile, Sukeroku and his master have their own dramatic turn of events. Ever since Yakumo (Kiku) started finding his stride, it’s been obvious that he was the preferred pupil. While Sukeroku is just as entertaining as the first time he stepped on stage, his mannerisms and lifestyle is off putting in the eyes of the rakugo superiors who barely granted his promotion. Last week brought up the interesting notion of whether rakugo should stick to its traditions or change with the times. It’s a fascinating question, but Sukeroku’s ideas aren’t well received. It’s a tricky scenario, because I think the need to change and grow is essential in any art form, but holding close to what makes it so special is just as important. His master sees it as reckless, but Sukeroku blurts out the wrong words and ends up calling his style of storytelling ‘boring’. It all happened so fast, but just like that they were almost brawling, resulting in Sukeroku being expelled and unable to perform in the theatres.

This all comes down to the importance of a name. Even though Kiku has grown as of late, Sukeroku always seemed like the likely candidate for “Yakumo”. Even in this episode both Sukeroku and Kiku are/were convinced that was how it would go. Up until he was expelled, Sukeroku was telling people it was going to be his, and when Kiku was actually given permission to inherit the name, he could only think that he didn’t deserve it, pleading that Sukeroku return and have it instead. This is another example of the audience already knowing how this turns out, but finding out the details in such a tragic fashion almost feels like we never the final outcome in the first place.

Grief, Revenge, and Sukeroku’s Farewell:

Speaking of inevitabilities, this episode saw Miyokichi and Sukeroku become an item. Sukeroku had eyes on her since she first appeared, but it’s only until she swore revenge against Kiku that she accepts Sukeroku’s feelings. Both of them know what they’re doing here, regardless of whether their intentions or honest or not. What I will say is them coming together like this felt perfectly natural, as both were scorned or tossed aside, finding each other in their lowest moments to quell one another’s grief. Of course, this appears to be part of Miyo’s grand plan (if she’s really thinking that far ahead), but it’s important that she wasn’t the sole ripple that caused this to happen. These two came together like this after a series of bad decisions, rakugo politics, and differences in opinions among the other members of the cast.

Yakumo and Sukeroku were never going to be together forever, but this felt like a proper farewell. With Miyo pregnant with Sukeroku’s child, she’s decided to return to the countryside, and since nothing is holding him back, Sukeroku agrees to go with her, to which Yakumo doesn’t understand. He so desperately wants his friend/brother to stick around and return to rakugo, but things just aren’t going to work out that way. Sukeroku is either too stubborn or just not cut out for the world of rakugo. He may be the star of the stage, but everything else behind the curtain is a world he’ll never fully be a part of.

Overview – What’s Next?:

Honestly, what an episode. It felt less like an anime and more like a top-quality live-action drama. Think Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, or some other acclaimed show I’ve yet to watch. Up until this point this flashback arc has been playing its cards carefully and slowly, giving us plenty to enjoy and laugh about. But this episode was the equivalent of flipping the board and shouting “Start over!”, expect half the cards have gone missing and most of the players don’t feel like playing any more. It’s cruel, horrible, and the outcome is going to be tragic. Next week looks just as dramatic as what was on offer here, with the current Yakumo falling ill and seemingly passing away. But with baby Konatsu arriving on the scene, perhaps we’ll be in for some sweetness before despair destroys the boards once and for all.

Full-length images: 08, 33.




    1. My take on it (as I said in this week and last week’s review) is because of Miyokichi’s past. She’s clearly attracted to men and finds herself relying on them due to what she’s had to go through. I imagine she’s brilliant at her job (at pleasing/teasing men in ways they want to be without going all the way), but it appears to have affected her own decision making as well.

      1. She was breeded into the old society that didn’t allowed liberties for her, with her past and family lost she gets disgraced, and now is lost in between the new Era. She is as blind as some Rakugo masters, and Kiku could talk a bit more and clearly with her.
        Well… it’s all fucked now.

        Panino Manino
  1. “It felt less like an anime and more like a top-quality live-action drama. Think Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, or some other acclaimed show I’ve yet to watch.”

    Like Lost?

    Panino Manino
  2. First, great review. I love reading them after watching the episode. Thank you.
    I think another reason that Miyokichi chooses to live her life beside a man is that she is a woman of her time. Although there were women making different choices than hers in 1940’s Japan, I am going to hazard a guess that most women were brought up to be someone’s wife, mother, girlfriend, or mistress. There weren’t many roles outside of the home for women in the first place, maybe as entertainers, like geishas, singers, and actresses? I don’t want to judge Miyokichi by contemporary standards. Her choices are quite limited.

    1. That’s a very fair point. In fact, some would argue that plenty of Japanese women are in the same situation in this day and age. I’m sure there are two sides to the story and women who are more comfortable one way or another, but clearly Miyo knows what she’s more comfortable with.

      Also, I’m glad you enjoy my reviews!

    1. I’d be fine with that! All the same, as another commenter mentioned down below, both KonoSuba and this one are excellent shows. Props to Studio Deen! And I can’t believe I’m saying that…

  3. I just want to make a comment with the excellent direction this week. Man, it was not only sublime, it became really artsy too. I supposed it was done way ahead of other episodes given the artwork and the animation was just on a different level.

    Nevermind me, my heart was shattered for the three this week.

  4. Hey, I just want to thank you for reviewing this show. This show has a small fandom. Every week I find myself hungry for reviews and reactions for this show (like refreshing reddit, 4chan, Tumblr, Youtube and twitter every hour hungry, he he). And you deliver every week! I just got to thank you for that. Your thoughts are very informative and you catch things that I don’t on my first watch.

    Miyokichi is a complicated character for me. I liked her in this episode because at least she knows herself. Despite what Bon thinks, it wouldn’t be easy for her to get a new job/trade. She is almost in her 30s and a prostitute/ex-mistress. It would be hard for her to be accepted in any occupational establishment. The only way she was able to get geisha training was because Bon’s master sponsored her. I don’t blame her for not attempting to get a job. She’s just being a realist.

    But, I’ve never felt comfortable when It comes to her interactions with Bon. Bon gave her mixed signals and treated her poorly in ep 7 & 8 I agree but she wanted something from him that he didn’t want to give, and she probably always knew that deep down (I mean she even doubts his interest in women yet she kept pushing him for a sexual/romantic relationship despite what looked to me like his discomfort what with his body language, and even if he did love her romantically/sexually it doesnt really take away from his discomfort/reluctance which would still be valid whatever the reason behind it). On one hand its admirable for her not to give up but on the other it’s like she didn’t even care if he returned her feelings as long as she could play the role of his “woman.” After all, it’s not only his breaking up with her that triggers her vindictiveness it is also his rejection/disapproval of that kind of relationship (indifferent master and obedient mistress).

    I agree Sukeroku knows what he is getting into with Miyo. It’s not like he is passionately in love with her either but he definitely loves her and wants to care for her.
    And I alao agree that many things seperated Bon and Shin, including themselves. It’s so sad because even though they had a “break up” last episode, I think Bon always thought something like “we’ll always have Rakugo.” But, now they might not even have that.

    Thank you for your reviews! I’ll definitely be reading all your future ones.

    1. You’re welcome!

      Pretty much agree with your thoughts. Bon and Miyo had a strange relationship that always felt one-sided. But early on there was affection between them, until he decided to instead focus on his career.

  5. Really like your balanced analysis of Miyokichi. It’s not difficult to see that she is taking revenge on Kiku by taking away the one person whose existence he really doesn’t want to live without, but the way the cards have fallen make it hard to blame her. Whilst hardly healthy, she and Sukeroku found companionship in each other when both needed it.

    As for Sukeroku, I’m a little surprised that he assumed that the title would be his when he wasn’t even willing to give face to any of the elders. Even if he’s skilled, it’s like he was trying to rub it in their faces, and that’s just rude, so I would have expected that he’d be punished in some way. That said, I didn’t expect that they could just expel him from the industry altogether…

    p.s. I also just want to note that I haven’t touched the manga yet–when I commented last week, I really didn’t know that ‘the way the rakugo world works’ would have so much relevance for the content of this episode! I just thought it might be possible to look it up, as another interesting avenue for discussion.

    1. I’m SO used to be people blaming the female characters for everything when I think it’s much easier to step back and look at every character’s POV before making sweeping judgements on them. Even if Miyo does end up the “villain”, I think she’s perhaps the most compelling character to watch on screen. There’s a certain unpredictability to her that always has me gripped.

  6. I actually expected Bon to get the title, and not just because we already know he got it before the flashback – there’s been a lot of favoritism on Yakumo 7’s part from the very beginning. I did think Shin was getting less charming and a bit obnoxious, but his visions for what rakugo could be and instead wasn’t, coupled with his longing for a world he’s been shut out of, makes him a pretty damn tragic character. Also, I don’t know how anyone could hate Miyokichi – dependent as she is, she’s got nothing left and honestly, Bon has been absolutely frigid (though he’s got his own issues I suppose). It’s really quite sad to see Miyo and Shin together licking each other’s wounds. That cherry blossom scene sent shivers down my spine as well – it was tragically gorgeous.

  7. Another beautiful episode. Last ep did a great job setting up the fight between current Yakumo and Sukeroku… with the current head speaking about his insecurities. The moment Sukeroku blurted out “boring” I knew he was a goner. Sukeroku’s problem is that he simply hates abiding to the rules. He likes to believe that he’s beyond them because that was the way things were for him up to this point (though it is clear from what we’ve learned that the only reason nothing bad has happened so far is because Kiku and Yakumo have been doing all the apologizing). From that perspective, he’s kind of like a child and that’s both his weakness and his charm.
    Kiku, is the complete opposite, who is too scared of venturing outside of the rules because he simply wants it too badly. He may succeed but he will never be completely happy (since he’s confined himself inside a box).

    Sorry about the long comment, but this series really gets me blabbering out of love for it.

  8. Who would thought that the infamous Studio Deen would be able to produce such a rare and great show (actually two, KonoSuba is great toobut for other reasons).

    And if i’ve learned something in all my years watching anime, is that when they roll credits instead of the usual opening, Shit got really serious.

  9. This episode was really sad. It was horrible to see Sukeroku being the way that he was after being rejected by his master and expelled. To see Miyochi and Sukeroku finding comfort in each other’s arms, yet it was obvious that both weren’t with their love of their lives (for Miyochi it was Kiku, for Sukeroku it was Rakugo). I couldn’t believe Miyochi was so openly missing Kiku even in Sukeroku’s arms… Here’s hoping the arrival of the baby will actually make them a family of love and not of convenience…

    And this. I think this was really powerfully done. The one thing that bonded these two is about to be taken away.

  10. Tragic masterpiece, for sure. I’m actually scared to watch the next couple of episodes. A woman scorned, as they say. This can only get worse from here.

    The fight between Sukeroko and Kiku was just plain sad. They’ve had their disagreements before, but there was some strong jealousy and scorn behind Sukeroko’s words here. We’ve gone through the series for so long from Kiku’s point of view; he’s always been a little envious of Sukeroku, despite the strong feelings he’s also had for him of course. Here, on the other hand, we get to see Sukeroko’s jealousy towards Kiku. It’s certainly a jarring change, but also understandable. And also a sign of how much has changed, given how successful Kiku is now. Sad thing is, his success is also destroying so many relationships around him.

    Here’s hoping that with baby Konatsu also comes Kobayashi Yuu. She’s always been one of my favorite seiyuu(and it sucks we didn’t get too much time with her in this series). As much as I love the current story, I do hope we go back to the present by the end. A second season would be nice, too!

    Thanks for the great review, as always! It’s not an underrated show(as everyone seems to love it), but it’s too bad it’s not more popular.


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