Sukeroku’s Swan Song:

This settles it. This show is a masterpiece. Week after week we were building up to the grand finale of this flashback, and even when we all knew what was going to happen, it was still beautiful and devastating to watch. But before I dive into the latter half of the episode, I’d like to shed some light on Sukeroku’s swan song, and how it was the perfect story for him to tell in that moment. With Konatsu watching and Yakumo listening from the sidelines, we get another proper full-length performance – I wouldn’t say it was as funny as Yotaro’s in the first episode, or as well-earned as Yakumo’s mid way through the season, but I definitely think this was the right story for Sukeroku to tell. While he specialises in slapstick comedy, he went for something more meaningful – something that is relevant to his life and what he’s going through, as it’s practically his life story with Miyokichi.

It’s the story of a man who won’t get up to do his job, who finds himself in luck when he encounters a large sum of money, using it as an excuse to live how he likes. But once he’s told that the money he found was all a dream and he’s got himself in debt, he changes. He goes out of his way to become a better man over several years, until his wife finally tells him the truth of the washed up purse – that it was real all along. That she lied to stop him from becoming the man she feared he would become. And his reaction to that lie? He was thankful; thankful because it made him the man he wanted to be. There were some gags here and there which made the audience giggle a few times, but it was the most thoughtful performance we’ve seen him give, which makes it even more poignant knowing it would be his last.

The Inevitable Tragedy:

And that brings us to the big events of the episode (and the series as a whole): the deaths of Sukeroku and Miyokichi. We knew it was coming from day one, yet the details always remained blurry. I had my own expectations going into the episode, but I have to say this turned out so much better than I thought. I could honestly write a few thousands words unpacking how powerful this scene is and how wonderfully written each of these characters are, but I’ll save myself the finger cramps and just say that it was a perfect finish. Now the title makes perfect sense: “Shouwa and Genroku Era Lover’s Suicide Through Rakugo”. Many were wondering what the “lover’s suicide” would entail, but it always seemed clear to me that it referred to Sukeroku and Miyokichi, as they were the two characters we knew died. But it’s also possible to read Miyo’s initial intentions as the true lover’s suicide.

Speaking of Miyo, I loved how she was depicted in this episode. She came in like a woman with a mission, only to return to the arms of the man she loves and turn soft when confronted with the situation at hand. I do think she intended to die there and take someone with her, but not in the way she expected. Her reaction to Sukeroku’s desperate words came off as sincere despite everything they’ve been through. She explains to Yakumo how quickly she went off Sukeroku, for all the reasons that were made clear in last week’s episode. And like I said, her reasons are valid, even if it meant abandoning her daughter like she did (which is still a terrible thing). She’s made some horrible decisions and is fuelled by rage and passion, but she showed some humanity in her final moments, her body shaking as she was about to meet her end, seemingly accepting Sukeroku’s promises.

Oh, Sukeroku. Poor Sukeroku. All of this has been building up to his death, so even when he delivered a wonderful performance, I couldn’t help but think “When is he going to die?”. Just as he is returning to the rakugo world, everything goes horribly wrong. After hearing Miyo’s honest feelings about their relationship, he had a sudden change of heart, promising he would do as the man in his story did. Perhaps this moment would have felt more sudden if not for the rakugo performance before it, but because we did get to hear that heartfelt story from Sukeroku, it all works on a thematic level, except we all knew it wasn’t going to play out like that.

So while Sukeroku promised he would change, and Miyokichi seemed to be accepting his words, Yakumo is caught in the middle of this mess. His life is threatened by the woman who adores him, after licking up her tears (which was a pretty WTF moment), proving that there was still some feelings between the pair. He tells Miyo that he thinks this all his fault, and she agrees. And while I do think his actions added fuel to the fire, it doesn’t take away the poor decisions of every other character leading up to this climactic finish. Yakumo sees this as an oppertunity to bring everyone back together and live happily ever after in Tokyo, but before issues can be resolved and the air cleared, the balcony breaks. From the opening shots of the episode I knew it must be somehow involved, and in her weakest moment, Miyokichi takes a tumble. Sukeroku calls out her real name (Yurie – which was the first time Yakumo ever heard it) and catches her. Yakumo holds on to them both for as long as he can before Sukeroku accepts his fate. It all happened so fast, and at the end of it all there was no attempted murder, as had been hinted at in the first episode or with Miyokichi’s suspicious glances earlier in the one. But for as striking as the whole sequence was, it’s Sukeroku’s haunting final words that still ring in my ears:

“I can’t let her fall to Hell alone.”

One Grand Rakugo Performance:

More than anything, this final scene – and this flashback as a whole – feels like one long, detailed, funny, endearing, hopeful yet terribly tragic rakugo performance. We’ve seen Yakumo from childhood to adulthood, watched him form that difficult yet unbreakable bond with Sukeroku, fall in love with an unfortunate soul, and had to accept the title which he never felt he deserved. From the moment Yakumo and Miyo are alone in that room, it turns into a theatrical performance that would be fitting for a stage play, depicting this tragedy in the most romantic fashion possible, just in time for us – the audience – to dab our teary eyes and gush over how glorious it was to behold.

Overview – What’s Next?:

I have never come across an anime where the three leads are equally compelling, complicated, loveable, and detestable. I’ve tried racking my brain to think of any as developed as Yakumo, Sukeroku, and Miyokichi in just 12 episodes, but there are none. As I’ve said several times before, they feel less like characters and more like real people; complicated people who make bad choices and are fuelled by passion and lust and who end up making things worse for themselves and everyone around them. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu simply wouldn’t be the same without the three of them. They have made this arc what it is: a masterpiece.

The sad news is there is only one episode left. However, we’re going to be returning to the present! After 12 weeks we’re going to see Yotaro and (adult) Konatsu again, and I can’t wait. The premiere fooled us into thinking the story would be entirely about them, which took me by surprise at first, but I quickly came to love Yakumo’s life story, and realise now why we had to see it unfold the way it did. I can only hope next week won’t be the last we see of this series and of these characters. By the looks of it we’ve jumped a few years ahead in the present time, as Yakumo now has a full head of white hair, Yotaro has shaved his, and Konatsu’s has grown out. I look forwarding to seeing them together again, but I’m sad to see the inevitable tragedy of Sukeroku come to an end. His death is an injustice, but his passing is sure to drive the remaining cast on their own journeys ahead.



  1. Shinju has also a metaphorical meaning,which is, “to dedicate your life to something”. This will apply to Yakumo’s life for sure. Also Shinju doesn’t mean joint suicide *not only with* lovers, *but* can be between family (sad, yeah) or friends.

  2. I daresay that this surpasses Erased as AOTS. Erased was very good but it felt more like a roller coaster ride with ups and downs. Rakugo instead grabs you by the feels from the very first episode and never lets go until the end.

    1. Agreed! Though for me there’s no ‘daresay’ about it – I’ve thought if from the very first episode. There’s a certain quality here that is increasingly rare in anime.

  3. For once, I understand the reason why Sukeroku finally raised the white flag with rakugo. Heck, your younger brother in bond is bound to die and your wife is dragging him all the way to hell. It’s been a recurring theme in this season that Miyokichi is not interested with rakugo at all – she stays and leaves due to Kikuhiko’s performance. I even doubt she listens to his rakugo at all because her complements revolve Kiku’s looks rather than his performance. Notice she even left when Sukeroku started his performance.

    Miyokichi thought the very same thing which her husband loved is also the thing that kept her away from the man she loved so a scorned woman did this. Overboard? No. She is way past her prime and her experience taught her to seek that path. We might hate her but she has no other choice. Her profession values youthful beauty (granted she is really gorgeous but time is not kind with everyone). Her younger years were full of deception so it must be embedded to her that she lives and dies with a man.

    Sukeroku knows her hatred to that profession and her desire to be with Kikuhiko so he made his last wager to set the latter free from her macabre plan. It must be really hard to finally give up the thing you always wanted. Probably it is due to his hiatus as a performer but man, to say goodbye with your passion will reduce an individual to a bawling mess. Poor Sukeroku.

    For Kikuhiko, he gave in to his human desires. That’s all. He has been lonely being alone and he was carried away in the mood – much like what humans do. I think he is the least messed up in the three but his actions do not acquit him from being a flawed character.

    Now that I think about it, I am glad the death scene was not that dramatic. I expected waterworks but they kept it to a point where we are still shocked but was subtle enough not to be called a melodrama. This kind of shock is the very thing I will most remember this season. We know there is a car crash and when it will happen but darn when it arrived – we are left just as wrecked. Don’t mind me. Let me pretend there are butterflies, happy people and rainbows in that episode because… my heart, I cannot. T-T

    Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu locked the deal for me to include it to my most favorites.

  4. Show Spoiler ▼

    Or this is seriously making my head crack… I should just wait for the next episode

      1. Show Spoiler ▼

      2. Only if you really, really, want to know, otherwise don’t read this
        Show Spoiler ▼

      3. Double warning: Don’t click that spoiler tag!
        Show Spoiler ▼

      4. I said it before
        Show Spoiler ▼

    1. Spoiler tagging that because you know why 😉

      @BigFire: True, the final volume comes out in Fall, which would leave the perfect amount for another 1-cour S2. We can hope…

      1. I would take a sequel in any form, but since the remaining chapters perfectly add up to another 12-13 season I think that would be best. DEEN has done a stellar job, I just hope they don’t stop here. Next week is gonna be painful 🙁

      2. Good think they gave this series to Omata. He is the only DEEN director who can handle this stuff. I just hope that manga sales bust (I heard it added around 1kk copies sold) will convince the publisher to make more anime.

  5. Aaah… knowing that the tragedy was coming didn’t make it any less sad. I think the thing that surprised me most, even though it makes sense in retrospect, was that there was genuine mutual love between Miyokichi and Sukeroku – it’s always felt like they were together just as a result of Bon’s rejection of both of them… Miyokichi was quite right when she said both of their lives went off track because of him. It just drives the tragedy home when Miyokichi and Sukeroku reconcile in their last moments. 10/10

  6. In history, the Genroku period (1688-1704) of Japan’s Tokugawa-shogunate era was marked by a rapidly expanding commercial economy and the development of a vibrant urban culture centred in Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo (Tokyo).

    Similarly, the Genroku in “Showa Genroku” could be referring to a similar growth of the economy and urban culture in post-war Japan during the later Showa era, echoing the earlier Genroku period.
    This rapid growth and prosperity would last until 1989, when Japan’s ever-growing asset price bubble burst and crashed the stock market, causing Japan to fall into an economic stagnation which still lasts until today.
    1989 also marks the passing of the Emperor Hirohito/Showa and the end of the Showa era proper, leading into the Heisei era under his son, the Emperor Akihito.

  7. “I have never come across an anime where the three leads are equally compelling, complicated, loveable, and detestable. I’ve tried racking my brain to think of any as developed as Yakumo, Sukeroku, and Miyokichi in just 12 episodes, but there are none.”

    Haibane Renmei, most definitely. Didn’t exactly have three leads, just two, but it had lots of seconds, and they were all very deeply developed.

    1. Haibane Renmei certainly has developed characters, but unlike Shouwa, the characters and story were never interesting in my opinion. They were complex, yes, but I never got around to liking any of the characters.

      I’m sure people who are “all about classics” will think I’m just another modern anime watcher who never knew “true” anime. Pfft.

  8. Not reading the comments because spoilers, but I have to say this, I’m convinced (I WANT TO BELIEVE)that this ending was a lie. It have to be a lie!
    8 minutes left and the end credits start to roll? My bet is that everything past credits is just Kiku’s invention to not tell the truth to Konatsu. All this time we were just hearing Kiku telling his side of the story to Konatsu and Yotaro. By what Konatsu remembers (from episode 1) the story don’t match and everyone who knows are deliberating hiding the true facts from her.

    Panino Manino
  9. I read the manga.

    Show Spoiler ▼

    1. 心中 means lover’s suicide in Japanese. 殉情 reads as junjo in Japanese and actually means single-minded, self-sacrificing devotion, but does not mean lover’s suicide as it does in Chinese.

  10. We’ve seen Yakumo from childhood to adulthood, watched him form that difficult yet unbreakable bond with Sukeroku, fall in love with an unfortunate soul, and had to accept the title which he never felt he deserved.

    Am I right is interpreting this to mean that you’re one of the few people to thinks that Yakumo/Kiku did love Miyokichi? ^^;

    I’m really appreciating your review once again, especially (though not only) because I feel a lot of others seem to have misread some of the most important relationships in Rakugo. Admittedly, I think I probably have one of the most ‘romance-based’ interpretations of the relationships (Sukeroku has always loved Miyo, who loves Kiku, who chose Rakugo even though he does love her in return; hence, Rakugo reminds Miyo of what she lost and that’s why she hates it — not so much because it is an unstable trade. And Sukeroku made up his mind to give it up because of his love for her).

    Show Spoiler ▼

    But whatever the details, and even though what we’re seeing is arguably Yakumo’s romantisisation of the events that transpired, I completely agree with you that these three feel like actual people rather than characters–subtle, complex, flawed…they’re just so incredibly human. Given this fantastic adaptation, I would much prefer to be able to watch the rest of Yakumo’s story play out on the screen. But since it appears to be dependent on how effective this show has been in raising sales for the manga (or possibly the BD sales themselves), then I think I’ll have to start reading once the curtain falls next week…

  11. It was an intense romantic and tragic episode. Only two great voice actors like Akira Ishida and Kouichi Yamadera can make you feel the difficult situation of a love triangle with no turning back: loneliness, emptyness, anger, jealousy, love, desperation and forgiveness.

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