Layers, and layers, and layers of drama.
Just like last week, I thought I had gotten the full understanding of this episode, but upon further reflection and re-watching, it’s clear that once again in Rakugo Shinjuu everything is always more than it seems. If I had a single complaint for this episode, it would be that the pacing was a tad bit fast – I don’t know if that comes from the original panelling in the adapted chapter, or that the episode itself adapted more than usual. But that doesn’t detract from the quality, especially since it only felt fast due to how many key scenes there were crammed one after the other. It was a thrill ride, where the 23 minutes zoomed by without warning, and I was left dwelling over just how damn good this show is. It’s still the same Rakugo Shinjuu with its detailed drama, where every scene is vital and the atmosphere is both inspiring and uncomfortable. It’s a relief when great things remain the same, even after such dramatic shifts in time and changes in the main cast.
At the centre of all this drama is the silent toddler, Shin-chan. This adorable kid is still too young to speak his mind, but he’s the catalyst for all of the conflict this episode, and I wonder what he would say if he could speak what’s on his mind. His moments with Konatsu are touching and whenever he and Yotaro share the screen it truly feels like the best father-son relationship, even if they’re not blood related. It’s an odd family dynamic by any measure, but the lack of sex and romance between Yotaro and Konatsu doesn’t make their partnership any less special. I’m likely not alone in rooting for them to properly become man and wife (although the marriage has already been made official) in more than just titles and promises; handholding is the first step but even Konatsu isn’t ready for that quite yet – she’ll be the one to initiate, she claims, which is such a Konatsu thing to say. But in a story like this that spans years and decades, not mere weeks and months, it really hits you that this is perhaps the slowest burn in anime romance history. It makes my love life seem like wildfire and fireworks in comparison!
We also got a reveal that I wasn’t expecting so soon: Shin’s birth father, although we don’t get much of a sense of Konatsu’s true feelings here. Is she embarrassed about the whole situation? Merely concerned for her child? Does she still have feelings for this boss who is apparently a friend of Yakumo’s, if she ever had in the first place? As is pointed out, there are mysteries that are left untold, and unless we get concrete answers (and we don’t need to) it’s all up to interpretation based off what we see on-screen. At the very least, she wants to remove herself from that environment once her maternity leave ends, which indicates that she wants to move on to other (and better) things, for her, her child, and her family going forward. She may have tsundere tendencies, but labelling a character as rich as her with that archetype is near blasphemy. She’s warmed to the idea of this new arrangement, and now that the confrontation is over and done with between the two dads in question, she is likely hoping to move on from this and live the best life she can, listening to Yotaro’s new age of rakugo along the way.
But I must talk about how brilliant that confrontation was. While Rakugo Shinjuu may have stellar art and directing, it’s typically not a great source of sakuga. This, however, was perhaps the best animated sequence of the show, as the camera spun around Yotaro as he screamed out his deepest feelings, delivering every word with the punch and pace you’d expect from a skilled rakugo performer. It’s in moments like that you are so immersed and impressed by what you are seeing and hearing, that you have to give credit not only to the animators who made this a moment to remember, but to Seki Tomokazu, for delivering voice acting that matches with that of Ishida Akira, who also showed off his chops by embracing an older Sukeroku performance that was modelled after and matches the layout and animation of that performance given earlier in the first season.
Even without the audiences and stages to set the rakugo routines, we see the characters showing why they’re great at what they do. And not only that, but Yotaro understands why the characters say what they say; he’s no longer just repeating the words he’s taught, but can put himself into his characters in a way that will hopefully make his path to finding his own rakugo style that much easier. I’m excited for what’s to come with this cast, and by the looks of Shin in the preview, it appears we’re jumping several years once more. In any other show I would be nervous at the thought of timeskips every episode or two, but I have faith in Rakugo Shinjuu that it will continue to deliver excellence from start till finish.