Fairy tales of yesterday will grow but never die
I can fly, my friends
The show must go on.
Did the lyrics of the late, great, and the time, dying Freddy Mercury come to mind while watching this episode? As it turns out, it’s up to Yotaro to take his master’s place and make sure the show goes on, even while disaster goes on in the background and he’s plagued with worry and dread. The moment where he turned to Konatsu, pointed to the curtains where the unaware crowd waited, and told her that he had to stay, was one of my favourites of his. We’ve seen him been put through the ringer and make mistakes and show weakness, but that expression perfectly captured how terrified he was, knowing that he had to stay behind. He had to do it for rakugo, and more importantly, for Yakumo. That look he gave him could be read in many ways, but my interpretation is that he was telling Yotaro to keep on performing. And that appears to be what he took from that look as well. He wanted to be by his master’s side more than anything, but the determination he showed in episode was what makes him so loveable.
Yotaro never dropped the act or showed his signs of weakness to the unknowing, but once you know what we, the viewers, know, you’d realise that him skipping the introduction, his constant sweating, and his rush to leave the stage at the end are signs that behind his performance he was desperate to leave. But he stayed, and we were given the first uninterrupted rakugo performance of the season. It’s an odd one to watch, because both the viewer and Yotaro are clearly thinking about what just happened with Yakumo, yet we have to stick around and get what immersion we can from the show. It’s damn impressive that even if for a minute, I managed to forget about everything else and enjoy the story due to Yotaro’s delivery. Rakugo Shinjuu often makes us sit through these lengthy performances at the best and worst of times, like when Yotaro gave his first show where everyone watching was nervous he would make a mistake, or when Yakumo in his youth gave the most embarrassing show of his life and we had to sit through every second of it. This time around it was as if we were told there was a fire in the building but we couldn’t leave until the rakugo was over.
Hii-san does make an astute observation with Yotaro’s style of storytelling. He points out that Yakumo uses rakugo as a vessel for his stories, which makes sense given he has little personal love for the medium. Meanwhile, Sukeroku’s own personality is so strong that it came through in every one of his performances, of every character and object; he gave the audiences what they wanted, and he did it well. And then there’s Yotaro, whose strength as that his own existence fades when it comes to rakugo. He’s there, but he’s also every one of the characters all at once, not affected or skewered by his own personal intentions. He’s the best narrator of all, and perhaps the most immersive for general audiences. Where Yakumo sometimes appears cold, and Sukeroku too full of energy to give more nuanced performances, Yotaro’s talent is his ability to appear invisible to the audience. Funnily enough, the rakugo performer I saw last year also had this style of storytelling. One minute he was this tall, large, white, American man with an obvious accent, and the next we was his characters, and Yotaro does just that.
Rakugo aside, it’s revealed that Yakumo is still alive, but is clearly ill. It’s all guesswork if we’re to assume he’ll step onto the stage any more. After his heart attack, he looks like a changed man; a man who was faced with death and refused entry to the afterlife. He saw his best friend in the world, heard his voice for the first time in decades, and was face to face with the woman who personifies all his mistakes. By his final words in this episode, it seems like he’s almost saddened that he’s still alive. Yakumo is a man who is ready to die, which is going to take his story in an equally depressing and interesting direction. I don’t know how it’s going to end, but I wouldn’t put suicide off the table, especially given the story he told Yotaro and Konatsu about Sukeroku and Miyokichi. It would be both poetic and fitting given the downward spiral of his health and how distant his mind must be from his body.
There other details to consider like the renovations of the rakugo theatre, which is now being discussed with Yakumo out of the picture. I can’t imagine that traditional stubborn senior would warm to the idea, but I appreciated that both positives and negatives were given to the argument. That place holds a lot of memories, especially as the last one still standing. In the end, I expect it will be up to Yotaro to decide the course of actions, which will likely reflect with the modern trends in rakugo and adapting to the new era.
Finally, I’d like to talk about next week. I already know what’s going to happen because I was spoiled almost a year ago – it’s one of the few plot details that has been given away, and even though I wish I never knew, it’s going to make the episode all that more exciting when it comes. With the recording of Sukeroku’s final performance before his death, it looks like we’re going to be jumping back in time to that unfortunate day that haunts Yakumo still. It’s going to be powerful, and even with what little I do know, I’m confident it could be another contender for the best episode of the series.
Didn’t read the last paragraph…
I just want to say that I KNEW DAMMIT!
Kiku lied to us, I knew it!
I don’t know what the omitted of left out in the penultimate episode from the first season, I only know/knew that wasn’t the whole truth. Now we well know and see.
How the true story will change our view?
Now it’s time to hide in a hole to avoid spoilers.
I’m saying nothing. I mean, I still don’t know the full details, but we’ll see.
What I am hoping for is that Yakumo will forgive himself for what happened so long ago before he passes from this world. He has certainly been punished more than enough through the decades by his own guilt and by Konatsu’s anger and spite. He doesn’t try to shy from it as we saw from his openness in telling his story to her and Yotaro last season, sordid details and all. For me seeing him come to terms with the events of that night would be the perfect way for him to end his personal tale. For better or worse he is tied to Sukeroku and Miyokichi through love and should try to see himself through their eyes. The look on Sukeroku’s face as he fell to his death was certainly not hatred or accusation and I doubt his soul carries any of those emotions around with it. I have never felt that his spirit was hanging around Yakumo for malicious reasons but rather as a means of giving him strength during the times he has struggled through the years without him. I was quite startled when Miyokichi appeared before him in the smoke and it made me cry to hear him call her “beloved” since it was him giving voice to something he had never admitted to her when she was still alive. Sukeroku was absolutely his soulmate and I have no doubt that Yakumo held a deep unrequited love for him, but Miyokichi was the one woman he loved romantically. I may be overthinking things when I say that his bi-sexual self symbolizes duality in a sense. There are two sides to every coin and there is always more to a person than what we see on the surface. It’s also how there are different ways to tell the rakugo stories. It all depends on the individual performing them. I doubt I’m expressing what I’m trying to say :).
Keep up the wonderful reviews. I really enjoy reading your thoughts each week.
I like your interpretation! We’ll see what next week brings, since it’s bound to shed a lot of light on the situation. Thank you for reading my reviews as well 🙂
I agree with this interpretation about Yakumo being in love with Sukeroku, but due to the time period he could not really express it. Even when I look back at the first season while Yakumo was with Miyokichi I never really felt he loved her in a romantic sense. I am saying this based on their interactions with one another and sadly it was mostly Miyokichi who was putting in the most effort. Sure, Yakumo respected her as a person and appreciated her company, but to me personally it never felt like love (in the romantic sense) coming from his part. The conversation that Yakumo had with Sukeroku about how in the end he does not really see himself ending up with anyone in the end and is completely ok with it really hit a core with me. The manga-ka has previously touched on Queer themes in her work and I feel this show especially with Yakumo character we see a lot of nuances to his queerness. Is he ultimately bi-sexual? pan-sexual? asexual? in the end the character himself knows himself best so I feel labelling him as just Queer that is the umbrella term for LGBTQ2SIA is just right for me.
In regards to Miyokichi I can’t help but feel sorry for her. She was definitely bitter about everything in her life especially all the men that screwed her over in the end, but sadly at the same time she was lonely and tried to seek affection from the very same men who didn’t have have that kind of love and affection she was seeking from them. Its sad because in the end she sought comfort from someone who couldn’t really love her back and in end with she died with someone who she knew Yakumo loved very deeply. She got what she wanted she haunts him to this day.
In the past week, I re-watched the first season (for the 3rd time). Seems it was a really good spot to have a re-watch.
I can’t properly express how much I appreciate the subtlety of Bon’s character and the magnitude of the mistakes he made. From a young age he has struggled to connect with others and accept their flaws. He drove away the only two people he ever really loved because he feared being abandoned again and he did it with the honest excuse that he thought it was better for them to each learn independence and self sufficiency. He lost them tragically and raised their child with an openly harsh attitude; he constantly showed his resentment/envy of her while hiding how much he quietly adored her.
Bon is a person who is painfully locked within himself, never able to reveal himself to even those who matter the most. He doesn’t strike me as potentially suicidal as he has lived most of his life carrying a mountain of regrets; it’s clear he has wished to die for a very long time but obligations to the dead have kept him alive. I think when he can ease himself of those obligations he’s more likely to die an unforced death of exhaustion than actively take his life. His lingering ghosts aren’t done with him yet but once they’re done, he’ll escape this life easily.
I’m not spoiled for the next episode, but I take it we’ll better see why the relationship between Bon and Konatsu is as troubled as it is? How they seem to tied together and mutually dependent even as they mostly only show each other comfortable hostility?
I expect more clarity between Bon and Konatsu after next week as well. I mean, we just of jumped from the big event to the aftermath without seeing Konatsu’s reaction to the whole thing. Their relationship is one of the most fascinating in the series, so I’m eager to see what comes next.
I’m having a little trouble remembering who exactly Mangetsu-san is. What’s his relationship to Yotaro and the other characters (aside from being a Rakugo performer)? Anyone care to tell?
Anyway, when he was leaving the hospital and said to Konatsu, “You finally look my way, eh,” I think that was a pretty good indicator that
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Man, Yakumo in that lost screenshot you took…that is the look of a man that just wants to die.
Will be interesting to see how this goes on Friday.