By Shanel Kamara
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is back with a second cour, and I am ecstatic about its return; recently I began watching episodes from the previous season, falling in love with the josei drama series all over again. The series focuses on rakugo - a form of verbal entertainment that became a prominent source of amusement among the public particularly during the Showa period in Japan. The rakugoku, or storyteller, remains in a traditional Japanese sitting position as they illustrate a complex and hilarious story. The tale involves the discourse between several characters, usually two at first. However, it is the rakugoku’s sole responsibility to convey to the audience, through alterations in pitch, tone, and head movements, the differences between characters.
In the first cour, we learn of the history and rivalry between Yakumo Yuurakutei, a notable rakugoku, and deceased father of Konatsu, Sukeroku Yuurakutei, another renowned practitioner, after Yotarou - former mafia member and ex-convict begs Yakumo to make him his apprentice. The next few episodes depict Yotarou's attempts to perform rakugo in a style similar to his master in spite of his master's reluctance to teach him. As a result, Yotarou stumbles across Sukeroku’s rakugo and begins emulating Sukeroku's style of storytelling, at first to the disapproval of Yakumo. However, Yakumo begins to realize that in order for rakugo to flourish, Sukeroku's rakugo must continue to live on through Yotarou.
After this realization, Yakumo begins to recount to Yotarou and Konatsu how he met Sukeroku and fell in love with rakugo, hence why the rest of the series in set in past.
Season 2 seems to be set much further into the future. It is clear that Yotarou has gained much experience under Yakumo, and appears more proficient at the art of rakugo. Although he has gained success and received an increase in status, he remains loyal and devoted to his master. Over time, it is coherent that the relationship between Yakuma and Yotarou has not changed dramatically, but this season we may see the development of a romantic relationship between friends Konatsu and Yotarou. The possibilities are endless. Could Yotarou be destined to reign supreme in all of rakugo or could his fate mirror his predecessor, Sukeroku's? I cannot wait to see how things transpire.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabei-Hen E.01