The story takes place around the 1970s. However, the show does a lot more background storytelling than what most viewers may be accustomed to. Thankfully, the series knows how to transit into the past to bring the story into the present. From the beginning, we meet Koji, a guy who got out of prison but later follows a goal to make himself into a professional rakugo performer. This sets up his encounter with Yakumo Yurakutei, a man who he looks up to and wants to learn from. After many exchanges and work, he does earn himself a spot as Yakumo’s student. This is where transition comes in and we take a look at the past.
In essence the storytelling brings in a lot of relationship dynamics and characterization. The relationship between Yakumo and Sukeroku is a prominent example of this as we see their connection. Furthermore, the show makes us realize how different they are after examining their personalities. Yakumo is the stoic type with a cyclical personality and little intense of the opposite sex. Meanwhile, Sukeroku is just the opposite who often seeks girls in his life while maintain his hyperactive personality. Despite this, the two seems to get along as good friends and strives to become rakugo artists. There’s quite a difference in their performance skills though as we can easily see how much Sukeroku is better than Yakumo. Throughout the series, Yakumo struggles at first to make a name for himself but does manage to pick up the pace once he realizes it.
At some point in the show, we should realize that Yakumo really strives to become an artist. This is evidenced by his lack of interest in Miyokichi, a beautiful geisha who seems to have quite an affection for him. However, they do connect in some ways. While romance isn’t a prominent part of the show, it does play a role as we can easily see some budding romance between the two. Furthermore, there’s also Sukeroku who seems to be smitten by Miyokichi. Yakumo and Sukeroku has become close to the point that they almost seems like brothers. When Miyokichi enters the story, it almost feels like she’s a wall between the two. Meanwhile, Yakumo seems to only be in love with rakugo and strives to be better, something that he actually succeeds later on in the series. To say the least, love in this series is beyond dramatic and even has a tone of tragedy to it. I also find it amusing that the show mixes in some gender bender at one point to spice up the sexuality vibes. However, it’s mostly played down as a form of art to get viewers comfortable with the style of the show; in that being artistic with its storytelling.
Despite the insightful storytelling and characterization, the rakugo performances are also quite entertaining. The first episode gives good insight about what rakugo really is like with the style, body language, dialogues, and storytelling of the performer. Despite the performer being stationary, it’s fairly interesting to see how they act out each play. The stories themselves each contain a theme but always prominent characters that switches between tone and mannerism according to the story. While Yakumo and Sukeroku does differ a bit between their performances, it can easily be observed that the two strives to be the best at what they do. And that’s something really inspiring.
DEEN actually puts on quite a decent effort into the artwork for this series. I’m honestly surprised but the visual quality is stellar. It’s also realistic to portray the 1970s with the backgrounds and simple structures. Furthermore, characters are dressed in the way that is believable. Between character designs, the rakugo performances is also an art in itself and the choreography for the show is really well delivered with clever camera angles. This is even enhanced by the creative body languages. Character expression is important and this show nailed the coffin in that not just on stage but also between character interactions in real life. From Miyokichi’s emotional breakdowns to Sukeroku’s joyful acting, it’s quite something to look at.
Soundtrack has more of a Japanese feudal tone to it, like something from the past. It’s able to capture the feel of a performance with the character voice mannerisms. In addition, the show isn’t shy to deliver dynamic dialogues especially with characters like Miyokichi. The OP and ED songs also has an unique feel that adds more to the show.
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