Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 11

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What started out as a simple errand (retrieve Sukeroku and bring him back to Tokyo) becomes much, much more for Kikuhiko, due in no small part to Sukeroku’s daughter, Konatsu. The girl is pretty hostile to Kiku right up until she learns who he is, and then her demeanor rapidly shifts to tearful veneration, and she insists Kiku come with him to see her Dad.

I’ve always loved Konatsu, and lamented how little of her we’ve seen (albeit out of necessity) since Yakumo’s story began. Kobayashi Yuu isn’t quite as convincing as a five-year-old as say, Kuno Misaki, but it doesn’t matter: by the end of the episode, I was in love.

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On the way to her Pops, we learn from her that her mom has run off, abandoned them, and I take her at her word (we later learn Miyokichi does this often, but always comes back eventually). She also says her mom forbade her dad to perform rakugo, and when we arrive at Konatu’s domicile, we see just how well Sukeroku functions without it.

I mean, a frikkin’ five-year-old is the breadwinner here! Things are bleak. The only thing that rouses Sukeroku from his mid-day nap is Kikuhiko’s voice, which sends him flying out of the filthy house. In a perfect reunion moment, Kiku smacks him in the face with his bag, but Sukeroku pounces on him anyway.

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Kiku gets down to brass tacks, but Sukeroku is initially unwilling to hear him out: he’s done with that part of his life; rakugo has gotten “boring”; he’s out of practice; the raft of excuses is almost unending. But Kiku cuts through all that with one simple fact: ”

If people want you, you have to do it.” And Kiku is one of those people. After hearing and being envious of Sukeroku’s rakugo—and being unable to replicate it—Kiku needs it back. He’s starved for it, and wants to hear it again, and continue striving to match it, even if he never will.

Kiku doesn’t come out and say he’s been gliding along without Sukeroku around, because he hasn’t—he’s been working his ass off—but when his brother compares how he looks to a shinigami (which sends a shiver up a listening Kona’s spine), it’s clear he’s missed him.

Until Sukeroku reconsiders, Kiku is staying. He fronts cash for Sukeroku to pay off all his debts, but fully expects him to repay him by acquiring jobs in town. He’ll live with them, but insists they clean the house thoroughly. In this manner, Kiku is like a stiff, purifying breeze that blows out the cobwebs.

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But Sukeroku and Kona aren’t the only two benefitting from Kiku’s stay. Kiku decides to do small performances at dinner parties and the like to pay for food and his fare home, and gets really into it. The master of the inn even presents him with a more formal performance space (ironically formerly a geisha prep room).

In a bath scene that hearkens back to one of the first between the two brothers (something Sukeroku points out but Kiku claims not to remember), Kiku does confess that he’s never felt this way abotu rakugo before; this good.Sukeroku knows why: Kiku can see his audience; there’s less physical and emotional distance between them, motivating him to strive do his best.

At times it seems like Kiku himself could settle down here as Sukeroku did, and if not thrive in the upper echelon of his craft, at least lead a happy life.

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But that’s not really the case. Kiku still wants to return to Tokyo, with Sukeroku taking his rightful place as Yakumo. As always, Kiku is looking out for Sukeroku, striving to put him on the path he thinks is best. That means getting him out of debt, cleaning his house, and cutting his little girl’s hair so it’s out of her face.

In one of my favorite scenes of the whole show, Kiku scolds Kona for badmouthing her mother, then discourages her from taking up rakugo, since he earnestly believes it’s a man’s job to be on the stage performing. He then goes into a pretty woman’s crucial role as the rakugo performer’s muse, drawing out their best performance.

Konatsu then puts Kiku in checkmate by getting him to admit she looks pretty with her new haircut, so now he has to do rakugo for her!

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If Kiku was enjoying himself at all the small informal gigs in town, he seems even more at ease and in the zone with an audience of just one. The story Kona makes him do—an at times creepy, at times hilarious story involving sexy ghosts or some such—is one of the best I’ve heard, and it’s made even better when Sukeroku, who can’t help himself, joins in and turns the solo performance into a duet; their first.

These are two brothers who haven’t seen each other in five years, and yet here they are, a perfect comedy duo. Perhaps the performance is technically a little rougher and unpolished than it sounded like, but who cares? Konatsu is over the moon, and Kiku is hopeful he’s shown Sukeroku why he can’t give up on rakugo. It’s not just Kiku who needs it, it’s his daughter too.

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We don’t hear Sukeroku’s answer, but their performance, and Konatsu’s elation, clearly has a powerful effect on him. Then Miyokichi enters the picture, at the very end of the episode, having been handed a sign announcing a public dual rakugo performance starring Sukeroku…and Kiku-san.

Miyokichi’s reaction suggests she’s still carrying a torch for her old boyfriend after all this time, which goes a fair way in explaining why she’s not home with Sukeroku or Konatsu; perhaps the former reminds her too much of the man she really loved. The question is, will she attend the performance?

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Tribe Cool Crew – 03

 tcc3_1Not even Haneru remembers the order to the words in their group name…

Tri-Cool, continues from last week’s on-stage challenge between Haneru and Kanon’s “Cool Dragon Dash Rising Brilliant Crew” and Kumo and Mizuki’s “Tribal Soul”. Kanon is nervous, never having performed in front of an audience, and neither of them really know what they are doing, but the audience is surprisingly enthusiastic.

We learn about some of the rules for a dance off and, after Haneru and Kanon ‘lose,’ we get a little more explanation as to why the audience thought Tribal Soul was better.

tcc3_2Haneru jumping vertically out of the frame again… down boy!

Basically, Tribal Soul was more in sync with the music, even though CDDRBC’s best moves were, well, better.

Regardless of the outcome, everyone is happy, the crowd only makes noise when encouraged to do so, and I have to wonder if Japanese audiences are just more polite than ours because, in my experience, this would have been a mean spirited, jeering filled, bottle throwing event.

Man I’ll never try to show off MY dance moves again!

tcc3_3my eyes are shaped like rabbit teeth!

Tri-cool is as cute as ever. It’s pepper under dog fueled never give up spirit is satisfying and harmless. It’s also, very very very obviously, kid stuff.

And like super sweet breakfast cereal, at my age, a single bowl is more than enough. Thanks for the happy highs Tric-cool! Best of luck. Old-man out!

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Tribe Cool Crew – 02

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Tri-Cool, as it calls itself at various times, pauses a moment from last weeks E & speed-fueled dance party and good vibes to remind us that people are also dramatic. People can get sad and not be able to do the fun things the want. Even people full of crazy dance moves!

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Kanon, aka Rhythm, is from a composed, appropriate family. It is unspoken, but given how seriously into controlled flower arrangements her mom is for their home, it doesn’t have to be stated: Kanon’s rents would fa-fa-fa’lip if they knew she was dancing.

Sorry Haneru! No dance team for you!

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Also, there was a moon walking kappa. (Though he was not a kappa later)

There were also group names proposed like “Cool Dash Rising Brilliant Dragon Crew!” Which Kanon doesn’t understand but Haneru assures her it has no meaning.

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As before, TCC episode two is a machine that only exists to make charming, occasionally funny, dancey silliness. Describing it as good would miss the point. I’m not even sure it is good!

The plot doesn’t matter. The characters don’t even matter. It’s just a whole crazy mess of fun.

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Kaitou Joker – 01

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To be truly fair, KJ is a kids’ show and absolutely not intended for me as an audience. In that, it’s silly, slap-stick, and over the top. When taken in that context, it’s a bubbly romp that feels somewhere between Lupin the 3rd, Inspector Gadget and Dark Wing Duck.

To be completely unfair, it’s awful and poorly timed with Kaitou 1412, an adolescent yet-still-more-adult show that is also about a masked magician thief. It’s comparatively deformed, simplistic and grating.

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KJ looks like it will be a crime-an-arc formula show, where each crime will be initiated with a challenge letter to the police and the owner of the soon to be stolen item.

Episode one introduces us to Joker and, eventually, his ninja side kick. We also meet the police, who are bumbling and shouty. Suffice it to say, their interactions are straight forward — adversarial, but also playful.

Nothing here for me though. Moving on…

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Tribe Cool Crew – 01

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Peppy dance music, free running, stylish and detailed character designs and a stylish world too: Tribe Cool Crew lays on the charm and happy energy as thickly as its plot is thin.

Honestly? I can’t complain!

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Part Sonic the Hedgehog, part arcade rhythm game, part ’80s throw back, Tribe Cool Crew is such a mash up of things I wouldn’t normally like that I’m completely stumped why I don’t. It just takes itself seriously about not being serious at all. It owns its goofy world and that world is fun, friendly and full of happy people.

That happy vibe is stunningly infectious.

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What are its blemishes? We’ll, the sudden shifts into rendered 3D during complex dance routines both work and are jarring. Also, the plot is about Haneru, an all energy 7th grader who loves dancing in a private place and Kanon, who appears to be a wealthy over achiever who watches him through a one way glass and also dances and has fallen for Haneru.

It’s also about Haneru loving a dance sensation and having tickets to go see that sensation’s live show. So… the plot isn’t very interesting or important.

I just found watching Tribe Cool Crew cathartic. The constant movement is a treat and the show just revels in its characters do that without dialog. Without interruption. If only the post Sonic & Knuckles Sonic games had been this much fun!

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Fairy Tail – 120

Fairy Tail has an interesting place in our anime-watching history. It was an anime we watched in Tokyo without subtitles on the television in our hotel room. We were entertained enough to check it out when we returned home, and actually kept up with it for the first 48-50 episodes. Since then it’s been officially on hold. It’s nothing we’d ever blog weekly, but it’s by no means horrible.

We’ve always liked its optimistic outlook, bold, colorful characters vaguely Celtic soundtrack. The production values are pretty awful though, as many characters are poorly or inconsistently rendered. Like many long-form animes, it also takes a while for anything to actually happen, so we were lucky to pick this random episode in which everything is wrapped up in a nice little package.

We got a little of everything: a climactic battle in which Natsu punches the bad guy in the face a decisive 496th time; other Fairy Tail members contribute a powerful attack of their own, after a stern scolding, the villain’s life is spared and he’s sent on his way (Fairy Tail aren’t executioners), and the guild heals, rests up, and celebrates a job well done. If only it took 5-10 episodes to get to these points, rather than 50.


(No Rating)