Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 12 (Fin)

Its first season shows us the past, and most of its second season showed us the present. This week is all about the future, both of the Yakumo and Sukeroku names, the families connected to them, and of rakugo itself. In all cases, that future looks bright, thanks to the inspiration of those who came before.

First, we have a Shin in his late teens or early twenties, and he’s the spitting image of his grandfather Yakumo, even though they’re not related by blood…or are they? The resemblance is uncanny, Konatsu is committed to taking the truth to the grave, as is her prerogative.

In other news, Konatsu has become the first female rakugo performer in history, which is awesome, because it’s something we know she’s always wanted to do, and she’s also very very good at it (sadly though, we don’t get to see her perform).

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem her and Yotaro’s daughter (and Shin’s little sister) Koyuki is interested in following the path the rest of her family has walked, and is content to listen to them work their craft.

As far as Shin is concerned, Yotaro, now the Ninth Generation Yakumo, is his Dad—he helped raise him, after all. That is very clear in a quiet, private scene between the two. As it’s very possible he carries both the blood of Sukeroku and Yakumo, Shin seems to strike a nice balance between their two extreme styles. And the little boy Shin we’re accustomed to comes out when his dad encourages him before one of the biggest performances of his life.

That performance is part of the grand re-opening of the Uchikutei theater, which had burned down years ago but now has been completely rebuilt (only now, no doubt, is up to code). Seeing the new Yakumo IX on the stage with his wife and son (and Master Mangatsu) is a triumphant moment, and the full crowd suggests Yotaro has succeeded in restoring rakugo from the brink it was dangling from when Yakumo VIII died.

Now it’s a more inclusive, less stodgy, and more welcoming place, without sacrificing the things that made it unique. Even Konatsu realizes she was foolish in her earlier thinking that she’d upset some kind of “harmony” by entering the world of rakugo.

It must be that much more encouraging for Matsuda, the only character to inhabit all three timelines. He’s 95 and wheelchair-bound, but seems as warm and cheerful as ever.

After Shin opens with a very good performance that demonstrates why he will be an excellent Sukeroku and/or Yakumo one day, Yotaro performs “Shinigami”, a Yakumo VIII original, as a tribute. And what do you know, the old man visits him at the climax of his performance, leading me wondering momentarily if Yotaro had been taken to the far shore himself!

Thankfully, Yotaro is fine, and he and his family and friends celebrate after the show with a flower viewing by the riverside. Matsuda mentions how he saw his master to the far shore (apparently during a near-death experience of his own back then), and Higuchi waxes poetic on Yotaro’s contributions to helping prevent rakugo from dying with Yakumo.

Yotaro, however was never concerned that rakugo would go anywhere, with or without his help. It’s too good for that. And I tend to agree: various humans can argue over whether the art of rakugo is something that must be vigilantly protected from disappearing, like tending a delicate fire.

But fires can be rebuilt and reignited, and there will always be those who want to sit in an old theater (or a newly rebuilt theater) and hear someone tell a funny, raunchy, or moving story that will transport them somewhere else. Rakugo is eternal.

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HaruChika – 04

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I decided to go out on a limb and watch one more episode of P.A. Work’s generally disappointing HaruChika, intrigued that we might find a chink in the perfect Haruta’s armor in the guise of his family. I did so knowing it could well be a trap that would lead me to keep watching, despite the fact I should have learned from Glasslip that the show isn’t really ever going to actually go anywhere, only tease.

And it was a trap. But while I’m still committed to dropping this, I didn’t dislike my final look. Once one gets used to the look of HaruChika, it really does show good command of animating characters and creating awkward situations for comedic effect. And I liked Haruta’s eldest sister,who’s far from the hell-beast Haruta made her out to be. In fact, her presence and his discomfort with it made Haruta a lot more tolerable.

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We learn that Haruta is only one of an entire family of talented people; Mimami is an architect (and a pretty nifty drifter in her Civic Type R), while his other two sisters are an illustrator and a chiropractor. So certainly there’s both pressure on him, the baby, to perform, as well as do whatever his three sisters want. I only have one little sister, so I can’t quite relate, but his discontent with his lot in life is at least more understandable now that I know he comes from a home practiclaly bursting with ability.

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In any case, when he was evicted from his old apartment, Haruta took to living with the chickens and being cared for by the animal club. This won’t do, so Minami is there to help him find a new apartment; Chika volunteers to help out (especially when she learns the alternative may be Haru staying at Kusakabe’s place), and drags Miyoko along. When the seemingly perfect place’s only flaw is that it might be haunted, Miyoko’s scaredy-cat side comes out, and it’s fun to watch Chika mess with her at every turn.

The thing is, an exploration into Haruta’s family suddenly turns into another very random mystery-of-the-week involving the recently deceased landlord’s nephew, who believes his prank-loving uncle left the house to him to cause him trouble: the tenants always complain about what sounds like a priest’s staff in the night, and the inheritance tax is more than he and his pregnant wife can afford.

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Haru ends up staying at Maren’s house (thanks to an assist by Miyoko that Chika praises her for…wait, wasn’t Chika terrorizing Miyoko all day?) and he puts all the clues that were laid out together. My first thoughts on hearing about the nature of the ghost sound, combined with the will written on the blueprints and mentioning “precious metals”, was that the walls were full of coins.

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Mind you, I’m not usually too skilled at solving mysteries before the show reveals them, but this was one of those instances, leaving me tapping my foot a bit, waiting along with Chika and the others for Haru to make yet another big show about what a frikkin’ genius he is. All Hail The Glorious, Perfect Haruta…(farting noise).

Now, I did enjoy details like 1982 being the year the 500-yen coin was first put into circulation, and that all the coins in the walls are 500-yen coins, as well as the warm, casual Christmas flavor that suffused the episode. As for Haru and Chika ending up in Kusakabe’s arms, lying on a pile of cash, well…that was just goofy, and a useful reminder that I need to step away from this show while I still can!

I do so with one final unsolicited, uninformed prediction: Haru and Chika will not be a couple by the end of the show. I know that’s not necessarily the point of the show, but c’mon now. I may check in on the last episode to see if I’m proven wrong.

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Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 03

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On Cloud Nine after her upset victory over Himi, Eruna is already prepared to take over the school and the world with the power she just awakened. She also believes she’s already won the heart of Mikagura Seisa, whom she fantasizes about embracing her like a lover in her trademark delusions.

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Last week we saw a glimpse of Eruna’s potential, but she’s clearly jumping the gun, so this week she gets a sobering, but not devastating, dose of reality. Seisa invites Eruna and Himi to her mansion and her room and even indulges Eruna by praising her and patting her on the head, a gesture Himi mimics, to Eruna’s elation.

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Seisa is right: Eruna really only won because Himi let her guard down and didn’t go in for the kill before her opponent’s power could awaken. If they faced off again, Himi would almost certainly win. Eruna isn’t so sure, and in her hubris, agrees to a practice battle against Seisa herself, but she’ll be kicked out of the “Going-Home Club” (is that really even a club?) if she loses.

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Prior to her battle, Eruna soaks in another practice battle, between Imizu Asuhi (telescope boy) and Akama Yuuto (drama club rep) Unlike Himi with Eruna, the experienced Akama doesn’t waste any time dispatching the rookie with ease. It’s an effective warning to Eruna not to take a peactice battle against a veteran lightly.

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Well, it would be effective, if Eruna weren’t so gosh-darn cocky and sure she’ll be able to take out one of Seisa’s crystals. Just as it covered her first fancy breakfast at the school, the very on-top-of-things newspaper club prints a very timely extra about the Eruna/Seisa clash, complete with bikini shots of Eruna that get her cousin very excited.

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In the battle that followed, Mikagura showed that Eruna isn’t going to pull off a win and get her way every week just because she’s awakened her power. She manages to fly all over the field of battle like lightning, but when she lands a blow on a crystal her hand goes right through it, and her beam fails to manifest. Eruna doesn’t even see Seisa snatch her crystals out of the air and smash them with her bare hands. It’s a total, utter defeat, and Seisa isn’t particularly nice about it, either: “Nice try. Too bad.”

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Thus chastened, kicked out of Seisa’s club, and served generous portions of humble pie, Eruna retreats to a quiet corner of the school to lick her wounds and munch on that pie. She’s joined by Kuzuryu, who offers her milk and a light kick in the bum, but to his surprise, Eruna can’t drink milk and haughtily requests something else form him, preferably in the 300-yen range. It’s a nice senpai/kohai moment that cheers Eruna up and gets her thinking about her next steps.

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With no existing clubs up her alley, Eruna decides to form her own, the nature of which is TBD (Seisa Fan Club doesn’t count, I imagine). But in an act of defiant perseverance, she marches up to the walls of Seisa’s giant mansion, builds a “clubroom” out of cardboard, and prepares to spend the night in it, promising Seisa (who happens to be listening from her window) she’ll keep growing and improving (a rookie battle she might be able to win is coming up), so she can one day face off against her once again.

Seemingly moved by Eruna’s determination and pluck, she meets her out in the rain and lets her move into her mansion, if only the hallway where she’ll be allowed to set up her sleeping bag. Eruna wanted to take big huge leaps to greatness, but smaller steps and more incremental goals are going to be the way to go. It’ll be tough, but no one’s ever going to accuse Eruna of not being tough!

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Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 02

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I’m really digging Mikagura’s reverse-gender shonen story and its boisterous, manic energy. But as rowdy and enthusiastic as Eruna is, she remains homeless and hungry, and joining the Going Home Club only netted her an extra minute in the shower and a tiny portion of natto. She has to start winning battles…but how?

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Eruna decides to visit all the high-ranking clubs seeking advice. Kuzuryuu ignores her, Himi will only help if Eruna buys her dessert (which she can’t afford), Seisa doesn’t even let her in the house, and while Imizu Asuhi is so cute and feminine Eruna could swear he’s a she, she ends up accidentally setting off his telescope gun. The recurring theme of these encounters is clear: this is something she needs to figure out for herself, as they did. If she can’t, she doesn’t deserve to be there.

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With no direction whatsoever, Eruna takes a game Shigure up on his offer to assist her, and while she comes up with cool names for the moves she tries on him, at the end of the day, she’s only hitting him with her bookbag and sleeping bag, then getting pulled back into her dating sim and her beloved 2D GF Yuriko (the timing of this joke is great). The rest is merely her delusions…and she knows that…but she’s not sure what else to do.

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When she crosses paths with Seisa, she delivers a confession of sorts; that the whole reason she came to the school was because she wanted to hang out with a lovely person like the girl in the brochure, and she’s committed to trying her very best to make her proud of her.

The exchange reminds me of what a male character of similar background and personality might say to the girl he likes (if he had he the guts to do so), only Eruna happens to also be a girl (and does have the guts). She’s just a super-likable character I can’t help but wanna root for. I know, that’s the point, but she show hit the mark well.

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But as her battle neared, and Eruna showed no signs of being remotely prepared, I’ll admit I started to feel a little apprehensive. Eruna can imagine whatever positive outcome she likes and delude herself that’s it’s going to happen, but she gets a cold dose of reality when what she considers a pretty clever ambush attempt is foiled easily by the experienced Himi. Himi is also pretty cocky, remarking how she wants to wrap this dawdle up soon so she can go eat some snacks.

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Just when the weight of what defeat would mean begins to slowly descend upon a limping, winded Eruna, she comes across a door covered in seals that release when she touches it. Inside is a room full of light where a slightly more throwback version of herself tells her to awaken her power; the power she had inside all along, but just didn’t know how to tap into. After this encounter, a switch goes off, and suddenly Eruna is dodging Himi’s attack with ease and flying through the school like a bat out of hell.

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As Eruna’s strength, speed, and agility rise exponentially, she’s overcome by a combination of disbelief and excitement, and the animation of the episodes gets bolder and jauntier to keep up with her. With a great beam of light emanating from her index finger, she shatters all three of Himi’s crystals simultaneously, earning her a decisive upset win.

Perhaps her delusions of greatness were really an expression her hidden power trying to emerge. Now they have, and that greatness is no longer just a delusion.

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It’s a win the whole school watched from their smartphones, including Seisa, who certainly looks impressed with what she saw, and all of a sudden Eruna is no longer the over-fantasizing, hapless rookie underdog…but an imposing upstart who’s only just cracked the surface of the potential her bloodline has passed down to her.

Perhaps most important, people will start to stop looking down on her; not just because she can soar high into the sky now, but because she made the same breakthrough all of them made before her. Now she really is one of them.

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Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 04

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On an unusually hot spring day, the office has a pool party, after which Yuuhi warns Akina that the Seven Pillars will bloom in a year or less, merging the human and youkai worlds. Hime’s nine-year-old cousin Kohime, who is running for mayor of her town, joins Hime patrol; they’re observed by Kohime’s incumbent opponent. After a party thrown for Kohime at Hime’s house, Akina tells Hime about the Pillars upsetting her. Ao and Touko answer her doorbell and encounter a strange white mass filling the doorway…

Yozakura Quartet dispensed with the pretense and simply devoted nearly half of the episode to a pool party that is nothing more than an opportunity for the animators to draw the girls in swimsuits (and only the girls; the guys curiously elect not to swim, despite the heat). Yeah, you could say it portrayed how sweet life is now compared to what Yuuhi warns is down the pike, but it still seemed overindulgent and a careless use of time considering what’s looming. We also could have done without the new character, a hyperactive nine-year-old who is running for mayor of her town for some reason. We’re not sure what she adds besides shrillness. Less full orchestra, more quartet, please.

The episode wasn’t a total wash, as it did a good job laying out the respective weights both Akina and Hime carry on their shoulders. Akina is staring down the very real possibility of the town being destroyed by the very apparatus his ancestors erected. The pillars will bloom, and may well bloom sooner than expected due to all of the unsavory elements working to make it so. Meanwhile Hime harbors doubts about whether she can ever fill the shoes of her late and universally-beloved granny; she’s shaken by an old man calling her a failure and even more troubled when she hears the truth about the Pillars for the very first time from Akina. They both face tests in the near future, as does this series: can it dig itself out of the hole it’s digging after a promising start?


Rating: 5 (Average)

Uchouten Kazoku – 08

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After confessing his role in their father’s death to Yaichirou and Yasaburou, Yajirou recounts the last night he spent with father on a secret consultation. Yajirou was in love with Kaisei, and wanted to leave the family, but Soichirou told him to endure, saying he had split his blood into four sons, and it was imperative they stick together no matter what. He felt the best way to seal their connection was to depart.

After Yaichirou went home, Yasaburou picks Akadama up from the bath, and Akadama tells him he was the last one to see Soichirou, who had no regrets about “retiring early” and made the tengu promise to look after Yasaburou. Back home, Yasaburou and Yaichirou learn that mother knew why Yajirou holed up in a well, and doesn’t want them to be hard on him for it.

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Shimogamo Soichirou’s four sons each inherited a specific characteristic: Yaichirou got his responsibility, Yajirou his easygoing personality, Yashirou got his innocence, and Yasaburou his idiocy. Even as he leaves his mortal coil, he leaves knowing as long as his brothers stay together, he will still remain whole in the world through them, and they can achieve the same great things he did as a result. Soichirou wasn’t so fortunate with his own brother.

Ever since Yajirou changed into a frog, the brothers have been out of balance. With the easygoing bit gone tension and resentment took over. With all the truth now revealed, and the realization Yajirou didn’t kill father; but their father met his tanuki end willingly and without regret, they are back on the road to reunion and balance Soichirou strove for. He didn’t care if his family declined in political power; as long as they continue to be a loving family, he’ll rest in peace.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • This was a lovely episode full of emotional, even heartrending moments, but we felt the score overplayed its hand, descending too often into melodrama. There were several instances where little if any music would have been just as affecting, yet there it was, blaring over the dialogue, making sure we knew how to feel.
  • Yajirou turning into an electric train and taking his dad on a ride was just a gorgeous sequence, as was Akadama’s final meeting with Soichirou.
  • While he had no say in his betrohal to Kaisei, Yasaburou seems aware of the fact that if Yajirou blames himself for what happened to their father, Yasaburou can just as easily blame himself for being the cause of Yajirou’s strife in the first place. Both would be equally unfair to blame themselves.
  • Next week: Keisei episode! Will we finally see her in the flesh? Akadama says she’s very attractive, and we trust the old man’s taste.