Jikan no Shihaisha (Chronos Ruler) – 01 (First Impressions)

Well, if nothing else, Chronos Ruler wastes no time demonstrating its semi-decent-looking action; if only its premise were a little easier to swallow and its characters a little more likable.

Koyuki, a high school girl who blames herself for losing her only family, her brother (killed in an auto accident—the leading cause of death for big brothers in anime).

One night while visiting his grave, Koyuki ends up in the middle of a battle between some kind of monster and two apparent brothers, Victor and Kiri, who rescue her and force it to retreat.

Victor lets perhaps a little too much of his and Kiri’s secret duty slip on  purpose, so Koyuki, following up on school rumors about turning back time at the clock tower at the midnight of a full moon, lures the “time demon” back to her.

One of Koyuki’s teachers, Ms. Emily, ceases to exist by aging in reverse, a somewhat unsettling example of what happens when one gets bitten by such a demon.

Victor knows simply telling Koyuki not to give up on bringing her brother back won’t work, but between Ms. Emily and his own condition (every day he becomes a day younger, losing his memories along with his age), there’s enough to get Koyuki to heed their warnings.

Victor uses the “oath of time” he and Kiri, “Chronos Rulers”, possess to defeat the demon using limited time manipulation, but it accelerates his “illness,” but Koyuki is safe, and content to live on with the memories of his bro.

Of course, it’s likely we’ll never see Koyuki again, as the pair will be off on their next mission next week. As for learning Victor isn’t Kiri’s brother but his father really only caused me to shrug.

I dig time magic; I just left this episode wishing more interesting people were wielding it against more interesting foes.

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.