Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 04

sg41

This week we stop in on Bon and Shin as they’ve moved out of the master’s house and into their own apartment together. Shin has a job serving women he charms without trying and pinches every penny, while Bon spends all his non-rakugo time drinking away his earnings.

Shin continues to struggle to find his own rakugo, while Shin oozes confidence on the stage and has every crowd before him eating out of his hand immediately, including Bon. He’s even given himself a new name: Sukeroku. These two continue to be completely different in every way, yet they remain friends.

sg43

It’s also this week that one of the few things that could strain their long-standing and deep friendship/brotherhood is formally introduced – by their master, no less. I speak of the lovely Miyokichi, whom the master has taken as a side-project, getting her a job as a geisha, likely in exchange for, ahem…other favors.

Miyokichi takes an instant liking to the serene, doll-like Bon, and isn’t subtle about her desire to meet with him alone, using a dance lesson as an excuse. Even in a show chock full of marvelous voice acting, Hayashibara Megumi (who voiced both Ayanami Rei and Faye Valentine) stands out; every line from those red lips oozes sex appeal.

sg44

I’d say Bon was immune to her charms, either due to having lost his first love many years ago, or due to being so preoccupied with how he’s going to continue to do rakugo whilst his roommate rubs his apparently effortless yet immense success in his face every day. But he isn’t immune. Few would be.

He returns to Miyokichi’s (a rare subject that shuts Shin – sorry, Sukeroku, up), where he gives her a dance lesson, plays the shamisen while she sings (beautifully), and share some sake. Bon becomes more and more desirable as the evening progresses, as Bon’s not the typical kind of man she deals with, which must be refreshing.

Bon leaves before things get that far, but when she insists he promise to return again, he cannot resist drawing her closer. I don’t think the master introducing him to Miyokichi was an accident. Bon needs to learn to loosen up and have a good time if he’s to make any headway with erotic rakugo. What better way to do than in the company of a beautiful, complex, charming woman who may well actually want him?

Miyokichi, like his rakugo, is something Bon is still trying figure out. But if Sukeroku’s reaction to his interest in her is any indication, this is probably going to lead to some conflict between the brothers.

8_ses

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 03

sg31

SGRS has played a clever trick. I thought this show would be about Yotarou, the reformed thief, but he hasn’t been present the last two episodes. Instead, it’s been young Yakumo’s, or I should say, Bon’s show.

And that’s totally all right, as he puts immense craft, care, and detail into his quietly epic life story, a large part of which contained Sukeroku (AKA Shin) who is absent from the present world. In hindsight, that absence and the events that let up to it (which have yet to be told) are given greater weight with each new section.

Bon is struggling with the same boisterous kind of rakugo Shin performs and gets reliable laughs from, and having to balance school means he feels like the gap between them is growing. So Shin suggests he try rakugo that makes the most of his weak voice: bawdy and erotic stories. On that note, Shin suggests they go to a brothel and get laid…once they have the scratch, of course.

In the midst of hanging out offstage with the “house band”, Bon, who had no prior interest in or time for girls, meets Ochiyo, a girl he becomes interested in and spends lots of time with. The warm fondness and melancholy in present-day Yakumo’s voice makes the couple’s inevitable separation really sting.

sg32

That hurt is somewhat mitigated by present-day Yakumo keeping Ochiyo’s promise to never forget her, because here he is telling us about her! The reason she has to leave Tokyo is basically the same reason people start leaving Tokyo in droves: World War II is about to break out. The dread of that fact is underlined by highly effective use of loud white noise, which swells and cuts out suddenly, creating tension and foreboding.

The government starts censoring rakugo just at the time Bon sees the raunchier stuff as his way in, almost as if the universe were blocking his path. Soon it’s just the master and his two students, and he only takes Shin with him to a kind of USO tour in Manchuria, sending Bon and his bad leg to the country with the mistress. But the night before Shin leaves, Bon has his brother pinky-swear that they’ll see each other again.

Bon gets a job in a factory, meets another nice girl, and settles into a provisional life, a life without Rakugo he never thought he’d have to deal with until it came. Sure, he’s not exactly on the front lines or anything, but his suffering is borne of not being able to take the path he wishes due to, well, history itself.

sg33

And yet, he never fully gives up on rakugo. He stuffs the books in the closet, but he still tells stories to himself when he feels down. He finds the rakugo heals and fuels his troubled heart; it gives him vitality and hope. And then, one day, just like that, the war is over.

More white noise, and a few well-chosen sights like a cloud in the sky and the sight of a radio broadcasting the emperor’s surrender mark that new event. When it comes to depicting the parts of the war we know well, the show doesn’t show much, because Bon himself doesn’t see any of the horrors.

More than anything, both Bon and the Mistress miss Shin and the master terribly, and even some time after the war continue to live in a kind of limbo as they await a return that may never come. The good news is, rakugo roars back into popularity, including the kind best suited for Shin, who gets a promotion and gets very busy very fast.

sg34

He gets so busy, he’s totally caught off guard when one dusk, just as suddenly as Ochiyo, and country life, and the war, and loneliness, came and went, Shin, Bon’s brother and other half, returns. Five years had passed mercilessly, heartlessly, but by the end of it their promise was fulfilled and they were together again. They ease back into theater life; rakugo life; and peace. Only now, no doubt, with so much time spent apart, this family understands and appreciates far better what it means to be together.

And speaking of reunions, who should show up at their door but Miyokichi, a beautiful young woman. The brothers have competed in rakugo, and endured separation for an entire war’s length. Will their next trial be a love triangle?

9_ses

Hitsugi no Chaika – 09

chai91

Chaika has been so swept up in the quest for her father’s remains (and in getting hoodwinked and/or kidnapped), that in spite of how long she’s been with the Acura siblings, she still knows very little about them, besides the fact they’re fierce fighters and loyal friends. That’s rectified this week, in a quiet, reflective episode focused on memories, and how they make us who we are and set us on our paths.

chai92

Chaika first brings memories up as a potential source of magic fuel when all the shops are out as a result of the End of War Anniversary festivities. Having watched Valvrave with Hannah, I knew all too well what could become of using one’s memories as a fuel that is merely consumed but not replenished, and Tooru is quick to dismiss the idea as a last resort, suspecting that in more desperate times (or against her will) Chaika had done so in the past, leading to her present memory gap.

chai93

When they come across a wagon train of peddlers, Tooru remembers the ones who used to visit the village of Acura where he and Akari grew up and trained to become saboteurs under the tutelage of their mentor, Shin. Of those times Tooru has both happy and painful memories. Happy because he and Akari had so much fun together, but sad because one group of peddlers—including a woman named Hasumin whose praise he desperately desired but never got—were attacked by bandits.

chai94

He watched her die, and all of Shin’s talk about him not being cut out for the cutthroat world of sabotage rang in his ear when he couldn’t protect her. It’s a painful memory; one Tooru often clings to, and wishes he could turn into magic fuel. Elsewhere, an impoverished ex-soldier steals from a rich woman, while the keeper of the last shop on their list happens to be the one with fuel in stock, because he doesn’t feel like celebrating the end of the war, which claimed his wife and children.

chaika95

Not to quote Captain Kirk, but he was right that we shouldn’t want our pain taken away; we need our pain; both good and bad memories define who we are. Hasumin didn’t really die in vain, because the Tooru that pain shaped would go on to meet Chaika in that forest and save her, from not only that evil unicorn, but most likely from using up the rest of her memories as fuel. Now that Chaika has friends and memories to cherish, she won’t be as cavalier with them.

8_mag

Stray Observations:

  • “‘Fireworks?’ What are ‘fireworks?’ We only got ‘pyrospheres’ in these parts!”
  • I loved Chaika’s wordless exchange of faces with the shopkeeper’s spawn. GET TO BED, WASTREL.
  • It was definitely fun to see Lil’ Tooru and Lil’-er Akari dashing around in the past. Akari was just as devoted to him back then. It’s funny to see how little she’s changed, even if she tries to hide it in deadpan.
  • I actually didn’t mind Alberic and Vivi’s scene at the market, which boiled down to the notion that “justice doesn’t fill stomachs”. Their cookie fortunes were a bit on-the-nose, however.
  • I was less interested in the other Gillette guys shootin’ the breeze. I feel like it would have been better if the entire GIllette Corps was just Alberic and Vivi. The rest still feel extraneous to this time-strapped show (even if a second season is in the pipeline).
  • Looks like there’s a sky fortress in our future…those are the best kind!