Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Mid Season Review
Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju:
Original Air Dates: January 6th, 2017 – ???
Synopsis: Ten years have passed since Yotaro became Yakumo’s Rakugo apprentice. Yotaro has made a name for himself, yet Rakugo as a profession and art form is still on its way out. Can Yotaro find a way to preserve Rakugo or will this art die alongside Yakumo’s eventual passing?
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: This season finally returns the focus to Yotaro, who has now taken upon himself the name Sukeroku, and tells of his efforts to reinvent and reinvigorate the dying rakugo culture. At the same time, it reveals the now aging Yakumo’s reluctance for change and desire to have rakugo die with him, though his reasons for wanting this have yet to be spelled out in black and white. It’s sort of a return to the status quo of last season where the predeceasing Sukeroku had similar ideas and Yakumo/then named Kikuhiko questioned the viability and logic of doing so and leaves the audience curious as to who win win this time around.
Tom: Much of this season’s drama has focused on Yotaro’s efforts to find himself a place within the Rakugo community/medium and to help adapt Rakugo as an art form to suit the ever changing modern era. Fans of Yakumo’s narrative will find it’s taken a back seat to Yotaro, whose become the primary focus of the show. However Yakumo’s story is making a return as we hit the middle of the season, with hints that we haven’t perhaps gotten the full story surrounding the original Sukeroku’s death. It’s unclear however how much Yakumo’s narrative will influence the rest of the series, or if we’re merely tying up a few loose ends.
Linny: This season also addresses the introduction of female performers in the world of rakugo, something that was strictly a male only profession/art form up until this time. Watching Konatsu struggle with her love and desire to perform rakugo, while having to fight years of Yakumo’s insistence that women had no place on the rakugo stage, makes for a powerful and endearing episode.
Tom: It was great to see the series finally address all the sexism Konatsu has faced against her participation in the world of Rakugo, and Yotaro actively encouraging her to pursue her dream. But with the way this subplot ends, it’s unclear if the series seeks to revisit the issue or if this is as large a role Konatsu’s struggle will play.
Linny: Yotaro’s effervescent and almost buffoon like innocence and enthusiasm shines through even as he continues to grow this season and deal with matters that demand much maturity and sombreness. His jovial attitude rarely ever comes across as grating or idiotic and his actions always come from a place of sincerity, making him a character most would root for passionately.
Tom: Yotaro goes through a lot more growth this season as he struggles to find his own voice and style, just as Yakumo and Sukeroku did. Despite this refocus on Yotaro, he really shines as the lead of the series, providing a different, but in tone brand of character and humor compared to the first season’s story. Yakumo takes a back seat early on and even when his story returns towards the middle of the season, Yotaro still feels like the main character, forced to deal with and adapt as his master begins to face his failing health.
Linny: The complicated relationship between Yakumo and Konatsu that started from last season seems to have barely changed, with Konatsu coming to appreciate and admire Yakumo for his rakugo skills while still despising him for the loss of her parents. It’s interesting to watch these two flawed characters interact with each other, and while their actions can often be frustrating, they rarely ever turn into outright villains. Most viewers, at this midpoint of the series, should come to view them as real people with flaws and emotional baggage, maybe more than some people, but not to an unbelievable and fantastical degree.
Tom: My one issue with Descending Stories is that sometimes it can feel like we skipped over content. Periodically we’re introduced to more minor characters that feel like we were supposed to have met them before, but these scenes act as their only introduction. It makes it feel as if content was cut from the anime that was in the original manga, but as the series is only just getting localized it’s difficult to tell whether something was indeed cut or not.
Linny: This popping in and out of minor characters can feel rather unsettling in that some of them seem destined to play an important role then barely appear again until several episodes later and only for a few minutes. It’s all the more aggravating for anyone who ends up mesmerized by any of them only to realize there’s even a chance they will never appear again.
Tom: Overall Descending Stories is just as powerful, engaging and well done as the original. Six episodes in and there’s little doubt in my mind we’re looking at yet another serious contender for Anime of the Year. It’s a series with incredible appeal for older audiences and helps to keep the anime medium from feeling like something exclusively for younger generations. It’s a series that really shouldn’t be skipped.
Linny: Descending Stories continues to feel like a worthy successor of its previous season, digging up a crucial point of last season but with ‘new’ players or rather new dynamics between the people on both sides of the conflict. It continues the story of Yotaro who was introduced and established in the very first episode and seemed initially, the protagonist of the show. Thus, there’s even a feeling that this could have actually been part of the first season itself. The transition isn’t flawless with the story sometimes feeling rushed. And while in story, the world of rakugo may be changing, the vibe of the show and all the things you loved about it last season are still present there for fans to enjoy and embrace
Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com