Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episode 12 – Pride Goeth Before a Fall

Everyone is only able to say what they really feel on the verge of death, and if they’re willing to say so beforehand, then it means death of some sort is coming – It was the same with Master Yakumo confiding in Bon, or how Bon and Shin made their plans to the future, and Miyokichi bared her heart to Bon, just before they had to part ways. Same here. And man, that final scene, with how it just came to be. I’m really reminded of the movie version of A Single Man, with Colin Firth here. “What does it mean?” I asked myself here as well as there, and the real answer is, “The author wants you to think of a story, a theatre story.”

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju anime Episode 12 - Sukeroku (Shin) on not letting things become dreams

Don’t Let your Dreams be Dreams!

Speaking of which, let’s look at the final scene or two a couple more times, as it has a lot to discuss. First and foremost, it reminds me and addresses the scene in episode 9, where Miyokichi tells Bon that the next time they meet, it’d be in hell. More than anything else, that scene felt like a performance. I spoke of it before, but the way the characters speak and interact with one another often follows the beats of a rakugo performance. Is this because it’s Bon who’s telling the story to Konatsu and Yotaro? I suspect it’s more because this is the mindset the mangaka is in.

But look at it, Shin’s actions were really straight out of a performance, often a rakugo one, or a soap opera one, in the last act. Just like in Yotaro’s performance with the thief who listens in, he keeps listening to how his best friend and his wife (whom we see he loves) are about to hook up, and only barges in when he fears the two of them might die together. And later, when Bon is holding him from falling to his death, what stupid line does he come up with? “If you get hurt, you won’t be able to perform rakugo any longer!” and that really made me sit back.

All of the ideas and emotions that motivate the characters of Rakugo Shinju are based off of real emotions, and in the small moments the characters have together, you can feel in them the same issues we all might struggle with. But aside from these small moments, and the rakugo performances which are obviously stylized variations on the same ideas we all must live with, when they go for drama, they tend to declaim and lose their precious and small humanity.

Yes, the balcony broke just as everything appeared to finally take a turn for the better, but did it really? We’ve just had Miyokichi admit her lack of love for her husband and daughter. Bon’s “alcohol”, as if he were the lush from the performance delivered by Bon was found out to be Miyokichi, for whom he went, if he could. He chose her, and trying to quench his own loneliness over his own brother, and his rakugo. And Shin? He ended up giving up rakugo for his wife, and that’s certainly not a turnout that Bon would’ve considered “happy”. And said wife would’ve accepted her husband’s sacrifice of his own soul for her happiness. The relationship that’d have blossomed from this might’ve been better than the one they’ve had up to now because the people in it are actually willing to make an effort for the other one, but they’d all have turned out just as miserable as before.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju anime Episode 12 - Sukeroku (Shin) and Miyokichi (Yurie) falling, and Bon (Kikuhiko / Yakumo) on his punishment

Oh, so that’s what happens when you try…

Let’s go back to the rakugo performance, which obviously came there to flesh out what the characters are feeling and thinking for them. The lush who gave up the drink, which was poisoning him and his life, for the sake of his treasure, which was his wife and her happiness. We’ve actually had a flash of Miyokichi during the storytelling, and while it was unclear whether it came from Shin or from Konatsu, I think it’s the first time the show literally spelled out the reference it was making. But, let’s look at it, which is the poison and which the treasure? Shin said his treasures are Konatsu and Miyokichi, but rakugo isn’t his poison, but his wife’s. His poison was the lack of ability to care about anything after he’s given up his treasure, his soul, which was rakugo. If anything, it seems Miyokichi is his poison.

For Bon, everything is poison and treasure. Rakugo kept him from the people he cared for. But the people he cares for also keep him from rakugo mastery. To Bon, there is no happiness without finding a balance, which is what his journey was about, not giving up one for the other (the poisonous house-hold of “all or nothing” Miyokichi and Shin ended up in is what you get there), but trying to find a happy middle. Which he seems to have managed.

Or did he? This is a performance. This is bloody Shakespearian. What Bon ended up going for was everything – Rakugo and people. Shin and Miyokichi. And for hubris, one must pay.

P.S. And really, all the people who argued about how wrong I am when I said Bon’s perception of constantly being abandoned is what motivated him.

P.P.S. This was still a very good episode, but here, the characters not acting like people, but like characters in a play, in the last act, after the small and quiet talk between Bon and Shin about their different artistic viewpoints and hopes (Bon still holds his best rakugo is solitary, while Shin’s is a dialogue. And neither is wrong, their styles complement one another, and their own personalities), just felt like it really needed to be addressed. It was a great performance, but that’s exactly it, it felt like a stage performance, and not like people acting like beings made of flesh and blood.

Return to the Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episodic Notes page.

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