January 8th, 2016.
A Masterful Performance
This show isn’t going for flashy animation, but it doesn’t need it. The character models aren’t always sharp, but they don’t need to be. The show flows well, and its characters are extremely expressive. They look composed when they need to, they look tired and haggard when the show calls for it, and if they sometimes have slightly less lines, or are a bit comically deformed, then it too is in service to the show’s aesthetic. Not a lot of animation? Cutting from one still frame to another? But, the show not only works with it, it’d work less without it.
The lighting is spectacular, and the shot composition and the colours used, such as when we first saw the big city, or in prison, or as we saw the moon and the snow, all reminded me of Uchouten Kazoku slightly, or Janusz Kaminski’s filmography (Saving Private Ryan, Bridge of Spies, and many more.). The shot compositions, the colours, the lightings. All good.
So, sound. Quite a nice jazzy music backdrop. The string instruments that play now and then, and the more “old-school” music that plays in the performance and surround this show all sound good and lend it a certain atmosphere. The voice acting is solid, but I’m not sold on Ishida Akira as the old master. His voice is good for the cynical “yin” person that he’s portraying here, more cold and conniving than aloof, but he doesn’t have the charisma needed for the role he’s supposed to be portraying in-character. I’d have liked Sakurai Takahiro to do that, but well, he’s doing half of his role really well, so I can’t really complain.
Lead actor’s voice sounds “off” and reedy and funny some of the time, but then again, that’s exactly what he should sound like. Top marks for the show here. It’s not the best looking and best sounding show, but, it sounds and looks as it should, which is more important.
Also, lead character, especially when he smiles, often reminds me of The Tatami Galaxy’s Ozu, heh.
ED – Very jazzy, very cozy. It’s ok, but I’m not a big fan of jazz.
Themes / Story:
So. I don’t laugh at anime a lot. Quite rarely. Japanese-style humor via anime works even less for me (sorry Osomatsu-san and Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, it’s not you, it’s me). So imagine my surprise when the “in-show” show, which lasted like 10 minutes, had me smiling, then chuckling, then laughing out right. I could watch more of it. Though I guess them cutting the time-frame down certainly didn’t hurt. But I’m so glad they gave it that long and uninterrupted section.
This show was the 2nd most-looked forward to non-sequel by me, this season, the other one was Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, which had a spectacular premiere, and man, this show gives it a run for its money. That premiere was much tighter, but this one I probably enjoyed more. The key thing I said of Bokumachi’s premiere holds even truer here – it doesn’t feel like an anime. It feels like a proper television (western) drama, and that’s high praise.
We’ve got themes out of the wazoo here, the “shinigami”? It should be talking about Yotaro’s pre-rakugo life, as a criminal, but it also speaks of his apprenticeship, of how he’s going to give away his life’s energies for a new life, where he wants to be happy and famous, but is buying into a dying art-form. Likewise the late performance he slept through, where the hapless traveler is tricked and poisoned, but saved at the last moment by the heavens.
There’s certainly a lot going on with Konatsu’s father, the memory-ghost that haunts the sometimes cruel and often indifferent master. It’s a broken household. Held together by bitter memories and shared passions. The past, and the future, which he plans to leave to those two, not because it’s his desire, I think, but because there’s no one else. As time passes by, our old enemies who walked the long journey of life with us are closer to us than many so-called friends whom we left behind. The past, and the future, of a dying art-form. Also a metaphor referenced during the episode.
There’s a lot going on, and it was well-acted, and well-directed, and funny, and I loved it. Good stuff, and I’m glad it was double-length, to let that performance run its course.