A Story is More than Just Words (Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju)

This is Day 3 of the 12 Days of Aniblogging holiday rumpus. Today I am going to talk about an anime that aired in the winter. It was called Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju.

art by rio

art by rio

I’ve been a fan of anime for a while now, and though I don’t watch as much as I used to anymore, I try to keep an eye out for the titles I think would qualify as My Sort of Thing. Most of the time I end up watching shows that are enjoyable, but aren’t what I’d call particularly noteworthy. Rakugo is one of those titles that completely blew me away from start to finish. It’s one of those titles that shows up every three years or so, and reminds me that anime can actually be very good.

Rakugo tells a story about storytelling. The life work of the protagonists is to understand what audiences want in a good story, and mastering the art of telling it in the best way possible. Though I was not very familiar with rakugo before watching this anime, I always felt like I was on the same page in regard to everything the characters were trying to accomplish with their craft. It takes a lot of work to tell a good story, and there’s so many ways to go about it. The characters have to wrestle with what rakugo means to them, and struggle with the question of how much they intend to devote their lives to it.

The storytelling of rakugo is a metaphor for the stories of the characters’ lives — their mundane and strange everyday human experiences, with all its ups and downs, its comedies and tragedies. I’ll go ahead and say I related to the protagonist of this anime quite a bit — not so much in life experiences, but in personality (or at least, certain aspects of it). I always felt I could follow Kikuhiko’s line of thinking, his general approach to work, and the way he interacted with others. As such, he felt like a very “real” character, and a rather unusual sort of protagonist. He’s not particularly heroic, or even likeable. But regardless, I empathized with his struggles. Rakugo is wonderfully meta in that sense, as it manages to draw you in and engages the audience all the way to its dramatic conclusion — and it’s all thanks to the way it tells its story.

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