Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Episode 13 (Season Finale)

I’ve never been so happy to write the word “season” instead of “series” into a post title before.

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In case you missed the good news, Showa Genroku is getting a second season, something I never thought I’d be writing and am positively giddy to be doing so. Given that the manga is scheduled to wrap up sometime this summer, it’s likely the production staff had this planned out as a complete, two-part adaptation right from the start. Thank the anime gods for risk-takers and passion projects, that’s all I can say.

Knowing we’re only at the halfway point takes a lot of pressure off of me, too, as I don’t need to try to tie it all together or judge it as a complete work just yet. There’s lots of story left to tell, and while SGRS Act I set up one complicated, tragic stage, this season finale injects a powerful shot of hope into our story, suggesting that Act II may just find a way to give its current players a more optimistic ending after all.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Episode 12

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for?

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Showa Genroku’s tragedy-coaster reaches its summit and drops us straight down in more ways than one, fulfilling its first-episode promises in dramatic fashion. There may be a small light at the end of this tunnel, but it’s an awful long way off. For now, we need to talk about our cast and our story, and about why things happened the way they did–or, rather, about why that “why” remains so elusive in the first place. It’s another essay, this one in four parts. Get comfy. It’s a long way down to the bottom of this post.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Episode 11

You know, if we stop watching now, we can pretend they lived happily ever after…

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My goodness, was that a delightful episode. While Showa Genroku makes for a fascinating character study, it’s not what you’d call a “feel-good” series–our protagonist’s dour outlook, our cast’s ongoing struggles, and our knowledge of the eventual conclusion weigh too heavily on the story, infusing it with a quiet sorrow even in its brighter moments. This week, though, for perhaps the first time since the premiere (or at least since Kikuhiko’s first triumphant performance), we had an episode that was positively resplendent with joy. My grin was nearly as wide as Konatsu’s.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Episode 10

One big, happy family…

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In an episode that begins and ends with apprentices, it’s no wonder this week’s Showa Genroku is all about inheritance—the legacy we leave, what we try to pass on, and what ends up getting left behind. This is true of genetics, yes, but also of traditions, from religious ceremonies to social norms to scientific knowledge to storytelling and other art forms. Just as the human race depends on progeny for survival, human cultures depend on good teachers and willing students.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Episode 9

Showa Genroku is the Crocodile Dundee of winter anime. “You call that art? Now THIS is art!”

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I had a moment after this week’s episode where all I could do was stare at the end credits while making little half-articulated “wow” noises. That was a beautiful, haunting, painful, stunning 22 minutes, so riveting that I straight-up forgot to take notes my first time through. Regardless of how the next few weeks pan out, after an episode like that I feel confident in saying that SGRS has already established itself as something truly special, an achievement in character writing and visual direction, using its art and music and phenomenal vocal performances to create a whole even greater than the sum of its fantastic parts. Two days later and I’m still trying to lift my jaw up off the floor.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Episode 8

The light at the end of this tunnel is looking more like a speeding train with each passing week.

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Due to a series of unexpected and slightly ridiculous events, I wound up handwriting this in the back of a car between bouts of motion sickness (#XtremeBlogging!), then quickly typing it up and posting it via shaky hot-spot WiFi. As such, it’s a bit scattershot, but I’ll do my best to keep it organized as we chat backgrounds, priorities, and shifting relationships.

After spending a whole lotta time firmly rooted in Kikuhiko’s perspective and developing opinions about others based on the way he sees them, we at last get some direct back story from our two supporting players that offers us our first real glimpse into the histories, hopes, and fears that have influenced and continue to drive them—and they’re not as different from our dour protagonist as you might think.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju – Episode 7

Showa Genroku: A classic love story of boy-meets-rakugo.

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Having at last found his voice, Kikuhiko’s star rises swiftly, as his performances earn him accolades from audiences and masters alike. But one person’s success can sometimes be another person’s loss, and the rapid changes occurring this week are as much about unraveling personal connections as they are about tightening professional ones.

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