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Shôwa Genroku rakugo shinjû 

Yotarou is a former yakuza member fresh out of prison and fixated on just one thing: rather than return to a life of crime, the young man aspires to take to the stage of Rakugo, a traditional Japanese form of comedic storytelling.


Haruko Kumota






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Series cast summary:
Akira Ishida ...  Yuurakutei, Yakumo 1 episode, 2016
Tomokazu Seki ...  Yotarou 1 episode, 2016


Yotarou is a former yakuza member fresh out of prison and fixated on just one thing: rather than return to a life of crime, the young man aspires to take to the stage of Rakugo, a traditional Japanese form of comedic storytelling.

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Official Sites:

Official site [Japan]





Release Date:

8 January 2016 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Showa and Genroku Era Lover's Suicide Through Rakugo See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Studio DEEN See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

16 : 9
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Remade as Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (2018) See more »


Usurahi Shinju
Performed by Megumi Hayashibara
See more »

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User Reviews

Some of the Best Writing in Anime
2 October 2019 | by Shostakovich343See all my reviews

'Anime can't do characters,' I was about to conclude. Out of the fifty-some anime I have watched so far, there were only three that boasted more than adequate writing. I was even about to give up anime altogether, when along came "Rakugo." This is how it should be done! Working from the ground up, with a strong concept and a good script as foundation.

In "Rakugo"'s long first episode we witness former gangster Yotarou leave prison. When the guard asks what he is planning to do with his life now that he is free, Yotarou answers that he wants to learn rakugo, an ancient Japanese storytelling art. He approaches Kikuhiko, the world's last great rakugo artist, and begs to be accepted as his apprentice. The master is infamous for refusing to take on pupils, and yet there is something in Yotarou that makes him willing this once.

Little do we know that the old Kikuhiko is this season's protagonist. The second episode takes us back to the 1930's, where we find him as the crippled and unwanted child of a Geisha. He is taken into custody by a willing rakugo master, but followed on his way there by the obnoxious street kid Hatsutaro, who begs to be taken in as well. Despite it earning him no money, and his wife protesting, the master agrees to take on both boys as apprentice. Like Kikuhiko many years later, he must have had his reasons.

It quickly becomes clear that Hatsutaro is the more gifted of the two. Kikuhiko may practice more diligently and achieve greater perfection, but he comes across as labouring, and not by far as charismatic or funny as Hatsutaro. This makes the already introverted Kikuhiko resentful at first, but with the support of his 'brother,' he slowly finds a voice of his own, and develops a rakugo that ultimately garners him more acclaim than Hatsutaro.

I was astonished by the sheer breadth of these characters. We follow Kikuhiko from his preteens up to his late sixties, written incredibly nuanced, especially in regard to his relationship with Hatsutaro. Kikuhiko's emotions range from dislike, envy and disgust to admiration, friendship and platonic love, but never all one way. Some habits change, some flaws are forgiven; others are not. There is never a truly unambiguous moment between these characters, and neither is there between real persons. What makes "Rakugo" so special is that it succeeds in building strong arcs for its cast while retaining this human inconsistency, and not overdoing it.

Indeed, for such a serious story, melodrama is used only sparingly. In my review of "Violet Evergarden" (that will probably garner 1 or 2 dislikes before disappearing in the annals of IMBd) I criticised that series for its unsubtle, and ultimately empty drama. When I said that 'crying is not the same as touching people,' this is the alternative I had in mind. One of the most aching moments in "Rakugo" is an early performance by Kikuhiko, when the audience won't laugh. He knows he is boring, but has no choice but to go on. Nothing is said out loud; we only see him labour, knowing that he is failing.

That makes it all the more satisfying when he does get the hang of it. It is a steady development, one of the series' many long arcs, and very convincingly executed. Take for example how the rakugo sessions are edited. Whenever the actors are getting into their roles, the dialogue is edited as if it were really two different people conversing. Simple, but effective. Also note how every rakugo artist really has his own style: Kikuhiko's performances are erotic, macabre, and highly intellectualised; Hatsutaru's exuberant, unrefined, and yes, funny.

One of the series' greatest moments occurs in episode 11, when Kikuhiko visits Hatsutaru in the countryside and they join in a spontaneous rakugo performance. It is because we know what these characters have gone through, how they have grown and developed their own style, that we recognise this moment as the artistic and emotional triumph that it is. I was more rivetted during this one 5-minute performance than during the enterity of the 29 episode-climax to HxH's "Chimera Ant Arc." Writers, take note: This is why character development matters!

My only qualm with "Rakugo" concerns the season climax. It has been established in the very first episode how these characters end up, preparing the audience for a dramatic turn of events, but what ultimately happens does not flow smoothly from the rest of the story. The events are not implausible per se, but their abruptness and extremity feel out of place in this wonderfully nuanced story. (Edit: A significant reveal in season does not solve this tonal unevenness.) In any case, a lot is made up for by that final episode, with its piercing sense of faded glory that made me tear up -- an event to which no other anime holds claim.

I have not yet seen season two of "Rakugo." It may be even better or it may disappoint, but whatever happens, this season offers a whole and rounded narrative, a glorious story that no future events can take away. As a film, "Rakugo" may have compared slightly less favourably to distinct auteurs such as Bergman, Renoir, Fellini, and Ozu. But this is an anime, and, in many aspects, one of the best ever made.

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