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We need a rakugo that never changes. That's the essence of rakugo.
 
— Sukeroku, ep 8


Rakugo (落語) is comic storytelling, normally done on a stage (高座 kouza) with a towel and a folding fan. A person who does rakugo is known as a rakugoka (落語家). It can be translated to "descending stories", hence the name of the Kodansha USA translation. It often relies on ludicrous endings/plots and wordplay to create humour.

Characteristics of rakugo

  • Characters are distinguished through body language and speech.
  • Rakugo is normally done using a towel and folding fan on a stage and done in seiza position (sitting, normally on a cushion or on the floor, with legs tucked under the body). It is done in a kimono, which is why Sukeroku does not need to have any other clothes aside from the ones he already owns. There is sometimes a microphone placed in front of the rakugoka.
  • There is a monologue performed before the story, which allows a rakugoka to gauge his audience and thus tell an appropriate story.
  • Women used to not be allowed to perform rakugo; however, currently women are allowed to perform it. [1]
  • When the rakugoka goes on to the stage, he is accompanied by music, normally of the kouta variety.
  • Stories range from 10 minutes to 40 minutes, although the usual time range is 30 minutes.[2][1]
  • Kyoto-stye rakugo can involve a table which the rakugoka bangs on.

Ranks (from lowest to highest)

  • zenza - "the lowest stage of performer". Means "opening performance".
  • futatsume - literally means "second" or "second place".
  • shin'uchi - does not need to practise as much as a futatusme, and is considered a "master" by underclassmen. It is at this level that a rakugoka can take on an apprentice, or many apprentices.[3][4]

Rakugo apprenticeships and associations

Rakugo apprentices usually have a strict training period of 3 to 4 years, but because Hatsutaro and Kikuhiko were essentially abandoned by their parents, they had much longer apprenticeships. During their apprenticeships, they must behave as their master requires them to, including not smoking, drinking or going on dates, depending on the master. They require permission to perform certain stories, and must learn the tricks of the trade through rote learning, listening to audio/video recordings and watching their master.

A rakugoka must be connected to a rakugo association, as well. [1] To become a shin'uchi, one must be promoted when the association says they can be promoted.[5]

As a rakugo apprentice, a person needs to receive a stage name before they can perform. The rakugo master can choose to pass on a certain stage name to their student or not. The biggest example of this legacy is the Yurakutei legacy in the series.

Rakugo plays mentioned in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, and plot (if mentioned)

  • Shinigami (死神, "God of Death") - a story of a shinigami's bet with a human. It has a distinctive “Ajaraka mokuren kyuraisu tegeretsuno pa!” in it. (seen and mentioned in ep 1, performed by Yakumo the 8th, practised by Yakumo in ep 8)
  • Dekigokoro (出来心, "Passing Fancy"[6]) - a story of a boss and his hopeless underling (ep 1, performed by Yotaro)
  • Hatsutenjin - a story about getting cavities extracted. (ep 1, performed by Yotaro)
  • [???] - a story that begins with a pilgrim climbing Mt Minobu. One of the characters is a woman named Okuma. It can be identified by its “Namu myoho renge kyo…”. (ep 1, performed by Yakumo the 8th)
  • [???] - a story about flattery, age and complimenting. This one focuses on the main character's neighbor, Take, his newborn baby and the compliments the main character gives to the baby. (ep 2, performed by Kikuhiko)
  • Toki Soba (Time Noodle)[7][8] - a story about a customer of a ramen shop who would praise every little choice (ep 2, performed by Hatsutaro)
  • Akegarasu - described as "bawdy". It begins with an introduction regarding how men love female company and vice versa. (mentioned in ep 2 by Shin-san and in eps 3 and 17 by Kikuhiko/Yakumo the 8th)
  • Yokachoro - (mentioned in ep 2 by Shin-san)
  • Funatoku - (mentioned in ep 2 by Shin-san)
  • Shibahama (Shiba Beach) - a merchant man named Kuma finds a purse on the beach in Shiba, and has a party with the money inside. However, his wife lies to him to get him to work again. It is notably Sukeroku's final performance before his death. (mentioned in ep 2 by Shin-san, and performed by him in ep 12.)
  • Rakuda - described as "advanced".[3] Sukeroku tried to do this play. (mentioned in ep 2 by Shin-san)
  • Bunshichi Motoi - (mentioned in ep 2 by Shin-san)
  • Nozarashi - a story about a man discovering a corpse and unsuccessfully trying to catch a fish, but instead catching bones, leading to people fishing for bones. It can be easily identified by the presence of the crow and the "Su-chara-ka-chan!". (mentioned and performed in ep 2 by Shin-san, performed by Konatsu in ep 10, performed by Kikuhiko in ep 11, performed by Yotaro in ep 13)
  • Miyatogawa - described as "erotic" (mentioned in ep 3 by Kikuhiko)
  • Koganemochi - (performed in ep 3 by Master Beisuke)
  • Akubi Shinan (The Yawning Coach) - (mentioned in ep 3 by Kikuhiko)
  • Yumekin (Dream Treasure)- a story described as "a good story for a snowy day" by Kikuhiko. It is about greed and misers.(performed by Sukeroku in ep 4) Culture notes: There is a pun about a samurai getting samui (cold) and dying. The final gag relies on kintama ("balls" in the slang sense, but literally translates to "golden treasure").
  • Okechimiyaku - a play about Ishikawa Goemon, Heaven and Hell. (performed by Sukeroku in ep 6)
  • Shinagawa Shinjuu (Shinagawa Lovers' Suicide) - about a courtesan named Osome who decides to commit a lovers' suicide with a bookseller named Kinzo. (performed by Kikuhiko in ep 6)
  • Gonin Mawashi - It was noted that either this was a short play or that Kikuhiko somewhat rushed it, as Sukeroku had already run too long with his play. (performed by Kikuhiko in ep 7)
  • [???] - (performed by Sukeroku to Miyokichi in ep 8)
  • Inokori - a specialty of one of the masters in the series, presumably performed to annoy said master. It becomes a specialty of Yotarou's due to the way Saheiji, the main character, needs to be performed. (performed by Sukeroku in ep 9)
  • Kowakare - (performed by Yakumo the 7th in ep 10)
  • [???] - a story about a barber. It begins with the mention that the barbershop is 4 and a half or 6 tatami mats wide, and there are shogi and go boards inside. It can be identified by the "Otowaya" shout. (performed in ep 14 by Yotaro)
  • [???] - a story about flattery and complimenting. It involves the characters Ippatsu-san and Oume-san, the latter of which is a woman and the former of which is a man. Oume-san asks to be Ippatsu-san's wife, since she has been hosted by him for 5 days and she has no way to repay him. (ep 14, performed by Kikuhiko)
  • Daiku Shirabe - stars a Yotaro (not the same as the one in the series)[9] (ep 15, performed by Yotaro and discussed with Higuchi)
  • Jugem - a story about a child. It can be easily identified by the nonsense name: "Jugemu Jugemu Goko-no-Surikire Kaijari-Suigyo no Suigyomatsu Unraimatsu Furaimatsu Kuneru-Tokoro-ni-Sumu-Tokoro Yaburakoji-no-Burakoji Paipo Paipo Paipo-no-Shuringan Shuringan-no-Gurindai Gurindai-no Ponpokopi-no Ponpoka-no Chokyumei-no-Chosuke-san!". (ep 17, performed by Shinnosuke and Konatsu, with multiple parts of the story showcased in the episode)

Quotes

  • "I guess this is what they mean when they say, "Rakugo is a conversation"." - Sukeroku, ep 12
  • "Rakugo isn't something you can do alone." - Sukeroku, ep 12
  • "The art of rakugo is about creating empathy." - Yotaro, ep 14

Trivia

  • The stripes seen at the end of the ending sequence are of a certain theatre's curtains. This theatre is first seen in episode 4, and is used for kabuki as well as rakugo.
  • Shinagawa Shinjuu could be where the name of the anime comes from. It is also heard on the radio in episode 7; this version is by Kikuhiko.
  • Inokori has mentions of Yoshiwara (the brothel place Sukeroku wants to go to with Kikuhiko someday) and Shinagawa.
  • Konatsu likes Nozarashi, enough to recite it when bugging Yakumo 8th and enough to ask for Yotaro to say it to relieve her stress before a revelation.[10]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 http://katsurasunshine.com/what-is-rakugo/
  2. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Rakugo
  3. 3.0 3.1 episode 7
  4. ep 10
  5. ep 8
  6. https://catchercatch.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/rakugo_oad1/#more-936
  7. http://www.myenglishclub.com/profiles/blogs/its-time-to-relax-with-a
  8. http://iws.punahou.edu/user/cshigemitsu/worldlit/dialogues/4/Rakugo.htm
  9. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interest/2016-03-07/rakugo-master-mixes-gundam-with-classic-story/.99514
  10. ep 13

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