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Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū
Episode 4

by Gabriella Ekens,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū ?
Community score: 3.6

Our heroes are now futatsume, or journeymen rakugo performers. As such, they're no longer financially dependent on their master – although that doesn't keep Sukeroku from mooching his butt off. By contrast, Yakumo is much more principled, working to sustain himself and his dumpy friend. Living together, they continue to practice and perform rakugo. But while Sukeroku has been steadily gaining popularity, Yakumo is still struggling to find his own voice. In an effort to help out his former apprentice, Yakumo's master resolves to get him laid. He has a mistress, the aspiring geisha Miyokichi, who wants to bang Yakumo. She tries a few times, but he keeps rebuffing her. With each attempt, however, Yakumo becomes increasingly cowed, and it looks like he won't be able to keep her at bay for long. This is all complicated by the fact that Sukeroku seems to have the hots for Miyokichi. How will this woman's introduction interfere with the relationship between these men?

This episode looks to be outlining our love triangle going forward. Sukeroku likes Miyokichi, Miyokichi likes Yakumo, and Yakumo likes Sukeroku. I no longer consider it subtext that Yakumo isn't super into the ladies. The show just keeps lingering on his indifference towards women and intimacy with Sukeroku. The best moment this episode comes when Yakumo claims to not have time to entertain some flirtatious women, but then immediately proceeds to humor Sukeroku for several minutes. He also keeps grimacing whenever women touch him and heckles Sukeroku like they're married. There's still room for the show to cop out, of course – it could end up framing his chilly demeanor as mere emotional repression and his relationship with Sukeroku as creative admiration. But at this point, with all of these cues to the contrary, I'd have to knock the show for doing a 180. I'm being cautious about this because it's subject matter that I rarely see anime handle well. Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū has been nothing but classy in its storytelling up to this point, but that could easily change. We shall see.

Otherwise, this is mostly set up for the emotional turmoil to come. Miyokichi introduces tension to what had previously been a comfortable status quo. I'm curious about where the narrative will take her. Will she be just as complex as the men? Or will she be little more than a chaotic agent in their lives? The Master met Miyokichi in Manchuria, and she followed him all the way back to Japan, so I suspect that there's another story there. Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū hasn't prominently featured a female character up to this point, so we're in untested waters regarding how she'll be used.

The biggest issue is that the animation quality has started to slip. They had a lot of trouble keeping characters on-model (particularly Yakumo). The direction is still strong enough to keep the show visually engaging, but it's a step down nonetheless. Hopefully this is just a temporary dip. It's a slower episode than usual, but Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū continues to be a strong production.

Grade: A-

Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.

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