Descending Stories / Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans
Genre: Historical, Drama, Rakugo
First Aired: Winter 2017, 12 episodes
Summary: Yotarou is an ex-convict, fresh out of prison, on the search for a rakugo master to take him as an apprentice. He finds master Yakumo, who is hesitant to take him on. Yotarou’s persistence pays off as Yakumo accepts him and teaches him the ways of rakugo. The series follows these two and those around them as they tell stories about their past as well as classic rakugo tales.
Descending Stories will teach you the art and form of rakugo, which is a classic form of Japanese entertainment where a lone storyteller sits on a stage and tells their tale. The only props they are allowed to possess are a paper fan and a small cloth. The rakugo artist depicts a long and complicated story which often has more than one character. The difference between characters is depicted through the artist’s pitch, tone, and turn of the head. I was not familiar with rakugo before watching the series and it taught me a lot. The episodes contain rakugo artists telling full stories which sometimes last almost half an episode. It’s easy to see how the show is trying to teach the art of rakugo, not dramatize it and make it something it’s not.
You might enjoy this if: You love Japanese culture and are always looking to learn more about it.
You might not like it if: You want to watch something with a faster pace. The episodes will move by at a snail’s pace if you’re expecting a lot of action or jokes.
Note to the Viewer: The manga series was published from 2010 – 2016 and is compiled in ten volumes. Also, if you’re interested in rakugo and are visiting Japan, there are still places you can attend a performance. There are even some izakaya (Japanese Pubs) that host rakugo performances.
Descending Stories Opening
AMV – Art is Not Dead by Marcelo