Even after having risen to the utmost rank of shun'ichi, Yotaro struggles to find his own identity in the world of rakugo. Caught between his master's teachings and the late Sukeroku's unique style, his performance lacks an important ingredient—ego. And while his popularity packs the theaters, he is but one of the few; rakugo is under threat of being eclipsed. Meanwhile Yakumo, regarded by many as the last bastion of preserving the popularity of rakugo, struggles to cope with his elderly state. Even though his performances are still stellar, he fears that he is nearing his limits. His doubts grow stronger as an old friend creeps ever closer. Konatsu, for her part, attempts to raise her son as a single mother, which Yotaro is heavily opposed to. Instead, he seeks to persuade her to marry him and in turn raise her son as his own. In Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen, the curtains fall on Yotaro and Yakumo's story, tasked with restoring the near-obsolete art form as well as overcoming their internal conflicts. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
The second season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu cemented the series as an undeniable masterpiece for me is what I wish I would be saying right now. However the second season lost a lot of the aspects that made the first season of Rakugo great for me.
If you were to ask me what the first season was, I’d say that it was a story about the industry of rakugo and the life of two men that grew up together and were raised to work in that trade. If you were to ask me what the second season is, I’d say that it is about the state of where the industry could be going, and concluding Yakumo’s character arc. The way the series tries to present the state of rakugo and where it moves going forward is through Yotaro, a new character of whose sole purpose is to constantly reiterate that Rakugo is to be preserved, and Yakumo’s reluctance for rakugo to be changed and not die with him. The problem here is that Yotaro gets focus only for the first few episodes, where he has to get inspiration and get over his bad reputation dug up by the media and convince his wife that he is a good father for her son and a good man for her. This gets resolved in about 2 episodes and afterwards all the focus on Yakumo. After these events, in all becomes about Yakumo and his deteriorating health. At this point is when this season of Rakugo simply becomes “oh guys we love rakugo so much how can we improve rakugo is yakumo alright is rakugo alright”. Every episode pretty much relies on delivering a Rakugo piece and knocking Yakumo down and then bringing him back down only to knock him down again and it repeats this cycle until this season reaches its end.
It is about 5-6 episodes of stagnation with the characters merely being in a cyclical state until the season reaches its end and things can happen in a way that feels final rather than repetitive. Two of the episodes don’t really have any effect on the overarching plot but bring more flesh into the universe, two are about Yotaro as I have had said and the last two conclude the series. So we have about 2 episodes about the new generation of rakugo performers, about 6 episodes simply stagnating the story with events of the same nature told in a slightly different way, 2 episodes that while I actually considerably enjoyed far more than the other episodes because the details they brought in universe and the Rakugo in them, but I still consider them filler since they don’t impact the plot moving forward, and the last 2 episodes that are wrapping things up. Frankly, to me it felt like it had no idea what it set out to do, other than present us with more rakugo, while not advancing the plot because the story planned itself to end with a certain event. It dragged on a couple of times, and for the most part it felt like a pointless continuation, due to the fact that it feels like it keeps bringing up more of the same. The mere existence of Yakumo as an unresolved character that got a lot of focus, even when his character would get fixed to be deteriorated again, brought no value to the story and by the time it ended, because I simply couldn’t care less anymore. The episodes where he wasn’t a much of a focus point in this season were my favorites, simply due to the fact that I didn’t know what I would get and I had no expectations.
Quite frankly, due to Yakumo’s existence and Sukeroku’s legacy, the characters hardly got anything besides blood ties and admiration to define them in universe for the most part. None of them really have real impact on the events but they are either related to Yakumo or enjoy Yakumo, which I guess the series thinks is reason enough to keep them around and relevant. I do find Yotaro acceptable as he is a reformed criminal who wants to have a positive outlook on life. But there are characters such as a writer that simply chooses to stick around because he wants to write new rakugo stories and he likes rakugo. That’s his motivation and personality. He is constantly around and he at best brings exposition, at the worst he just makes his presence felt. What is the point of having a character who is like “Rakugo is such a beautiful thing. It should be preserved and kept alive.” who brings no real contribution to the events of the story? His personality is rakugo. His impact on the events is artificial and he feels like he is a device to present that things should progress.
You need to understand that I can’t really contain my dissapointment when I complimented its first season for its really strong of storytelling, where it presented all the essential details and developed on its characters in a smart way, presented flaws and difficulites they went through, as well as their strengths. The events mattered because they were shaping Yakumo into the person he became, because of the certain point he got in life, but the events this time around don’t really sway impact because this season is simply preparing Yakumo for the end, with every event in the story being like flowers on a gravestone. None of the events in the story seemed like they had any impact on the universe and there were no real difficulties the characters tackled, outside of Yotaro and Yakumo, who kept struggling repeatedly with the same things which made things repetitive. I couldn’t care about the characters and the story was all in all a mess. There were still things I enjoyed like the rakugo stories told in these season were really entertaining, for the most part. I especially enjoyed the one told by Konatsu, Sukeroku’s daughter, in front of her kid’s classroom. But this second season was not at the same quality of the first season, as it seemed to have no direction for its entirety, thing that I would stayed felt the opposite way the last time around.
To conclude, the second season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu took too much time to reach its conclusion and presented a lot of details that I couldn’t find relevant to the overarching plot, and therefore lost my interest, due to too much foreshadowing and stating the direction it wanted to go to outright through a character of whose role was exactly that. While in the first season, I knew exactly where I was going and what to expect and I enjoyed it, in this season I disliked it, because the execution isn’t as strong, because the events aren’t as impactful due to them being repetitive by nature of not having lasting consequences on its characters or skipping directly to the desired result, the characters therefore don’t feel as human due to that fact, as well as them not having any real difficulties in their lives to truly display any of their flaws or strengths, making a lot of them simply present, but irrelevant. There are rakugo pieces, but those mostly come to your discretion, as different stories impact people in different ways. I enjoyed most of them, but I can’t and won’t speak for everyone. If you’re curious about how this season went on and I kind of turned you off, I will also note that this season doesn’t really take away from the experience of the first season, unless you were really emotionally attached to the series. The first season still remains at the same level as it was, and I don’t find it was a waste of time to find out how things in the universe of Rakugo have had concluded. But note, that it isn’t gonna be what it used to be. It will just remember what it was.