Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and Gender

[Meta context: First published on February 6th 2017, this is the first record of MagicConan14’s writing in a WordPress style, slightly edited for better understanding and consistency. You can find it on Tumblr here.]

Disclaimer: I am not a sociologist or any other person with similar qualifications. I just want to try and dissect a show that I love in a more critical manner. That said, it’s very wordy.

Intro note: Shinnosuke = Shin-chan, Sukeroku = Konatsu’s dad, Yota = Shinnosuke’s adoptive dad. Just to avoid confusion.

 

Although Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (henceforth SGRS) has had lots of focus on male characters, it is episode 17 that allows Konatsu to shine and break down the gender barriers. It’s her reactions and actions in this episode that shows how a skilled woman could keep up with her male peers even if she’s rearing a child, and that’s not only progressive in the show itself, it’s encouraging as part of a josei work.

At the start of the episode, Konatsu is seen working the shamisen in a theatre, something her mother wanted to do while she was alive. This ties into the theme of how people have to be shoehorned into their gender roles, despite what they may have wanted otherwise. Konatsu has the same dream as her mother, even though she initially despised her mother for running from her and her dad.

When Yakumo scolds her, there’s a cold air and at least one apology on the way. Certainly, the frigid air is all built up from years of legacy, but everyone bows down to the spoilt Shinnosuke. (It’s also notable Shin-chan is the only one to yell, “8th Generation!” like people do in previous episodes, as that itself is an extension of the legacy.)

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Here, Konatsu’s anger as a mother is understandable to all demographics due to the way it’s succinctly reasoned out – in a sense, Konatsu may have been quelled in some regards, but she’s still the rebellious spirit she used to be. Also, in an age of women’s independence being accepted, Yakumo is doing Akegarasu instead of Jugemu (as requested by Shin-chan) to annoy his “daughter”. A clash of the times indeed.

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It could even be said that Konatsu is the audience surrogate (for the intended demographic) of sorts, even if she is often on the sidelines. Despite her stubbornness, Konatsu does have the ability to play “straight man” to Yota, as discussed in the bus scene, which makes her relatable enough to suit all types of viewers, regardless of gender.

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It is at the point where Yota brings his wife out on to the stage that the show hits turning point. Yota even gives Konatsu the spotted scarf, itself a symbol of Sukeroku. At multiple points during Konatsu’s performance of Jugemu do you see how she’s touched to finally be on stage and her “oh my gosh” is partially of disbelief as well as euphoria and embarrassment to a certain degree.

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It then immediately cuts to the meal afterwards, and while Konatsu seems calmer now, she’s still oppressed in regards to what she wants to do. She even calls the traditional patriarchal system “better” and “more beautiful”, but the viewer is at this point well aware rakugo is a sinking ship. Basically, Yota implies that Konatsu is the sort of person, the sort of woman rakugo needs to be revived.

SGRS may have been carried by its male characters, but it’s Konatsu and Miyokichi’s legacy before her that cause people to realise we can’t be stuck in the past forever, holding on to tradition all the time. Sometimes, we just have to move on and change because that’s the way people evolve, both physically and psychologically.

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10 thoughts on “Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and Gender

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  1. I was worried that there would be a lot of spoilers, since I haven’t seen this anime yet even though I really want to, but thankfully it was okay. I’m glad they were able to have an episode like this and it didn’t feel forced or shoe horned. Even though she says that she likes the tradition of rakugo, it still shows that change is okay and won’t wreck the long standing tradition of that art form. Change isn’t always a bad thing, right?

    Great post. I’m glad you ended up taking part in the Blogwarming Party so I could read this. 🙂

    Like

    1. I never really know what to do with my spoiler warnings, so I put them there more as a precaution than anything else.

      SGRS has a really good control of plot flow even though it has extended rakugo sessions sometimes, so nothing ever really feels shoehorned at all.

      Part of the problem is that Yakumo 8th’s hold on the tradition (and how Konatsu sees the artform as being enshrined by tradition, by proxy) is too strong. That’s why this rakugo performance is great, but certainly you’re not in the wrong when you say “change isn’t a bad thing”. That’s just another factor in the puzzle that is SGRS.

      Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats on being featured on Irina’s Blogging Party 😀 I can definitely see why that is, after reading this post. This series I have never heard of before reading Irina’a Blogwarming post, and seeing her so enthusiastic and at a loss for words for it, I got curious. After reading this post, I hope to see this one at some point next year (I’m always behind on anime….so I am currently watching series that everyone has seen probably already lol😂). This was a wonderful post. Looking forward to reading more from you in the future 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you.

      This series only wrapped up its second season in winter 2017, so it doesn’t have much buzz around it for anyone who’s not a seasonal watcher. However, from the end of year lists I’ve seen, the second season got a lot more press compared to the first.

      I’m always catching up on stuff other people have sung praises about due to being selective about what I watch, so I know the feeling.

      I look forward to what you have in store as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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