Originally written at 10/9/16
Current mood: I bet 10 dollars that he’ll tell that story. I bet 10 dollars that kid’s hers. I bet 10 dollars he’s gunna die next episode. I bet infinity dollars I’m going to cry like a baby.
Man, that’s a long ass title aint it? Even with the full kanji title I still dunno what it means. I can read the individual characters but this??? Nope. Like Tsuritama it’s not really popular, but not a dump anime either. It’s the only series I’m watching the same year it’s released (jjba not included). Why did I even watch it, I’m not into historical drama and tbh the first few episodes were boring as hell. Because everyone gifs the bromance (or romance, you never know) of the two mains in the first arc. So close together oh my! I’m dying to know whatever the story is about!
The story starts with a felon ending his sentence in jail. Leaving his old life behind he seeks out the famous storyteller Yakumo the 8th in hopes to become his apprentice. Yakumo 8 never takes in apprentices, but for mysterious reasons he accepts the guy and gives him the name Yotaro. In his house lives a woman named Natsuko, who despises Yakumo 8 with a passion. She thinks he is her father’s murderer. Seeing that Yotaro has the guts and heart to get into the art of storytelling, Yakumo 8 promises to take Yotaro under his wing, but under three conditions: 1, Yotaro has to master everything he could possibly teach; 2, Yotaro has to help him fulfill an old promise; 3, Yotaro cannot die before him. With that, Yakumo 8 begins his tale of how the old promise came to be…
Bon (Yakumo 8’s birth name) has a leg injury that causes him to limp. Due to his slight disability he can no long dance, and thus to ensure his survival the geishas sent him away to be an apprentice of a famous storyteller, Yakumo the 7th. Before Bon could enter the mansion though he was cut off by a dirty street brat, claiming to be Yakumo 7’s apprentice.
The dirty street brat is Shin, and like Bon he is ‘abandoned’. Yakumo 7 initially only wanted to take Bon, but accepted Shin as well. The two are given their new names, Kikuhiko for Bon and Hatsutaro for Shin. The two start their training. When they turn into adults they become storytellers-in-training and leave their masters’ home. And so their life of poverty starts.
Bon works his ass off as a waiter (with so, so many fangirls) while Shin just… hangs around with women and sake. Bon still hasn’t developed his own style yet, but enjoys Shin’s storytelling very much. Yakumo 7 invites his two apprentices to join him in an event and the two meet… Miyokichi, a geisha. A woman Yakumo 7 met during his time in Manchuria, she is beautiful and charming, to say the least. She immediately takes a liking to Bon. Their relationship gets complicated. It’s not like they’re dating… but they certainly like each other.
Shin drags Bon into a play and he is to act as a woman. He is not confident but Shin reassures him that he is perfect for the role. The play rolls out smoothly and bam! Everyone is captivated by his performance. Bon feels like he is hit with a brick or something. He found his style! Bon starts to hone his skills and soon he is as popular as Shin’s carefree storytelling. Bon and Miyokichi’s relationship start to break, and Shin realized that both of them loved each other, but the circumstances are not to be. To let off steam the two bros visit a bar and talked things out when the promise came to play:
If the art of storytelling does not change to suit its audience, it will die out, eliminated by television and radios. Shin will mold into the audience’s tastes as times change, but Bon will have to be the one to maintain the original art of storytelling. Sukeroku will be the force of change so that the art of storytelling won’t die out, and Kikuhiko will make sure the true way of storytelling does not fade away. After making this promise Shin moves out of Bon’s house.
Not long after our mains are promoted into full-fledged professional storytellers. Bon is favored by all, but Shin… not so much. After the ceremony Yakumo 7 has real talk with Shin which results in him getting expelled and kicked out, while Bon breaks it off with Miyokichi which results in her cursing/threatening to kill him. Shin and Miyokichi, two unfortunate souls meet and lick each others wounds. One day Bon finds Shin on his doorstep and Shin breaks the news: he and Miyokichi are moving to the countryside, since she is expecting. Bon does not blame him. He just wants Shin to continue his career as a storyteller.
Five years passed and Bon has become insanely popular, already having people begging him to take them as apprentices. Yakumo 7’s health declines and he wishes to name Bon as his successor, but Bon wants Shin to be Yakumo 8. After Yakumo 7’s death he sets out to find Shin (and by extension, Miyokichi, because she owes money) and he does, by meeting their daughter, Natsuko. Apparently the former geisha has abandoned her family and the father’s incompetence has left the poor child to earn money with her amateur storytelling. Bon lectures the crap out of Shin and stays with him for months clearing his debt, earning money to buy tickets back to Tokyo while persuading Shin to go back with him. After the slight thrill of a storytelling session, he agrees. Before they go the two does one last performance together… but fate just likes to shit on them.
Miyokichi, still hung over Bon, secretly invites him out after the performance. Bon, feeling guilty that he caused Shin and Miyokichi’s life to go to shit, loses composure and almost gets himself pushed off the balcony. Shin busts in and pleads Miyokichi to come back to him, but it only made things worse when the balcony breaks and he rushes to save his wife, leaving them to fall into their deaths. Bon catches Shin’s collar and tries to pull them up, but Shin pries away his fingers away and…
Natuko hates Bon with a passion. But since Bon is her legal guardian she has to follow him back to Tokyo. With Shin gone Bon inherits the Yakumo title to fulfill his promise to let the art of storytelling live on.
My thoughts: This was one bumpy ride I guess?? Bumpier than Tsuritama that is. I cried buckets. Mostly during the 12th episode because man, even if you know dude is gunna die it still hurts you know. The story is pretty well executed. I was expecting drama big-time (Bon and Shin fighting over a woman, extreme jealousy, rivalry or just the inheritance of the Yakumo name is enough to break them) but that never happened, instead their relationship is pretty steady while maintaining their rivalry. The most heartbreaking thing they did to each other was no more than Shin’s announcement that he would move to the countryside with Miyokichi. The misunderstandings revolving around them is so cringey, like Bon admires and envies Shin’s talent, but loves his storytelling. Shin thinks Bon’s storytelling is perfect, everyone favors Bon over him. They think the other deserves the Yakumo title more than themselves! These boys really…
Another interesting thing to note are the gender-specific professions in the arts. Bon’s mother is most likely a geisha herself, so he was raised by geishas and thus was trained in the art when he was young. Bon has talent in music and dance, but everyone knows that he can never be a geisha, because it is a women’s profession. His injury comes along and there is all the more reason for him to give up. Natsuko who adores her father’s storytelling wishes to be a storyteller. However Yakumo 8 forbids her from ever practicing the art, because storytellers were ever only men. Maybe he has another reason (everyone’s lives get rekt in the rakugo business), but that’s only speculation.
Bromance in this anime is real. It can be interpreted as something more since the mangaka has BL works too. Moreover Yakumo 8 still looks fabulous even with his old age. Still fuckable datable. The first season ends with Yotaro announcing he would like to inherit the Sukeroku title instead of the Yakumo title. How the story will continue is beyond me. All I know is that Bon is REALLY hung up on Shin’s death, like, he sees the dead man every now and then and even talks to him??? Bon has some serious guilt issues here. The world split them apart and won’t let the old man rest. Let them reunite god damn.
All and all: I SHIP IT!!!!