Jan. 2nd, 2017

daemonluna: default icon, me with totoros (Default)
We just finished watching Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. Oh, my heart.

It's a historical drama that revolves around the people and politics behind rakugo, a form of traditional Japanese storytelling. The first episode opens in the seventies, with a young guy who's just gotten out of jail, and has decided he's going to start his new life by convincing one of the current master storytellers to take him on as an apprentice. Things get... more complicated than he expected from here on in. The rest of the first season skips back to mostly the 40's in post-war Japan to show the evolution of the master's career and life, and his complicated relationship with his best friend and rival, and his art. 

Also, it is pretty damn queer. None of the characters are explicitly gay (or trans, possibly? kinda gender-queer?), but given the historical and social context, it feels like a realistic queer-ish narrative with something to say about restrictive gender roles rather than a bait-and-switch. I may have more to say about this after some time to think about it. For now, I'll just say that I've developed a new appreciation for pretty young men in geisha dress after that one scene. It reminds me a little bit of Oniisama E... in the inevitable hurtling-towards-tragedy sense, but without the heightened melodrama-treated-deadly-serious. (This one ain't high school, kids.)

Recommended for: complex grown-up characters and relationships, storytelling (both within the scope of the series and literally, oral storytelling on-screen), immersion in Japanese culture and history, gorgeous backgrounds and imagery, behind-the scenes performing art culture, a critical look at restrictive gender roles, and a soundtrack with a mix of traditional Japanese music and jazz.

The first season comes to a definite and satisfying conclusion, but it's based on a completed ten-volume manga, and season two starts later this week and will likely finish off the series. I'm just going to leave the opening credits riiiiiight here, if you want a feel for the tone and mood of the series, or just a bit of gorgeousness. 




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