The Rakugo breakthroughs in this show always come from unexpected places. Yakumo had his breakthrough while crossdressing as a woman for a play. A second breakthrough with his shinigami story after the death of his dear friends. Meanwhile Yotaro has his breakthrough due to his Master collapsing and having to perform under pressure. Strangely this was the perfect way for Yotaro to work his Rakugo as he previously mentioned about wanting the characters of the stories to come alive instead of placing himself within the characters. Thus comes the moment when Yotaro literally cannot put himself into the performance. For Yotaro at this point in time is a complete nervous wreck over Yakumo’s condition. So against all odds, Yotaro not only manages to perform Inokori but does it magnificently. I like that he left out the introduction as you could tell he wanted to get through this performance so he could check on Yakumo. So he jumped right into it without pause. I was originally worried that Yotaro was going to tank this due to his mental state but it became clear as he continued that he was getting in the zone. Afterwards he even lamented that his master couldn’t see him give one of his best performances since becoming a storyteller.
With Yakumo unconscious for a week, Yotaro finds himself filling in for all his gigs and performing quite admirably. He proclaims that Yakumo will be back on his feet but truthfully this is a big wake up call to just how fragile he really is. Rakugo is in a dire state and already a gaping hole is left with Yakumo out of the picture temporarily. The future of an art could very well live or die and it rests in the hands of someone far past his due date. It’s clear what must happen, Rakugo must change and evolve with the times. But as the theatre owner laments how he must rebuild the theatre to meet new building standards for withstanding earthquakes, he does point out something important. Even if the theatre was flawed in many ways, it still holds a history that will disappear when it’s rebuild. This seems to mirror the very state of Rakugo, for to change Rakugo is to challenge that history and potentially replace it. Unlike a Theatre however, replacing Rakugo is no simple task. The rakugo world needs a Yakumo, it needs a Yotaro, it even needs a Sokuroku. None of these men can carry the art by themselves so we need new blood and their lies the paradox. To make Rakugo relevant again it needs new blood but to get new blood Rakugo needs to be relevant again. Perhaps this is the tragedy alluded to in the title Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.