The Strength of Bamboo in Rakugo Shinjuu

rakugoAt the end of the second season’s fourth episode, Yakumo regretfully stares at a folding fan or sensu, bearing Sukeroku’s name and closes it after a deep sigh. It cuts to black to begin the ED, revealing an extreme close-up on Sukeroku’s kimono slipping further and further into the distant skies as a continuation of where it left off in the OP. Sukeroku’s sun swiftly passes from one side to the other and for the first few seconds, it seems like Yakumo finally has his way. Then, things start looking up.

Rakugo literally translates to “falling words” or for the English title, Descending Stories traditionally passed down, so redirecting its goal towards elevation reflects upon the art form undergoing much needed change. Rising from the depths which Yakumo wishes he sank to, sights are set on scaling the extensive roots as lengthy as the history of rakugo itself. Ascending above water to greet bountiful bamboo at the surface is essentially re-opening the closed sensu, as well as responding to the first season’s ED. Consisting of a bamboo frame naturally lends sensu the same flexibility and the lone root expands into company, akin to individual fan ribs gathering when spread open wide.

The sun has set, but returns just as bright to bathe bamboo in its light. When the shine becomes clouded, it’s not a cause for alarm, because bamboo will bounce back. Even during the downpour, an emerging shoot perseveres well enough above water. Despite their meek appearance, bamboo have the strength to withstand natural disasters and brave the storm until sunrise. Shaken, but not broken by the moonlit nightmare. Looking back at the first season’s OP starting with vintage film presentation of bamboo and its firm endurance until now speaks highly of rakugo’s longevity, which won’t simply cease for Yakumo’s selfish whims.

Among the fastest-growing plants in the world, the speedy maturity is instantly felt by cutting from the bottom of the culms to a bird’s eye view of a fully grown grove. Similarly, the landscape of rakugo is quickly changing to venture outside the theater and allow more diversity in its performers. The plant’s most understated aspect here is a hollow inside, devoid of skeletons of the past and its broken record of tradition. Gone is the ticking time bomb, mourning the end of an era and now, the future holds nothing but uplifting rejoice to look forward to. The rakugo essentials only dive from cloud nine after a more cheerful variation of the piano keys, which guided this heightened journey beyond the water to begin with.

When everything makes a splash, they don’t go the way of the goldfish, but safely stay afloat. Keeping the legacy alive, fresh bamboo leaves drop down to decorate Sukeroku’s kimono. Building on top of one another as candles may be blown out, but the sunshine rekindles their brilliance.


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