Management: for the next few posts I will share memorable moments from each of the four seasons of this past year. Spoilers for the entirety of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju ahead.

Children crave family, even those without parent figures.

So childhood was never easy for Kikuhiko, as a boy with a bad leg growing up in a geisha house, he was ostracized among the grown-up female workers. He finds some semblance of a family in Yakumo’s household, forming a deep bond with his co-apprentice Sukeroku and a tangled mess of a romance with Yakumo’s mistress Miyokichi. However, through a series of tragic events, Sukeroku and Miyokichi die, leaving Kikuhiko’s family shattered and their daughter Konatsu orphaned.

Idyllic family
A flash of peace before tragedy

If Season 1 of Rakugo Shinju is a fall into tragedy, Season 2 is a defiant climb back to happiness. Konatsu conceives a child, Shinnosuke, with an unknown father. And Yotaro, the apprentice who practically forced his way into the household, is determined to cobble together a family and include Kikuhiko in it. And despite the tragedies leaving Kikuhiko embittered and outwardly misanthropic, he has the biggest soft spot for his adopted grandchild, acquiescing to any of the child’s demands. As Kikuhiko battles his self-imposed loneliness and the loss of his ability to perform, Shinnosuke remains the member of the adopted family whom he never snaps at. Yet despite all this, he never gets the chance to perform for his beloved grandson, despite entreaties by multiple people throughout Season 2.

Kikuhiko eventually makes peace with himself and leaves this world in the comfort of his adopted family, and Rakugo Shinju also heals his fractured bonds with Sukeroku and Miyokichi in an afterlife reunion. It so happens that in this purgatory, he gets to perform in a rakugo theatre, where there is a magical seat that allows him to call up any one person he wishes to witness his performance. And to tie up the final thread, he calls up Shinnosuke, finally performing for his adopted grandson.

It is especially heartwarming to see Shinnosuke, over a decade later, still hopelessly enamoured by Kikuhiko’s works.

Other memorable moments of Winter:

  • Lotte giving back to Annabel what the Nightfall writers gave to her: the magic of inspiration. This becomes a recurring theme in Little Witch Academia. The blogger Atelier Emily has written about this in more detail.
  • Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Kobayashi realizing, with Tohru’s absence, how much her newfound family means to her. 
  • March Comes in like a Lion: Rei, perpetually self-absorbed in his isolation and depression, putting his insecurities aside and taking care of Shimada. And it does wonders for his mental health–both caring for another person and making connections with them.

You can read about the 12 Days of Anime project in my intro post here.