Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Volume 9
As the series prepares for its conclusion (volume 10 is the final one), the characters in Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju volume 9 contemplate the pending retirement of Yakumo, the last rakugo master.
Yakumo and an old friend, a gangster, begin the volume with a garden stroll while they reflect on how much things have changed. It’s a mood I can empathize with more and more. It’s wonderful that so many people value Yakumo’s work and want to tell him that, but I found myself wondering… what do the generations owe each other? Yakumo is the center of the household — how has that affected the younger family members? Perhaps it’s just jealousy, that I never lived near my relatives, so couldn’t experience this kind of frequent multi-generation influence.
The story is about how the past influences the present, but those in the present are actively seeking to learn more about the history as well, seeking out photos and reference material in order to keep the storytelling art alive. Then there’s the energy having a grandchild brings, refreshing everyone’s spirit to try again.
Thinking about all these different ramifications of past and present, the most powerful sequences in the book for me are the visions Yakumo has. First, when he visits a prison to perform a story about a departed geisha, the story and his memories blend together, visualized effectively in the comic format through his haunted expression and a figure that appears and disappears. Then, at the end, he’s still hoping, egotistically, that the art goes with him when he goes, and the most influential person on his life appears to give him a last reflection. It’s got me eager to see how the series ends.