17th Manga Division Excellence Award
SHOUWA GENROKU RAKUGO SHINJU
KUMOTA Haruko [Japan]
Set in the Showa-era, this manga splendidly depicts adorable rakugo storytellers together with complicated human relationships. The story begins with the start of a bizarre and funny cohabitation in the house of a solitary rakugo master, Yurakutei-Yakumo. Yotaroh, who was released from jail, begs Yakumo to accept him as his pupil and moves into his house. Konatsu, the daughter of the late Yakumo’s great friend, Sukeroku (who used to be called the “greatest master” in the rakugo world) also lives there. She has been raised by Yakumo since her father’s death. Interesting points of this work are the reason why Yakumo suddenly accepted Yotaroh as his very first apprentice, a mysterious story behind Konatsu’s bitter hatred for Yakumo and the flashback scenes in which Yakumo and Sukeroku had been steeping themselves in rakugo. In addition to an amazing depiction of each character, the highest point of this work is the rakugo scenes which give you such a sense of being there that you feel tingles up your spine.
Reason for Award
Very few manga works about rakugo have succeeded so far. If you explain each rakugo story by means of pictures, it just seems old-fashioned, while conveying the rakugo world is senseless and awkward. It is extremely difficult to depict rakugo, the art of storytelling, by manga, which is another art of storytelling. However, I had a gut feeling that perhaps this work would be successful…, as soon as I saw the cover of the first volume – an elderly storyteller with a brooding look against a plain black background. There is a candle next to the quiet, unattractive man, which is modestly painted with a vermillion color typical of Japanese candles. I think this reflects his austere elegance, coolness, sexual charms, and even the path he would had taken in the past. I also think that’s exactly what other “rakugo mangas” have failed to depict.
Although KUMOTA’s specialty genre is “Boys’ Love”, I’m sure that SHOUWA GENROKU RAKUGO SHINJU will become one of her best-known works. The reserved character, Yakumo, modeled on SANYUTEI Ensho VI (a renowned rakugo storyteller), is brilliant. (MINAMOTO Taro)