Hello, Kyra here! This is Onamae wa? #47, our weekly encounter where we pick Anime character’s names and look for anything interesting in them.
“All for her sake” – Matsuda-san on Season 2, Episode 7
Following our last week post on Sukeroku, our guest today is 有楽亭(yuu.raku.tei) 八雲(ya.kumo) from Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, a historical drama Anime which had its Season 1 aired in Winter 2016, returning one year later in its currently airing Sequel. This post considers Season 1 and Season 2 up to Episode 9. There are enough spoilers here to write a full rakugo piece, so beware.
有楽亭(yuu.raku.tei) 八雲(ya.kumo) represents the perfectionist style of rakugo. Through strict training emphasizing flawless execution he aimed to master this art, only to find himself lagging behind Sukeroku, who would live in debauchery and still perform magnificently. Nonetheless, this struggle itself, coupled with Sukeroku’s aid, was the source of inspiration for Kikuhiko to find his own rakugo. And this is a big deal for sure, as if I had to summarize this series in one sentence it would be either “Your own rakugo” or “All for her sake”.
Albeit being polar opposites, there is at least one trait that these two shared: they both had many names. First one mentioned for Yakumo over the series was 坊(bon), still during Season 1. This kanji is used in 坊ちゃん(boc.chan), a term used to address young men from a good family, which is actually present in the very first line of Season 1 Episode 2, shown below:
Here we can draw some neat comparisons. Last week we saw that early on Sukeroku was called by 信(shin). So on one side we have a kanji that depicts a boy from a good family and on the other a symbol of belief and trust, a simple dichotomy that echoes through the whole series.
As a trivia, the bowl haircut that Bon used is called 坊ちゃん刈り(boc.chan.ga.ri; young boys’ cut) in Japanese.
We have already seen 有楽亭(yuu.raku.tei) last week, so we will jump straight into his two given names. お名前は？
Given Name: 菊比古(kiku.hi.ko)
菊比古(kiku.hiko) further develops the above mentioned contrast between Sukeroku and Yakumo, as you can probably notice just by glancing over the kanji used. I couldn’t really find any other record of someone named as 菊比古(kiku.hiko) outside of Rakugo Shinjuu, so we will just assume it is an original or a extremely rare name.
菊 is almost exclusively known for 菊(kiku; chrysanthemum), a flower very important in Japanese Culture, ranging from being the symbol of autumn and being the motif for the Imperial Family Emblem. If you want to learn more about this, I recommend this post (plenty of images!) and also this one from Japan Times. Chrysanthemum comes with a wide variety of meanings all across the globe. Life, Rebirth and Longevity in Asia, Sympathy in Europe and Respect and Honor in America (Source). Alas, by sheer coincidence, Life, Rebirth and Longevity are present in the whole backbone of Rakugo Shinjuu’s plot and remarkably when concerning Kikuhiko.
比 is a very common kanji, present in daily life words like 比較(hi.kaku); comparison) and 対比(tai.hi; contrast). No need to drag much around here. Comparing and contrasting is, once again, an integral key of this work. Part of what makes Yakumo himself is the undeniable contrast between him and his peers. Needless to point out Kikuhiko x Sukeroku, but this is also valid for his relationship with Miyokichi, his Master, Yotarou and even Konatsu.
古 will be one of the very first kanji you will learn if you ever decide to study Japanese language. Easy to write and present in useful words like 古い(furu.i; old, not usable for people) and 中古(chuu.ko; second-hand), this last one being very useful if you plan to go shopping in Akiba. A word that came up a few times during Rakugo Shinjuu was 稽古(kei.ko), which means practice or training, unsurprisingly involving Kikuhiko diligent study. Hmm. Thinking now, 古い(furu.i) brings this idea of something stale, which could be linked to Kikuhiko’s style before the series of events that culminated in the glorious Season 1, Episode 5, shown below:
Yet another possibility for 古い(furu.i) is depicting something antiquated or obsolete, a reference to the old rakugo that Kikuhiko and Sukeroku promised to change on Season 1, Episode 8.
Rebirth, contrast and something old. Hmm. By clumping these three kanji together we could get 菊比古(kiku.hiko), the rebirth of a contrasting old style or maybe a life contrasting to the old ways. The second one would seem a great fit for Sukeroku. Speaking of which, as I mentioned last week, there is a huge discrepancy between the names given by Yakumo the 7th back in Season 1 Episode 2:
As we have seen last week, 初太郎(hatsu.ta.rou) brings a kanji for something new or a beginning in 初 and manly traits in 太郎. On the other hand, we have a flower in 菊 and something old in 古 in 菊比古(kiku.hi.ko). Furthermore, and sorry if I can’t really explain properly, but 菊比古(kiku.hi.ko) sounds elegant, while 初太郎(hatsu.ta.rou) is rough and strong. Plenty of interesting points here, glad to see that, intentionally or not, the authors picked names that are deeply connected.
Given Name: 八雲(ya.kumo)
八雲(ya.kumo) was the name inherited from his Master, Yakumo the 7th, thus making him the 8th generation, as mentioned countless times over the series during rakugo opening acts as the audience cheered for the performer.
八 is mostly known for being 八(hachi; number 8), but can also describe a relatively large number in some expressions like 八重(ya.e; multilayered, double). Another interesting one is 八つ当たり(ya.tsu.a.tari; outburst of anger).
We have seen 雲 when talking about 美雲(mi.kumo) from Macross Delta in [Onamae wa? #11]. There I was able to relate 雲(kumo; cloud) to many traits of KumoKumo, but I’m not sure how to tackle it as far as Kikuhiko goes. An expression that comes to mind is 青雲(sei.un; erudition, detachment from the world). Oh, right, there was this quote from the above linked post:
Another interesting finding is that 雲 is made by 雨(ame; rain) and 云, a kanji mainly featured in 云々(un.men; comment, criticism). So now we could understand 美雲 as a beautiful rain of criticism, which as we have seen over and over along the series, is a incredibly precise description of Mikumo.
This concept of rain of criticism seems also fitting for our Kikuhiko, who is constantly grumbling piercing complaints.
By putting both together, we get 八雲(ya.kumo), which is an actual word. It can either mean thick clouds or classical Japanese poetry, this last one related to early texts on Shinto Mythology, as 出雲(izumo) was the realm of Gods (Source, Japanese only). Also, Kikuhiko happens to be Yakumo the 8th. While as of Season 2 Episode 9 it is still open on whether he will be the last Yakumo or not, this connection to the number eight would be another linking point.
- 大守(oo.mori) 八雲(ya.kumo) from Tokyo Ghoul (Summer 2014)
- 塚本(tsuka.moto) 八雲(ya.kumo) from School Rumble (Fall 2004)
- 八雲(ya.kumo) 菊(kiku) from Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku (Manga only)
怪しい(aya.shii; suspicious)!. This last one has both 八雲(ya.kumo) AND 菊(kiku). Someone was clearly reading Rakugo Shinjuu when coming up with names.
I’d like to point out a few things regarding the title of this series, which is often translated as Shouwa (and) Genroku Era Lover’s Suicide Through Rakugo and there are a few interesting notes here. 昭和(shou.wa; 1926-1989) and 元禄(gen.roku; 1688-1704) are era names and the first one of course describes the period when the characters featured in the work lived but… what about Genroku? There is a 200 years gap here and even before Genroku there were similar forms of art dating back to 9th-10th centuries.
According to Japanese Wikipedia page on Rakugo, Genroku Era marks the point of transition between what is currently known as Rakugo and its direct predecessors, 小噺(ko.banashi) and 辻噺(tsuji.banashi). It also features many important contributors such as Tsuyu no Gorobei (1643-1703) from Kyoto and Shikano Buzaemon (1649-99) from Edo. That being said, I wonder if this is the reason why it was picked. I thought about whether it had something to do with the Yuurakutei Family Lineage, but according to Yakumo the 7th on Season 1 Episode 8, they started around 寛政(kan.sei; 1789-1801).
落語(raku.go) is the art itself, characterized by a monologue that always end with a narrative stunt known as 落ち(o.chi; lit. fall), that punchline that you saw countless times as the performers would lower their heads by the end. This is the same 落ち(o.chi) that Araragi from Monogatari Series always use to wrap up each major arc.
And then we get to 心中, a word that has two readings and meanings. The one mainly used in this show is 心中(shin.juu; double suicide, lovers suicide) and here I quote Wikipedia:
In common parlance shinjū is used to refer to any group suicide of persons bound by love, typically lovers, parents and children, and even whole families. In Japanese theatre and literary tradition, double suicides are the simultaneous suicides of two lovers whose ninjo, “personal feelings”, or love for one another are at odds with giri, “social conventions” or familial obligations. Double suicides were rather common in Japan throughout history and double suicide is an important theme of the puppet theatre repertory. The tragic denouement is usually known to the audience and is preceded by a michiyuki, a small poetical journey, where lovers evoke the happier moments of their lives and their attempts at loving each other.
So if you are like most people, at some point during (and for sure by the end of) Season 1 you were like “ohhhh”, realizing that 心中 was referring to Miyokichi desire to die together with Kikuhiko and also to Sukeroku suiciding while trying to save her from falling. Great, we understood the name!
And then Season 2 Episode 7 happened.
While the events there still amount to people dying and Miyokichi’s intentions were, to say the least, disturbed, I’d argue that what happened that night couldn’t really be called a 心中(shin.juu), strictly speaking. Then what would it refers to?
Here I theorize that 心中(shin.juu) is indeed a Lovers Suicide, but not between a couple. Rather, it is a love between a man and rakugo. Kikuhiko would rather die before becoming so old as to not be able to perform. This is similar to lovers that can’t be together because of external factors, only special detail here being that, this time, the barrier itself is the inevitable outcome of life: death. I’ll add this quote from Matsuda-san on Season 2 Episode 7, after the truth about the events around Sukeroku and Miyokichi are revealed:
rakugo to shinjuu suru nante, nidoto iwasenaidekudasai.
This was officially translated by Crunchyroll as: Never let him talk about dying with rakugo ever again. While this is ok, the use of 心中(shin.juu) here is very strong and deeply meaningful, so by missing the idea that Matsuda especifically used the term for Lovers Suicide is a huge loss.
I mentioned up there that there was another reading and meaning for 心中, so it is time to crack it. 心中(shin.chuu) is a term used to describe someone’s true motives, what someone really feels, what is deep inside his or her mind. And this word is an incredible asset to this story, describing Kikuhiko’s burden on protecting Konatsu, a feeling that was burnt in my mind by Matsuda-san saying, on Season 2 Episode 7: All for her sake. And here once again you can wonder about how this sentence, isolated from the context where it appeared, could refer not only to Kikuhiko relationship with Konatsu, but with Miyokichi or even with Rakugo itself.
Considering all of that, I consider this is an incredible title. As all of the content in [Onamae wa?] series, I’m not saying that this has to have been intentional. Deep inside though, I want to believe it was.
I’ll finish today’s post with a quote from an American journalist that really matches the story of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu:
Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. – Norman Cousins (1915-1990)
Thanks all for your time, hope you enjoyed your reading. I feel like it ended up being too long and I apologize if it bothered you, but there was just so much to talk about Kikuhiko and the title that it was inevitable. If for some weird reason you didn’t watch this show, don’t hesitate: Season 1 was among, if not the best show of 2016 and Season 2 is a strong candidate this year as well. See you all next weekend!