The second season of Rakugo is a story of inspiration. A story of a simple man called Yotarou who was inspired by his master’s rakugo. And sometimes, inspiration is all you need to keep an art form alive.
Entertainment medium has evolved over the years — black and white television has evolved to color television, analogue games have evolved to digital video games. A major role that played into their evolution is inspiration; once you become attached to these media, you are inspired, and in the pursuit to improve these media, you begun to think of things that may very well change in how we continually perceive these entertainment.
This is actually a pretty common story among major influential people like inventors, entertainers and so on. For example, the invention of television was involved by many individuals but it was Vladimir K. Zworykin who was himself inspired, and who would then went on to invent the first ever electronic television. Bing Crosby was an influential icon in the entertainment industry who has inspired many other singers and also changed the landscape of radio programs.
Inspiration is a powerful thing.
Kikuhiko wanting rakugo to die with him was one of pivotal part of Kikuhiko’s character in season 2. In season 1, we see Sukeroku being Kikuhiko’s foil — in that he represented evolution in contrast to Kikuhiko’s tradition. It took until season 2 however, for the evolution to finally occur, in the form of Yotarou — Kikuhiko’s disciple. As if to sneer at all the drama in the story, Yotarou practically exclaimed “Rakugo will never die!” in season 2’s finale.
And he’s right — Rakugo will never die, but it evolves.
And once again, it all comes back to inspiration. Kikuhiko has paved the way for rakugo in the modern era, but to survive in the modern era, evolution is necessary. In the last episode, we are shown snippets of performances and in a way, it’s just like old times — the oriental design of the theater, the crowd listening to you intently on your performance. However the East and West rakugo performers have joined together, and they are even training younger guys in the art form too. Both men and women, young and old, eastern and western Japanese have all banded together for a common cause, to revive rakugo as an art form — this kind of unity was something unheard of during Kikuhiko’s era, and it was all made possible just because of a simple inspiration.
Kikuhiko may have painful memories with rakugo but in his endless pursuit to improve his craft, he has inspired various people — Yotarou, being one prime example. Because of his ability to inspire, he has made his own desire unachievable. The irony — he has essentially made rakugo disappearing become an impossibility, by doing something as simple as taking in a student on a whim. Rakugo has evolved into a culture — this particular form of entertainment has become integrated in Japanese culture, and a lot of people, young and old, will be aware of this art form for it’s uniquely minimalist display and it’s nostalgic callback to the Japan of the past era.
Kikuhiko, Yotarou and Shinnosuke — Three rakugo storytellers from three different generations. Inspiration has made this possible, inspiration has turned rakugo into an undying art form and it will only continue to evolve in Yotarou and Shinnosuke’s time.