I felt a bit skeptical about going into Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu's second season. The main reason for this primarily dealt with not just how good the first season was, but how unique it was as a whole... how well it shone a whole new light on both the drama and romance genres as a whole, in addition to having every trait that a typical, modern-day josei series would, but without at all feeling like it was expressly designed for women the same way typical seinen feel like they're usually expressly designed for men, or any other demograph-specific subgenre in the same regards. The presentation of the story and its structure were among some of the most unique that I've ever seen within the drama genre, especially with how everything was executed... of course, all within the first season.
The reason why such skepticism arose for me while going into this second season was primarily because of the fact that what the first season had given us was over for good, as in the second season would be unable to continue on what made the first as good as it was. The second season would have to adopt an entirely different style of story structure and general progression among both the plot and the characters. I had an itching feeling that it'd be unable to recreate anything nearly as good as the first season, just because of how unique the first season was. Of course, I said all of this prior to watching the second season... now, however, my opinion is just a tiny bit different.
The main thing the second season of Rakugo focuses on is the future, and one thing it takes seemingly endless advantage of to accomplish this style of writing is time skips. While most time skips are pretty obvious, and information regarding what's happened during them is usually given upfront, there do come some times when you're completely unaware of what's going on for a few minutes before context clues are given to help get you caught up with the times. For a few moments, this kind of thing is a bit annoying, mainly because as I said, the time skips are seemingly endless for the most part. They happen quite often... they're by no means a rarity. Sometimes, it can feel like they take away from the general enjoyment of the show, but in all honesty, they really don't for a few key reasons:
- The timing and general placement of these time skips is fantastic. They're placed in a part where the story feels like it's beginning to go a bit downhill, and might get boring soon. It stops itself from achieving that exact level of boredom with said time skip.
- It allows the writers to continue to flex their ability to create a well-structured story via the methods used to explain what happened during the skipped time. After every time skip, any important events that happened during the time that was skipped are explained extremely well, without at all feeling forced or rushed.
- They almost feel natural because of how smoothly the story progresses even with them. The reason I use the word "natural" is because it allows for more important things to be covered, as, like I mentioned above, the times skipped over are usually ones where the story seems to be heading into a more "boring" direction than usual.
The second season of Rakugo is, in most regards, almost the exact opposite of the first, at least when we're talking about the story. As opposed to Yakumo being the front-and-center character, most of the attention within this season is focused on Yotarou, the one what we believed to be the main character at the very beginning of the first season. Of course, as I stated that most of the second season focuses around the future, it's also a complete opposite from the first season, which mostly focused on the past. However, there's one thing that maintains a perfect sense of continuation from the first season to the second, that isn't really affected by the sudden shift in story structure: the characters.
While it's made very apparent from almost the very beginning that Rakugo is meant to be a very character-focused series from an overall standpoint, one thing that really intrigued me more than anything was Yakumo, and how well he stood out as a whole along so many other great characters. The thing that makes the second season so special, at least to me, was how well he continued to become a character with layers upon layers of development and general depth, even when the focus wasn't entirely on him. It seemed hard to go more than a few episodes without learning something that really drew you even closer to Yakumo as a whole, which all of these things put together alongside everything from the first season cause him to not only become an extremely lovable character, but one of the most well-written characters of any anime I've ever seen.
Rakugo's second season strikes a major string of success alongside its ability to progress things almost perfectly from a purely story perspective, without any regards to the timeline or any of the specific characters or their personalities. There is never a single time where you're questioning a reason or motive for why something is happening, or questioning how it has anything to do with getting from point A to point B. Everything progresses smoothly, and as I mentioned above, this is a bit of a surprising thing just because I didn't expect Rakugo's second season to be able to keep up with the first in regards to writing quality.
That's another great thing I loved about the second season: nothing feels anywhere near as unique as the first season for a majority of the season (about 8 episodes), but the quality of it all certainly does exceed it. The level of creativity is almost not even worth mentioning just because of how amazing everything else is, as it seems hard to really point out a single flaw with the second season here in regards to the general overview of structure and development.
In the end, I can't at all say I'm anything even slightly less than amazed by the second season of Rakugo. Something I went in expecting to be inferior to the first season ended up being far superior to it, simply because the writers focused on quality first and foremost this time around. As opposed to a unique idea being introduced and included among a number of flaws like in the first season, the second season sticks to a traditional method of presentation and creates dozens of well-written ideas and general aspects that all feel amazing. Believe me, if you watched the first season of Rakugo and enjoyed it even slightly, the second season is a MUST watch, as I'm almost guaranteed you'll like it in some way.
My apologies for the lackluster review, really hard to talk about what makes this season as amazing as it is without spoiling it entirely. But hopefully the ideas I presented here were enough to at least get you to watch it if you were a bit skeptical of doing so at first.
Main Score - 90% of total score
Story: 91/100 (45% of main score)
Characters: 98/100 (35% of main score)
Art: 97/100 (15% of main score)
Sound: 100/100 (5% of main score)
Enjoyment Score - 10% of total score
Main Score: 95/100
Enjoyment Score: 100/100
Final Score: 95/100