The Makings of a Double Suicide

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With all the praise that’s lavished on it each week, I think it’s fair to say that Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū is the anime of the season. In fact, I wouldn’t even be surprised if it ends up being in the top 5 list of every single person who’s seen it. But…I may be wrong there, for upon re-watching a few key scenes in earlier episodes, I’ve gotten the feeling that just about every viewer in the English-language fandom has played down one very important part of our tragic love triangle. With the most recent episode, it seems pretty clear that Miyokichi did indeed love Kiku. His feelings for her are a little muddled still; personally, I believe he does love her, but it matters not, because he chose Rakugo over her. Few viewers, however, seem to have given more than a cursory glance at Sukeroku’s feelings for Miyokichi.

Disclaimer: For the record, I haven’t read the manga…though I’m barely holding out right now!

As we know, Sukeroku and Miyokichi met in Manchuria, where she became the 7th generation Yakumo’s mistress. What’s interesting, however, is how Sukeroku acts around her. When their master brings Miyokichi to meet Kiku, the latter seems to notice something about their exchange of greetings. Whilst Sukeroku is polite and more formal than he usually is, Miyokichi is pretty cold. It’s also interesting that Yakumo jumps in between them, as if he’s aware of his disciple’s interest in his own mistress.

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And later in that episode, when the two of them are lounging at their shared apartment, Kiku tells him that Miyokichi has asked to see him again later…the tone in his voice is quite intriguing, and I think what most of us were trying to figure out what it meant. But what caught my attention this time round is that Sukeroku is the one who brought her up in conversation, stating the obvious (“that women is his mistress, right?”). And then he goes on to say “But as a guy, I can understand. That is one fine—”…which is where Kiku interrupts him.

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Sukeroku’s reaction is incredibly telling…

What was Kiku trying to get out of Sukeroku? It’s quite simple, really:

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You’re interested in her, right?

More evidence of Sukeroku being taken by Miyokichi next appears in episode 6, where he’s the one who follows her out and offers to see her home…and then stands there waving at her back instead of heading back in to the party.

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Then, in episode 8, he notices her in the theatre, even though she’d secluded herself at the back, and follows her out into the night…where he would later try his best to cheer her up.

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Miyokichi knows that Sukeroku loves her, and has been rejecting him all along. But knowing that he has never stopped loving her is the reason she seeks him out after Kiku breaks up with her. That it becomes her way of punishing Kiku for his choice is a product not just of her broken heart, but also of Sukeroku’s unrequited love for her.

And finally, even though Konatsu is ranting about her mother, not a single bad word escapes his mouth. He even defends her and says she’ll be back eventually…

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I haven’t addressed exactly how Sukeroku and Kiku feel about Rakugo or each other, as those facets of this story have been the primary focus of just about every reviewer I’ve read. But what it probably comes down to is how much these other relationships and feelings compare to the feelings that each has for Miyokichi. Kiku has made his choice…but what happens in this final episode may well depend on Sukeroku’s choice.

So this is where I sit at the moment: this tragedy was born from a line of unrequited (romantic) loves from Sukeroku to Miyokichi and on through to Kiku. I could be wrong, especially about Kiku, whom a lot of viewers are convinced is actually in denial about his feelings for his ‘brother’. But as I noted above, that Kiku chose Rakugo is what’s important. To me, this formulation of the love triangle—or quadrangle, rather, if you include Rakugo in the equation—makes the most sense at this point, particularly in light of the glimpses we got of the next episode in the preview. So I just wanted to put it out there, before the curtain finally comes down. All that’s left now is to see how it falls.

About karice
MAG fan, amateur translator and political scientist in training. I also love musicals, photography, travel and believe it or not, the game of cricket. よろしく!

4 Responses to The Makings of a Double Suicide

  1. Romy says:

    ah i really liked your insight there!!!! i also was thinking that it was a love triangle of unrequitted loves……….and Kiku chose Rakugo, because he knows his love will never be possible, and Rakugo is what comes as close as he can get to Shin…………ultimately this anime is the one i have enjoyed best since along time!!!! the 20minutes just fly by……….i’m definitely going to rewatch this without the weeks breaks in between, to enjoy it to it’s fullest……..this is one of those anime, i surely will aquire for my little dvd collection of favorites!!!!

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    • karice says:

      Hm…I guess I may as well come clean. At first, I was also leaning towards the idea that Kiku loves Sukeroku romantically. But episode 8 gave me some doubts about that, and the more I rewatch the show now, the more I am convinced that Kiku actually loves Miyokichi. He has strong emotional feelings for ‘Shin-san’, whom he considers his brother and intellectual/artistic soulmate, but I personally don’t see any indication that those feelings are sexual. Of course, Kiku may be asexual…but there are many little details spread throughout that say otherwise, even if he decided to choose Rakugo over Miyokichi…

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  2. Robert Black says:

    Kiku can be aromantic/asexual and still be in love with Miyo. Yes, that sounds like a contradiction, and one of the reasons Kiku is so uptight around her is because he’s trying to deal internally with that contradiction.

    Conversely, I think the reason Kiku can be so relaxed around Sukeroku is because they’re not in love romantically. Sukeroku is “safe.”

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    • karice says:

      To be honest, I do mean that (I think) he feels a physical attraction towards her–there are a couple of points that I think suggest it, e.g. the first time she ‘comes on to him’ in episode 4. But that’s based on my basic understanding of ‘asexual’ as meaning someone who doesn’t really feel those kinds of urges at all. I understand that there are nuances between ‘sexual desire’ and ‘sexual attraction’, but I don’t want to go so far as to tell a fictional character that ‘this is what he feels’.

      As for Kiku being so uptight around Miyokichi: the two reasons I have for that are that (1) he didn’t want to betray Sukeroku by becoming close to the woman he suspected the latter was in love with, and (2) he actually respects her as a person.

      None of this is absolutely certain, of course. All of these things could be a part of Kiku, and it depends, in some ways, on what we mean by ‘asexual/aromantic’, and what we understand about relationships in that time). There is a tendency to draw lines that define particular types of attraction (sexual, romantic, platonic etc etc to name a few, and what those emotions should lead to), but feelings simply aren’t made to fit into boxes. In the end, I’m happy to leave it as “Kiku clearly cares very deeply for both Miyokichi and Sukeroku…” without trying to say that he would be considered part of any particular community.

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