In order to truly enjoy Joshiraku, I believe that you must have two qualities.
One, is that you understand a lot of obscure Japanese puns and culture. This goes into things like twists on Japanese characters and many archaic references. This is also something that not many viewers have and can certainly turn off a first-time watcher.
Two, is that you must have a very loose sense of humor. If you have this, I think that you will be able to see past the cultural differences and still enjoy the anime.
I will try to cover Joshiraku in a way that suits the anime - comedically. I’ll also try to explain some of the jokes to the best of my ability, just to make it less confusing – I suppose this is why shows like Joshiraku are rather difficult to blog about. If you are willing to expose yourself to a bit of Japanese culture, however, I think this show will be rather entertaining.
Now, this show didn’t have a first-impressions post, so I’ll try to be as thorough as possible. The name Joshiraku comes from a combination of the two words “joshi,” (girl) and “rakugo,” which is a form of storytelling that (in my opinion) is very minimal. You can search it up on Wikipedia if you’d like, but after a few watches of the characters performing rakugo and listening to the ED, I’m sure you can get a feel for it.
Though the names of the characters (and to be honest, who they are) aren’t particularly significant in this whole camaraderie, the puns were just too precious to pass up. First is the (likely underage) moe-moe one, Harokitei Kigurumi (Hello Kitty then “Kigurumi,” which is a performer in a furry suit.) Then is the always-lucky Bohatei Tetora (“Breakwater” and Tetrapod, this doesn’t make much sense to me) followed by Kurubyutei Gankyo (Cool Beauty ”Glasses.”) The other two are Buratei Mari (Bloody Mary) and Anrakutei Kukuru (this one isn’t particularly funny unless you know more about the character. It translates to “Euthanasia” and “to Hang.”)
Each episode starts with one of the girls performing rakugo, in this case, it’s Gankyo. She tells a story called the Cat’s Plate (a traditional Rakugo story about a merchant), but as what’s expected in rakugo, the punchline comes out of nowhere and ends rather abruptly. Normally I just sit back and let myself enjoy the way she tells the story by pitching and changing her voice.
The first act, fittingly called “Glasses Girl,” centers around Gankyo. They say that a very simple form of comedy is to repeat an action again and again – the first time is considered normal, the second time gets a bit tedious, the third time is annoying, and by the fourth time, it somehow becomes hilarious. Each girl comes into the room and says the same thing to Gan – “It’s pouring outside! It must be annoying when your glasses fog up.” She gets fed up with this and punches Mari when she says it – and Mari again when Kigu mentions it. This prompts a conversation about stereotypes associated with glasses. Things like “She takes off her glasses to keep the room balanced” could easily go over one’s head – but think about it, wouldn’t it be awkward to have everybody in the room wearing glasses except one or two people? Gan mentions she wouldn’t be able to order hot pot – this is because her glasses would fog up because of all the steam! The girls imagine a world-apocalypse caused by foggy glasses; a pervert who tries to poke other girls’ nipples but accidentally launches a missile instead. (Further research tells me that this is in fact Kim Jong-Il and his son.) This causes Gankyo to prove her skills by doing the same thing – but misses Mari. Mari thinks it’s hilarious that she ended up evading a groping, but it’s actually just proving how flat her chest is.
The next act is called “Seasick at Sea,” and they start out by discussing their training on a train. It goes from Tetora explaining how she got rid of her stage fright by performing on a train to Gan boasting that she’s performed while jumping off the Rainbow Bridge. Then there’s another joke I found interesting – Tetora writes “入” on her hand, which means “enter,” instead of “人” which means “people.” She’s chided, but the girls play around with the words, writing it out in hiragana and adding different tones to it. “ぴと” (pito) makes it cute sounding, “びと” (bito) makes is sound tough, and “ヒト” (hito in katakana) make it unrecognizable. This might just be a random language lesson for you guys! Whatever the case is, Kukuru becomes trainsick and so the girls get off and this is what they see:
Here comes Act Three, called “Eye of the Rabbit.” The girls are sitting in their room, watching the moon. It’s so beautiful and round.
It’s also on a projected screen.
But this doesn’t deter them from enjoying it, until Kigu realizes that she can’t see the supposed “rabbit on the moon.” The girls receive a call from their master and learn that he’s lost his pet rabbit. Oh, but the pet rabbit appears again.
He wreaks havoc and kicks all the girls to the floor, his cause of anger unknown. The girls try calming him down in the way that they know best, some traditional song and dance:
It doesn’t work, though. The girls assume that the rabbit-shadow being is homesick, so they become bunnies too:
Rabbit-Shadow-Being is still not pleased, and Mari assumes that he takes orders only from his master. She dresses up as Kaguya-hime, who is (from my knowledge of Touhou, haha) a princess who is banished to the moon. It’s a very old Japanese tale. The Rabbit-Shadow-Being carries Mari away, walks into the projector screen, and flies away to the moon. Then Gan notices that the shadows of the moon now look like it’s the Rabbit-Shadow-Being sniffing Mari’s butt.
This concludes Episode 4 of Joshiraku. The ending is wonderful, putting rakugo into a form of tune. Please listen to it!
Unlike most episodic reviews, I’m going to try to simplify each episode and explain it, so if you were lost by the original, this clears some things up. I’m also trying to make it as entertaining as possible to read, since I’m assuming these reviews will be longer than my serious ones. Hopefully I’ll add in some Japanese culture and it’ll be a fun lesson for all.
…Have I broke your brain yet?