“Joshiraku” (or “Rakuga Girls”) tells the story of these five rakuga performers. Oh, what is rakuga? It is a Japanese verbal entertainment. The lone storyteller sits on stage. Using only a paper fan and a small cloth as props (although none of the girls use props), and without standing up from the seiza sitting position, the rakugo artist depicts a long and complicated comical story. The story always involves the dialogue of two or more characters, the difference between the characters depicted only through change in pitch, tone, and a slight turn of the head.
However, the art form has fallen of desperate times and the girls play to rather light houses. Although we do see them in action, doing their stage bits (mostly at the end of the story; kind of like hearing only the punch line), the bulk of the action takes place back stage, in the dressing room, as they have long discourses on…..nothing. And let’s not ask the question that if they are all back stage, who’s performing on stage?
They are Kukuru Anrakutei, Gankyō Kūrubiyūtei, Marii Buratei, Tetora Bōhatei and Kigurumi Harōkitei and we see their actions and interactions together. Kukuru is the newest member, so she is more of a protégé, learning how to do this performance properly. The rest have been around for a while, with Marii being the kind of leader in all of this. Even the show makes the statement “This anime is full of ordinary dialogue so that viewers can fully enjoy how cute the girls are.”
They talk about which is better, cats or dogs or what they would do if they won the lottery or tales and folklore about the full moon. They are not always in the dressing room, as they do take several outside trips, but the dialogue always dissolves into these massive missives on nothing substantial. But do not dismiss this as a nothing show about nothing.
I enjoyed the circuitous perambulations they made, whether it be that Marii is really a cross-dressing boy or why Tetora has such great luck or talking about the different animals at the zoo. Now, the show is not without randomness. There is a sixth character, called “Mask”, who just shows up and sometimes, the other girls do not even acknowledge that it is someone different…except the person who Mask is replacing.
The girls break the fourth wall a lot, especially in the ‘climatic’ 13th episode (yes, I use the term loosely), but it really is a goofy show, along the lines of “Azumanga Daioh” or “Daily Lives of High School Boys”. Yes, sometimes you want a little action, but if you enjoy verbal sparring, this is a good choice for you. And they recently came out with an OVA that continues the ‘nothingness’ of the show, but it is a good watch as well.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (The girls are cute)
Plot 2 (Not even close)
Pacing 8 (They do quite a lot with so little)
Effectiveness 8 (For what it wants to do, it works quite well)
Conclusion 2 (Nope, it just hits a point)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would “Okamisan”)
Overall 7 (Nothing too demanding)
And remember, it’s first run until you see it. Don’t ask a trifling question.