The show follows the everyday lives of five Rakugo performers, the places they go and the things they talk about.
This show should have been funnier. Written by Koji Kumeta, writer of Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei which still stands as one of the funniest anime of the last decade, my hopes for Joshiraku were not unfairly high. Heck, even if the show had failed to reach its predecessor's A grade standard by a small margin then I would still be giving you a much better report. Sadly, this show isn't even good enough to be in SZS's shadow. It's not just bad for a Kumeta show; it is just plain bad in general. I'm a pretty tolerant guy with my viewing (I went through every second of Yosuga no Sora and Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi for you guys) and even considering the hit and miss nature of almost all comedy, Joshiraku is the only comedy that has had me skip scenes just out of plain boredom.
It's a shame because I rather like the general idea behind it all. Joshiraku seems to be a parody of the "cute girls doing cute things" genre that happily makes up a lot of my favourite shows. They generally follow the K-On! pattern of having a cute bunch of girls thrown together under a premise that is barely relevant to general appeal of the show. Instead of a music club, Joshiraku uses a rakugo theatre (an extremely atypical place to find teenage girls) as its setting and other than short performances at the start of each episode it has little to no bearing on the show's normal proceedings. The other basis of parody is that it pushes that sense of setting irrelevance (how much of Hidamari Sketch or K-On's humour is about art or music?) having the girls come out with complete non-sequitur topics to discuss at the drop of a hat.
One of the problems is that the characters are pretty bland. I suspect that the five girl group is meant to be different from the standard five girl group of other shows (The AzuDai Arrangement as I like to think of it) and I appreciate the effort but it lacks any flair or dynamic to make it interesting. The group consists of the masculine red head Marii, the cheerful and lucky Tetora, the cute but secretly cynical Kigurumi, the mean glasses girl Gankyou and the dark melancholic Kukuri. The problem is that there is no real chemistry within this group meaning that the comedy banter is just not fun to watch. I don't expect depth (SZS kept me captivated for three seasons without a shred of it) but the banter and wordplay lacked any sense of character at all. Because of that, the only real feeling I got from the show was a sense of pity for Marii since she seemed to be the butt of almost every one of the show's jokes (quite literally in a number of cases).
It also hurts the show that much of the humour requires at least a working knowledge of Tokyo. Each of the episodes has a section where the girls travel to a location in Tokyo and talk/make jokes about it. These parts might be funny but I honestly have no idea, all I can say is that they really don't seem to be. The other parts often rely on pop culture references, something which SZS did as well, but lacks its predecessor's ability to make even barely understood references funny through sheer biting satire. This also highlights the problem that Joshiraku seems to be making references to pop culture rather than real jokes about them. Again, maybe I'm wrong so if you have the relevant geographical and pop culture knowledge then I hope you can appreciate the humour more than I can.
The show does have its good points though. There are some good hits amongst its misses in terms of the comedy and most of the show is very pleasing to the eye with catchy, infectious music but the show certainly sits below average for me. The characters aren't fun or interesting and the humour is just too often uninteresting whether completely understood or not.
An interesting idea for a parody but never really does anything with its potential and forgets that when avoiding cliches it is required that replace those cliches with something that is actually entertaining. If you have a good knowledge of Japan and its pop culture then you may want to add a star. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: There is some occasional nudity and fanservice, and a little humour to match.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Joshiraku © 2012 Koji Mueta / Yas / Kodansha / Womens' Storyteller Assocation
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