Descending Stories: Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū ‒ Episode 11

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In its penultimate episode, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu takes all of the shinigami talk in a surprisingly literal direction. Following his unexpected (if not untimely) death, we get to watch Yakumo’s spirit make its journey into the underworld, which is realized as a grounded, physical space . It turns out that Sukeroku has been waiting for his friend all this time. Following an emotional reunion and the confirmation that Yakumo’s death is for real this time, Sukeroku takes him on a tour of purgatory, which manifests as a recreation of Showa Era street life. Brimming with vendor stalls, crowded bath houses, and cooing geishas, it’s as if the era died with Yakumo, who gets to visit one last time before departing to the great beyond.

Of course, this vision of the afterlife is taken right out of Japanese belief systems. The general deal is that when you die, you have to cross the river Sanzu (or River of Three Crossings) to reach your final destination. There are different ways of crossing the river, but the easiest one costs money. In Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, that money is explicitly characterized as the product of living a full life, but I’ve