It’s a funny coincidence that I am writing this while Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is airing, because that and Joshiraku are the only rakugo-related anime that I know of. Unlike the currently airing show, though, Joshiraku is not actually about rakugo. It’s about a group of rakugo performers, sure, but the rakugo is not an important part of the show. Instead, Joshiraku is a sketch comedy like Nichijou and Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku. The best thing about Joshiraku is that it’s sometimes outrageously funny, but there is a downside: Some of the jokes are difficult to understand.
When you look at the staff behind the show, though, the reason for that becomes quite obvious. Joshiraku is originally written by Kouji Kumeta, the author of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. This means that it’s full of references that can be really hard to get. I first watched the show approximately 3 months after I had started watching anime, so in my case the problem was especially bad. Yet I still liked the show, for which I’m going to thank the director, Tsutomu Mizushima(who may be familiar to some), as well as the series composer and scriptwriter, Michiko Yokote.
When I think about sketch comedies in general, I get the feeling that it might be a genre that is very hit-or-miss. I know people who adore Nichijou but can’t stand Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, whereas I’m the exact opposite. And because it is so inaccessible due to its sometimes very obscure pop culture references, Joshiraku might lean more toward “miss” than toward “hit” compared to Nichibros and Nichijou. In retrospect, I’m having a hard time coming up with a clear reason for why I ended up liking Joshiraku in the first place.
Maybe it was the parts that weren’t just references to pop culture, because the show did have parts like that as well. In particular, Kukuru’s general angst was relatable in a morbid but funny way, and I also liked the scenes where they left the theatre to wander around town, because every time they would be wearing different clothes, and I’m kind of a fan of fashion in anime. Also, the OP and ED are just fantastically catchy. Even people who can’t get into the show proper should be able to find something enjoyable about them.