HomeComics/MangaMANGA REVIEW | "Akane-banashi" - Volume Two

MANGA REVIEW | "Akane-banashi" - Volume Two

MANGA REVIEW | "Akane-banashi" - Volume Two

Knowing your audience is a great tool when you’re a comedian. Whether it’s researching your location or simply talking to the crowd during an act, these can aid in getting everyone to pay attention to the performer. The same can be said about rakugo performers, and even if they tell older stories rather than new material, the same rules can apply. Akane finds this out properly in the second volume of Akane-banashi.

After learning how to talk to customers through her waitress work, Akane applies that knowledge when performing at a retirement community. The audience number may be small, but the elderly are the quick-to-judge type. With a little storyteller/observer banter in the beginning, Akane jumps into the story of “Praising Children”. It’s a tale that plays strongly towards the elderly audience, as it deals with age compliments.

As Akane performs, a surprising feeling rushes through Kyoji. The way she looks at her audience, her choice in narrative, and even the tempo of her speech patterns are all catered to the older audience. Perhaps most impressive is how Akane pulls the elderly crowd in as her tempo grows faster and slower. While she is still not a master of rakugo, she’s growing towards becoming one at a good pace.

My main complaint about the first volume of Akane-banashi — Akane’s lack of unique character strength — is practically gone here in the second volume. In her performance at the retirement home, Akane demonstrates how and where her strength lies: her strategy. Like in Show-ha Shoten!, Akane and the rest of the rakugo performers need to play to a crowd’s interests. Feeling out the crowd is a great way to do this, with Akane choosing a story that would get even those at the show by force to listen in and enjoy themselves.

This leads towards the next hurdle in Akane’s life: her career path. Her homeroom teacher/guidance counselor Machiko Iwashimizu tries to push her to go to college. However, Akane’s only goal in life is to be a great rakugo performer. It’s only when her friend Jumbo convinces Iwashimizu to see her rakugo show when the guidance counselor sees the potential of the up-and-comer. It’s hard to convince those whose job it is to guide people on a future path that you’re already on that road; showing them said road is a far better option!

But then, a big opportunity arises. A rakugo contest is being held, with Akane wanting to get in by any means. Not only does a victory equate to fame and fortune, but the judge for the event is someone Akane’s been wanting to talk to: Issho Arakawa, the man who expelled her father! However, she’s got some nasty competition coming her way, via already-rising rakugo stars to even anime voice actors. Thus will begin the next big challenge in Akane’s life, one that could give her the only chance she’ll have to confront Arakawa.

Volume Two of Akane-banashi is a step-up from its premiere volume. There’s a bigger reason to cheer for our main lead, and her reason for being the main focus is a lot clearer. The rakugo segments are entertaining, as well as informative thanks to their ties to past eras. (It’s also helpful to have the “Basics of Rakugo” segment at the end of the volume, which gives some tidbits on words, phrases, and even the overall meaning behind a rakugo story.) Things are looking to get more exciting in Akane-banashi, but who knows if Akane will be able to face off against the man who ended the career of her father. One can only hope that she can pull off a telling of “Jugemu” so epic, it pulls Arakawa under like a mighty wave.


Promotional consideration provided by Chantelle Sturt of VIZ Media.

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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. Born & bred in Boston, he achieved his biggest dream yet by making the big move to Tokyo, Japan in Summer 2023! For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@b3crew.com. For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com. (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)