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

MANGA REVIEW | "Akane-banashi" - Volume Four

MANGA REVIEW | "Akane-banashi" - Volume Four

“Win using only Jugemu.” With that condition from master Shiguma Arakawa, Akane Osaki set off to become victorious in the Karaku Cup. As the third volume of Akane-banashi showcased, our shin’uchi-in-training aimed high to get that one-on-one with Issho Arakawa, and find out why he expelled her father all those years ago. In Volume Four, that face-off finally occurs.

After her performance of Jugemu, Issho asks Akane a question that would send chills down many spines. However, it’s the context of the question that makes his choice of wording all the more important. Issho isn’t bashing Akane in the slightest; quite the contrary, his question was one of high praise. Which now leads to his heart-to-heart chat with the Karaku Cup winner, one that’s bound to bring plenty of tension into the room.

Or so you’d think. Yes, Akane’s question about her father’s expulsion is filled with anger. However, Issho doesn’t feel guilt, shock, or vile in hearing the question. Instead, a calming smile comes across his face, in a way that makes it seem like he’s been waiting years for someone to ask about the shin’uchi exam six years prior. So he lays out all of the reasons behind Akane’s father’s dismissal for her to hear. And surprisingly, it’s not all malice or vicious.

Akane-banashi is a tale about being the best at rakugo, so Issho tells Akane what it means to be the best. The entertainment game is a lot different now compared to a hundred years ago, as the art of rakugo now takes a backseat for movies, music, stand-up comedy, and video games. To be a master of rakugo, you have to do something that puts you in the same light as Ayumi Hamasaki, Brad Pitt, or even John Mulaney. As such, you can’t be merely good or even great at rakugo to be accepted into the fold; you need to be Goddamn amazing at it!

In many ways, Akane’s telling of "Jugemu" absolutely is worthy of the praise, the after-competition parties, and the media coverage it is getting. But one stellar performance doesn’t mean you get to cut the line. Akane easily finds this out when she starts to work at a local theater, as she makes tea, sets the rakugo cushion, plays the taiko drum intro, and many other tasks given to her. Do these tasks proper, and Akane can earn an opening spot at a day of theater entertainment.

It’s both winning the Karaku Cup and working at a theater that helps to set up what’s next for Akane. With her somewhat satisfied with Issho’s reasons for expelling her father, she must now cut her own path towards becoming the best in the rakugo business. And that business is filled with top dogs and cutthroats, many of whom will seek pleasure in dragging someone in the dirt for even the tiniest of things. As Akane experiences herself, not even winning a rakugo competition will make her immune to those criticisms.

Volume Four of Akane-banashi draws the curtain down on one act of the story, rising up again for the next phase in Akane’s career. The quest to become a shin’uchi may have landed on a golden step, but that doesn’t mean our hero can take it easy. Instead, it’s one high moment that’s surrounded by plenty of lows waiting to sink Akane down. Thankfully, knowing her tenacity and can-do attitude, our lover of rakugo will certainly find ways to keep her head afloat whilst the rest of the big boys and trainees try to tear her down!


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)