Manga Reviews Reviews

Manga Review: Akane-Banashi Vol. 1 (2023) by Yuki Suenaga & Takamasa Moue

The perfect intro to the world of rakguo

“Akane unintentionally stirs up a scandal when she's discovered taking informal lessons from her father's former teacher, Shiguma Arakawa. And she's about to make even bigger waves because she is about to begin her first steps in climbing the ranks of a rakugo performer from zenza opening act to shin'uchi headliner is exchanging her secret lessons for formal training. But she'll still have to finish high school and navigate her relationship with Shiguma's existing apprentices, all while learning that becoming a stellar rakugoka takes much more than just being good at performing!” (Viz Media)

Manga can dive into niche elements of Japanese culture and turn it into a fascinating subject for Westerners to consume. “Show-Ha Shoten,” also from , is a primary example of this dealing with stand-up duos within the comedy industry, which is structured very differently. & 's “Akane-Banashi” shares much in common with the previously mentioned stand-out series, tackling the unique world of rakugo.

“Akane-Banashi” nails that balance of informative introduction and engaging storytelling. This is wonderfully set up by creating a legacy of storytellers as Akane takes up the art to honor her father, who was ousted from the community unfairly and unceremoniously. Through Akane, the reader gets an engaging story of redemption and a crash course into the world of Rakugo and how the student/master system works. Moreover, this approach evokes a youthful enthusiasm to give needed liveliness to traditional performance art to have it connect with a broader readership.

The characters are essential to pushing the story forward, and a loving family and masters of the art who support Akane all have admirable traits. In addition, she meets other youths trying to excel in the medium along with a potential rival, placing challenges before her and a path toward mastering the craft. Considering all these elements, Yuki Suenaga has crafted a story that introduces, enthralls, and entertains all within the inaugural release.

Visually,” Akane-Banashi” has all the needed charms to push the story forward, and Takamasa Moue excels at embuing persona into a wide range of characters. However, the visuals are at their best when presenting the art of Rakugo, which relies heavily on the performer's ability to tell a convincing story while playing various roles. A stifled visual approach that could not capture these performances would have assured failure. Thankfully, Moue brings the excitement of rakugo to life and captures the energy and presence of its practitioners.

“Akane-Banashi” explores a unique niche of Japanese culture, but beyond a purposeful desire to stay away from such subjects, readers will find the manga easily accessible and engaging. The tone is wonderfully upbeat, the visuals are expressive, and the writing is informative and entertaining. What more could you want? Again, if you enjoyed “Show-Ha Shoten,” you must grab this release. If not, give this one or both a shot; they are spiritually entwined in a way that will make readers excited about more niche titles to get English releases

About the author

Adam Symchuk

Adam Symchuk is a Canadian born freelance writer and editor who has been writing for Asian Movie Pulse since 2018. He is currently focused on covering manga, manhwa and light novels having reviewed hundreds of titles in the past two years.

His love of film came from horror and exploitation films from Japan that he devoured in his teens. His love of comics came from falling in love with the works of Shuzo Oshimi, Junji Ito, Hideshi Hino, and Inio Asano but has expanded to a general love of the medium and all its genres.

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