There are paths to excellence in anime – no two are the same.
In a way, I really think Kabukibu! is what light-novels would be in a perfect world (or at least if the LN world was a better one). There was a time when things were very different and the word “novel” was just as important as the first word in the name of the medium, but I’m talking about the current era. Kabukibu! is earnest, straightforward, impassioned and unabashedly in love with its subject. It’s not a work of enormous sophistication but it’s very well-crafted. It could certainly pass for a manga, no question, but why shouldn’t this sort of work have an outlet in light novels – which should be a haven for young writers with something to say who’re still learning their trade?
I could spend hours answering that question (and of course I have) but you don’t want to hear that. Fortunately Kabukibu! gives us plenty of other stuff to talk about, as it continues to maintain the high quality it’s shown since finding its stride somewhere around Episode 3. The large cast continues to stake out identities of their own and prove itself to be more than a collection of background figures, and they become more interesting as their backstories are revealed, not less. And that’s certainly a hallmark of good writing.
Once again it’s Akutsu Shin (fast turning into one of my favorites in the cast) whose story is in the crosshairs this week. But there are connections emerging here, tying characters together in ways we weren’t initially aware of. There’s certainly a connection between Maruko and Shin, who were childhood friends – she fills us in on some of Shin’s history (he became emo in middle school), though it’s super-researcher Tonbo who colors between the lines. But there’s also a connection to Jin-kun, one which might prove quite interesting once all the details about it have trickled in.
In practical terms Shin’s absence presents a huge problem for the kabukibu, who don’t have a spare leading man with
Ohsaka Ryouta’s Shin’s magnetism to thrust into the Osho role. Hanamichi is the most experienced and the logical candidate to step in, but that leaves his role vacant – and there it falls to Katsumi, who at least has acting if not much kabuki experience. But then that leaves his minor role with no one to fill it – not Kuro, sadly, who begs off that he needs to bang the tsuke (it’s my sincere hope we get to see Kuro on stage eventually – Kabukibu! will feel incomplete if we don’t). Eventually Sensei of all people is drafted, but it’s clear this isn’t a solution that’s ideal for anybody.
Shin’s story is legitimately a rather sad one. His mother, who taught him kabuki, left him to marry a professor from Boston (Japanese studies, natch) and while she eventually invited him to join her, can you blame Shin for being terribly hurt by all this? He believes his mother lied to him about his father being a famous kabuki actor (there’s more to this story, believe me), and his mother seemed to abandon kabuki before she abandoned Shin. Tireless terrier he is Kuro certainly isn’t going to give up, but Shin’s resentment against his mother is deep-seated and certainly not without some justification. Eventually Kuro even sics Maruko on Shin, but even that doesn’t seem to be enough to move the needle.
The really sad thing here is that Shin obviously loves kabuki and really wants to perform, and his resentment of his mother has more or less backed him into a corner from which he sees no escape. Things get really fascinating when Jin’s grandfather spots the two of them arguing at the Kabukiza, and it turns out he and Shin’s Mom (played by Hisakawa Aya – shame on me for not recognizing her last week) know each other (and seemingly quite well, too). The guess here is that Shin’s father actually was a promising talent in the kabuki world at one time – though what happened is still a mystery. Now, seemingly, Shin and Jin’s threads are inexorably linked – and that should provide excellent fodder for development over the next several episodes.