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There is always room for improvement; leave a comment tell me what you think. And please, be brutal. Nothing like being eviscerated by the general public (though in reality no one reads this so maybe not so general public).

03 4월, 2008

Retelling the Story of Storytelling

A great story teller accomplishes what few are able to do; they transcend the language barrier and communicate effectively with the audience, able to tell a story with no other prop other than their presence. Great comics like Steve Harvey are able to perform such incredible feats, and So do the rakugo storytellers of Japan. Rakugo is best described as a traditional form of story-telling, usually comically told by one individual on stage. It has a rich and varied history, that goes back 400 years. It relies on the strength of the ability that one person to create and personify richly drawn out characters in the story and deliver, most likely with a moral shoe-horned in there somewhere, a well spun, darkly humourous, tale.

Tiger & Dragon (2005) is the story of a yakuza (Japanese mafia) underling Yamazaki Kotora (in a slightly over the top portrayal by Nagase Tomoya) and his apprenticeship in a locally celebrated rakugo household. It also deals with the exiled, son of the household, Yanaka Ryuji, who is a naturally gifted orator that has turned his back on his family's chosen profession.

What I loved about this was the basic structure of each episode: the rakugo story would be told in its original, old school manner and the happenings in the "real" world would then be used as a basis for the retelling an imaginative, updated version of the classic tale told earlier. It was great to see how classic tales hold true even till today. For instance, how seemingly random things like a guy so forgetful he didn't realise he was dead (to which i can TOTALLY relate). Totally enjoyable with a bitter-sweet ending good stuff all around.

Slightly off topic, this reminds me of Tales by Moonlight, a Nigerian storytelling program which would tell traditional tales from the different ethnic backgrounds. I loved it as a child, and even though the stories have been long forgotten by myself, I still recall being absorbed by the variety, the colour and the depth that was our traditional lore, and I wish someone could do to that show what the writers of Tiger and Dragon did with rakugo. Of course I would hope any attempt would be done with intelligence, and not the fetid Nollywood sensibility that subtlety and evoking thought is best left in the sands of time. If only.

4.5 out of 5 for a genuinely interesting and fulfilling idea!

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