On the opening pages we see Haruko Kumota has jumped the narrative forward again and moves on a few years from the testing events of Descending Stories 6. Konatsu’s son is now attending kindergarten, and Yotaru has overcome his setbacks, is selling out shows and is frequently seen on TV. His inspiration, though, is troubled. Yakumo doesn’t feel the art of Rakugo ought to adapt to changing times, and although the classic dialogues have changed slightly over the years, he objects to any attempt to modernise the art form, or to create new stories. One of the absolutes of the form is that it excludes women, so would it be heretical for Konatsu to perform?

More so than any volume to date, Descending Stories 7 deals with Rakugo performance, which has always been a series strength. The difference here is that we see a variety of people performing, and the circumstances under which they’re doing it. Kumota captures their personal approaches, the nuanced art showing the levels from surprise and shyness to confidence bordering on arrogance, and if a scene of the show having to go on is a little too melodramatic, that Kumota delivers it that way indicates an importance. Rakugo is the telling of a story with minimal props, so Kumota being able to set out different aspects visually according to who’s telling stories we’ve heard before is special. Over the series several people have recited ‘Inokori’, and as drawn by Kumota, each brings unique touches to the telling.

A closing funny page comments on Descending Stories being adapted as an animated film, and it has the insight Kumota applies to the entire series. This is a sparkling episode. Descending Stories 8 has a lot to live up to.