[Review] Kabukibu! – episode 1

Kurogo Kurusu, a high school student who loves kabuki so much that it’s annoying. Kurogo yearns to perform kabuki as part of a club at his school, but currently his school doesn’t have a kabuki club. So Kurogo sets out to create a kabuki club, and his first order of business is to gather members.

Source: Anime News Network

Kabukibu! is naturally going to get compared to modern masterpiece Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju just because they’re both about classical Japanese theatre arts, and that’s a shame. Where Rakugo is a sweeping period drama and character study framed by rakugo’s dying popularity and eventual survival, Kabukibu! is a school story about a young person bringing life, enthusiasm and fresh blood to a surviving art form written off as irrelevant. While I appreciate this is the second time this season I’m saying this (I promise I have seen other anime…) the natural point of comparison is Chihayafuru, which Kabukibu! can certainly match for charm.

We’re in the requisite “Getting together five barely willing members to be able to form a club and also the bonds of friendship” stage, so things will be familiar going for a little while, but once that box is ticked Kabukibu!‘s path is likely to diverge from Chihayafuru‘s somewhat. After all, while competitive karuta looks and sounds beautiful, it is very much an athletic endeavour, while kabuki is a performance art. There can be no tournament structure, though there is likely to be some rivalry with the super-successful school drama club, perhaps for one of the two slots they get in the school festival. Also, with only one female future club member (who is very comfortable with her masculine looks and female admirers) this is likely to be all about the fujoshi-friendly subtext, no love triangle in sight.

Comparisons aside, this is so far a very sweet and sincere show, and I will happily watch more just to hang out with this engaging cast for 24 minutes a week. I also look forward to learning more about kabuki itself, and seeing this mixed group of amateurs and professional children fumble their way to a first performance. That some of the guys connected to it went out of their way to distance themselves from it once they got to high school felt very true to life, and I’m keen to see what will eventually win them over.

Perhaps most importantly for a feminist website to note, kabuki is an all male artform, which means we’re going to see some level of gender performance. On top of that, Kurusu deliberately invites a woman to join the group, violating the rules of kabuki, because he says they’re only a high school group and not a professional outfit so they don’t have to follow the rules.

Kabukibu! may tread very familiar ground for its entire series, but it is nailing characterisation and inclusiveness with the hook of kabuki aesthetics, and that’s enough for me for now.

Read the ANN Preview Guide review.

 

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  • I’ve been curious but unexcited about the show. But it sounds like a nice watch as of now, so I’m definitely curious. (And now reminded that I need to restart and follow/catch up on Chihayafuru.)