Japanese cinema has seen its fair share of zero-to-hero dramas, but none quite like Shaberedomo Shaberedomo
(a.k.a. Talk, Talk, Talk
). Based on a Sato Takako novel, the film revolves around the traditional art of rakugo, or comical storytelling. A storyteller, or rakugoka, recites a long and often complicated comical story, taking on different characters through variations in tone and pitch, facial expressions, and slight gestures. Rakugo is sometimes cheekily referred to as sit-down comedy, as the storyteller remains seated throughout, with only a paper fan as prop.
Bringing rakugo to the big screen is no easy task but director Hirayama Hideyuki (The Laughing Frog) and lead Kokubun Taichi (of rock band Tokio) do a fine job of capturing the spirit of the art in this heartwarming, but never cloying film. The rakugo routines are interesting and enjoyable to see and watch, and often remarkably funny. Shaberedomo Shaberedomo is largely people-driven, presenting very real personalities that are not necessarily likable, but always understandable. Much of the film's charm comes from gradually learning about the characters and seeing them grow.
Mitsuba (Kokubun Taichi) has been studying rakugo for years, but he elicits more yawns than laughs. A decidedly mediocre representative of a dying art, he stubbornly perseveres out of passion and pride. Through an odd turn of events, he ends up teaching rakugo to three students who are even less verbally gifted than him - a sullen beauty (Karina), a loud dialect-speaking kid (Morinaga Yuki), and a tongue-tied baseball player-turned-commentator (Matsushige Yutaka). Though none are particularly interested in rakugo initially, they slowly but surely begin to find their way with words. Mitsuba, meanwhile, is preparing for his biggest challenge: performing his master's (Ito Shiro) favorite story.