Given the success of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, it's hard to pass by the opportunity to see another of Koji Kumeta's works animated - so here we are at the start of Joshiraku, quite possibly the first ever anime to revolve around the decidedly Japanese form of entertainment known as rakugo.
Right from the off, this is a series that doesn't so much break the fourth wall as refuse to build one in the first place - no sooner has it begun than we find our quintet of rakugoka fretting that their manga source material really isn't best suited for the animated form. Thus, there's only one thing for it - engage in mundane conversation to allow the cuteness of the characters to shine through!
This conversation takes many forms, with a starting point of what the girls do in their everyday lives (not a lot it seems), before progressing on to a discussion of what constitutes "casual" clothing which leads in rather an extreme direction. From clothing the topics pondered include cats versus dogs and mountains versus the beach, the latter of which ends up taking a rather macabre turn thanks to the dark thoughts of Kukuru.
Much like the aforementioned Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, this opening episode of Joshiraku is an odd mix of the utterly accessible and the distinctly Japanese, with topical discussions mixed in with plenty of wordplay and topped with a smattering of fan service. For the most part, it works pretty well in this first instalment - it's less topical than Zetsubou Sensei (aside from one joke about the Olympics in China which really dates the source material), but also admittedly less funny, proving to be more mildly amusing than laugh out loud. There was enough here to keep me coming back for more if nothing else though, and for a first episode that is perhaps priority number one. The longevity of the series might, of course, be another matter entirely.