Kunichika, Kawarasaki Gonnosuke VII as Jiraiya

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Kawarasaki Gonnosuke VII in the role of Jiraiya, 1863. Oban Triptych.

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One of the greatest kabuki heroes of all time has to be the magician, Jiraiya, literally, “Young Thunder” . He  is the toad riding magical character of the Jiraiya Gōketsu Monogatari  (The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya). The story was adapted into a 19th-century serial novel, a kabuki drama, several films, video games and a manga, and has also served as a source of influence for various other works. In the legend, Jiraiya is a ninja who uses shapeshifting magic to change into a gigantic toad. As the heir of the mighty Ogata clan. Jiraiya fell in love with Tsunate, a princess who has mastered slug magic. His arch-enemy was his one-time follower Yashagoro, later known as Orochimaru, a master of snake magic.

The story has been performed and adapted to the kabuki stage countless times and has always inspired terrific and inventive stage tricks. There is an entertaining 1920 film version available on Youtube, and the synopsis of one version of the entire play is available at Kabuki21.  This fabulous, lush triptych by Kunichika shows the final act in which Kawarasaki Gonnosuke VII plays the role of Jiraiya, Iwai Shijaku II plays the role of Tsunate, and Nakamura Kanjaku III plays the role of Yuminosuke.

Jiraiya and his friend Tsunate have been thrown from a cliff as children by a snake demon. They are rescued by a hermit who teaches them their magical powers. They pursue the snake demon who is in the process of overthrowing the government in order to rid the earth of mankind and through complicated and magical means, end up confronting their nemesis with a magic sword. As they do so, Yuminosuke, pictured here on the left - a high ranking government official - arrives to reinstate their fortunes and punish the demon.

The print is terrific, colour and impression are rich and elegant and condition is fine.

Published by: Sawamuraya Seikichi.

35.5 x 71 cm.

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