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Arashi Rikan II [嵐璃寛] as Heitarō in the play Sōma Tarō hyōbundan [相馬太郎...]

Identifier: 1832 Shigeharu Rikan II

This print commemorates a performance at the Naka Theater in Osaka in the eleventh month of 1832.

Right panel of a diptych.

Soma Tarō hyobundan (The story of Tarō, heir to the Soma clan) was an adaptation of the tale of Masakado. The story combines elements of history and legend set In the tenth century when the ambitious Taira Masakado (Soma no Kojirō, died 940), a general formerly with the regent Fujiwara Takahira, moved to take control of the eight eastern provinces and declare himself emperor. Takahira's warriors defeated Masakado and later his son Soma Tarō when he attempted to avenge his father's death.

Theatrical dramatizations featuring Masakado typically feature supernatural happenings and transformations. Masakado could create ghostly clones of himself, and his castle ln Soma (near Sendai) was said to be haunted by the spirits of his retainers. Both Soma Tarō and his sister Takiyashi-hime - the subject of the better known play Shinobi yoru koi wa kusemono (Appearing Concealed in the Guise of Love) premiering four years after Shigeharu's print was published - were also capable of sorcery. Takiyashi-hime takes the form of another human (a courtesan) and then, most famously, transfigures herself into a giant toad.

The figures are set within a Shijō-style landscape that, for single-sheet kamigata-e, comprises an unusually large percentage of the total composition. Heitarō is shown looking down upon Takiyashi and Yasukata as he leans against a most curiously shaped boulder -- one that emblemlzes the socerer's [sic] ability to take the form of a giant toad.

[Most of this information is taken directly or adapted from material posted by Osakaprints.com.]

The impression in Waseda University (Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum collection) has the hand-stamped seal of the brilliant block cutter Kasuke, Identified as the surlmono hangishi (surlmono woodblock master), confirming that the design was prepared with the greatest skill possible during this period of Osaka prlntmaking.

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