Keisei yatsu no hanafusa (けいせい八花魁), written by the Osaka playwright Kiyomizu Shôshichi, was one of many Satomi hakkenden mono (Plays about biographies of eight dogs of Satomi: 里見八犬傳物). Satomi hakkenden mono were derived from episodes in Kyokutei (Takizawa) Bakin's (1767-1848) classic 106-volume epic yomihon (lit., "books for reading", a fiction genre: 讀本 or 読本) titled Nansô Satomi hakkenden (Biographies of eight dogs of Nansô Satomi: 南總里見八犬傳) serialized in 1814-1842. The sekai ("world": 世界) is set in the mid-fifteenth century. The first dramatization was an anonymous play in Osaka called Kinkazan yuki no akebono in 1834. Then came the successful Hana no ani tsubomi no yatsufusa (Eight buds of the plum blossom: 花魁莟八総), written by Nishikawa Ippo in 1836. The initial Edo kabuki production was Hakkenden uwasa no takadono, written by Takarada Jusuke and Mimasuya Shirô and staged in 4/1836 at the Morita-za, and the first puppet play on the theme also appeared in 1836, an ambitious production that needed two days for the staging of all its scenes.
The Hakkenden saga celebrates nine generations of a fictional clan, the Satomi in Nansô (Awa province), and especially the exploits of eight samurai, each embodying a particular Confucian virtue (in order of their appearance in the drama): kô (孝) - filial piety or devotion; gi (義) - duty and obligation; chû (忠) - loyalty; shin (信) - faith; tei (悌) - brotherhood; jin (仁) - sympathy and benevolence; chi (知) - wisdom; and rei (礼) - courtesy). Their names are distinctive, each including the character for inu or "dog" (犬), derived from their mother Fusehime (princess Fuse), who had given birth to the children of a demonic dog (Yatsufusa), rewarded with her hand in marriage for having brought her father (Yoshizane Satomi) the head of one of his enemies. The brothers are scattered in different parts of Awa province, but are recognizable by their names, peony birthmarks (the mon or crest of the Satomi clan), and beads, each containing a kanji character for the eight virtues. The brothers, corresponding in order of the virtues shown above, are: Inuzuka Shino Moritaka (犬塚 信乃 戍孝); Inukawa Sôsuke Yoshitô (犬川 荘助 義任); Inuyama Dôsetsu Tadatomo (犬山 道節 忠與); Inukai Genpachi Nobumichi (犬飼 現八 信道); Inuta Kobungo Yasuyori (犬田 小文吾 悌順); Inue Shimbei Masashi (犬江 親兵衛 仁); Inuzaka Keno Tanetomo (犬阪 毛野 胤智); and Inumura Daikaku Masanori (犬村 大角 礼儀).
Sixteen years after Fusehime gives birth to the "eight loyal dogs," Kanemari Daisuke, a former retainer of Princess Fuse's father and the slayer of the dog Yatsufusa, begins a search for the eight children. Daisuke's quest propels the plot forward as the story unfolds in the succeeding scenes.
This is a fairly early work by Hironobu, who was active c. 1851-72. The large red cartouche on the left sheet has an abbreviated play title (Yatsu no hanafusa: 八花魁).
The printing of this diptych is particularly fine, with vivid colors, subtle shading, and elaborate patterns on the robes with metallic overlays.
References: IBKYS-III, no. 377 ; NKE, pp. 556-557.