The play Keisei setsugekka premiered at the Kado at the New Year in 1830, written by the superstar actor Nakamura Utaemon III
under his penname Kanazawa Ryûgoku. Later, just one act (called Kari no tayori) was taken from the whole and performed as
a light-hearted piece without the drama featured in the larger play. It is this extracted piece that is mostly known today.
Shigeharu's print depicts a scene from the original full-length play, yet another of the performances featuring the Edo actor Ichikawa Hakuen II
(the name used by Ichikawa Danjûrô VII) while acting in Osaka for a brief period after fires destroyed all three theaters in Edo
in 3/1829 (not shown here, Hakuen appears on the right sheet of the triptych). Rikan II is portrayed on the left sheet in the role of Mashiba Hisatsugu
in one of the many tales about the legendary rônin bandit Ishikawa Goemon. In real life, Goemon, at the age of sixteen, murdered
three men during a robbery. He was finally captured many years later in 1594, when the shogun Hideyoshi had him boiled in oil. The Ishikawa Goemon
mono (plays about Ishikawa Goemon) endowed the bandit with supernatural powers and devilish abilities to disguise himself, which provided playwrights
with opportunities for fantastical action — often aided by clever stagecraft — and surprising plot twists.
The present design shows Mashiba in full armour confronting Goemon on the adjacent center sheet (disguised as a peasant named Gosaku) performed by
the playwright, Utaemon III. Mashiba holds a lantern (andon) and grips his long sword (katana) with his other hand (note also the short
sword, or wakizashi). Paulownia crests (kiri), long associated with the ruling elite, are part of the design on his black robe, while
Rikan's crest, the orange blossom (tachibana), decorates his red sleeve.
The block cutting and printing of this sheet are especially skillful, given the complexity of the patterns in the robe worn by Rikan. The black
clouds — which span all three sheets — add an unifying atmosphere of drama to the entire composition.
References: IBKYS-II, no. 129; WAS I-4, no. 419; IKB-I, no. 1-467; KNP-6, p. 227.