The five-act play Yamatogana Ariwara Keizu (Ariwara’s syllabic geneology: 倭仮名在原系図) was written for the puppet theater (ningyô jôruri, 人形淨瑠璃 or Bunraku, 文楽), premiering in the twelfth lunar month of 1752 in Osaka at the Toyotake-za. It was adapted by kabuki in the first lunar month of 1753 in Kyoto at the Minamigawa no Shibai. The fourth act appears to be the sole surviving act and is commonly called Ranpei monogurui (Ranpei's madness: 蘭平物狂). What precitipates Ranpei's madness is any sword drawn from its scabbard.
The complicated plot for Act IV involves an attempt to assassinate Lord Ariwara no Yukihira and multiple double identities. Formerly exiled to the island of Suma, Yukihira fell in love with the shiokumi (salt-scooping: 潮汲み or 汐汲み) girl Matsukaze ("Wind in the Pines: 松風). Now back in Kyoto, Yukihira sends his servant Ranpei to fetch her. Matsukaze has died, however, so Ranpei returns with a look-alike beauty named Oriku. When an enemy of Yukihira's escapes his confinement, Yukihira sends Ranpei's son Shigezô in pursuit. Ranpei's tries to substitute himself, but Yukihira refuses, citing his strange madness. In reality, however, Rampei is pretending to be prone to madness as a subterfuge to get close to and kill Yukihira. Meanwhile, the reunion of "Matsukaze" (Oriku) and Yukihira goes poorly. At one point he asks her to play the koto (a fretted string instrument like a horizontal harp: 琴) and the music soothes him into dozing. Oriku brings in her husband Yomosaku (who gained access pretending to be Matsukaze's brother), who attempts to slay Yukihira, but the lord subdues him. Then Ranpei returns with his son, who has the severed head of the fugitive. After questioning, Yomosaku admits to seeking revenge because he is the son of a man slain by Yukihira. The lord gives him one chance to live, by having him fight a duel with Ranpei (who objects, of course, citing his "madness"). During the fight, the two combatants recognize each other's swords, indicating that they are brothers. They reunite and vow to kill Yukihira. Finally, Ranpei is defeated in his quest and is told that the fugitive decapitated by his son was actually his real brother, Yoshizumi, and that Yomosaku is not his brother but a warrior serving Yukihira. When Ranpei attempts suicide, he is stopped by Yomosaku, who persuades Ranpei to forsake his conspiracy and become a monk.
The print is titled Honcho gôyûden (Tales of courage and strength in this realm: 本朝強勇伝) in the tricolor cartouche at the upper right.
The printing on this sheet is very good, with extensive use of gold-color and silver-color brass on Ranpei's red robe and tassles. The large inscribed character on the lower skirt is the first ideogram, partially obscured, for Ranpei (蘭平).
References: IKBYS-5, p. 32, no. 112