012 Kawanabe Kyōsai

This psychedelic reimagination enhances the satirist and visual spectacle created by Kawanabe Kyōsai in his work Two Battling Warriors: Muramatsu in Foreground from Genroku Yamato Nishiki (1886); derived from Kuniyoshi’s great series of 1847: Stories of True Loyalty of the Faithful Samurai.

This image illustrates the combat between the two leaderless samurai (in identical poses to the Kuniyoshi’s original), but engaged in lurid, violent and explicit detail. No detail is left to the imagination of the viewer. The image shocks us into contemplation… the question here is how much of the graphic violence is satire and how much is merely gory prurience?

Coming from a samurai family and being highly politicised, Kyosai was arrested by the new Meiji government for subversive cartoons. There is perhaps something of the sense of the old, and honourable samurai here strangling the life out of the new demon of modernisation. Certainly, Kuniyoshi’s quietly incompetent Ronin have been replaced in Kyosai’s world by angry and vengeful assassins.

Details: GIF file, 1000x1426 px.