Actor Ichikawa Danzô VI (Ichikawa Kuzô II) as Jûjô Shakuhachirô. From the series The Book of the Eight Dog Heroes (Hakkenden inu no sôshi no uchi) "In 1814 Bakin began writing The Eight Dog Chronicles, a historical novel of the strange and supernatural set in a time of medieval war. By the time he had completed it, in 1842, the work spanned 106 volumes, making it one of the world's longest novels. Because Bakin's eyesight began to fail in he temporarily stopped writing Eight Dogs but finally was able to complete the work with the help of a scribe. The popularity of Bakin's yomihon reached unprecedented heights in the late Tokugawa and early Meiji periods. Even though it was severely criticized by the influential Meiji critic Tsubouchi Shōyō for its lack of realism and for its didactic framework of 'encouraging good and chastising evil,' the popularity of Eight Dogs continued unabated through the late Meiji period.
The Eight Dog Chronicles revolves around conflicting issues of morality, spirituality, fate, duty, sincerity, filial piety, and chastity, enforced in different ways by Confucian, samurai, and Buddhist values (of detachment, enlightenment, and karmic retribution) and complicated by the simultaneous associations of animality (carnal desire) and virtue (fidelity, self-sacrifice) implicit in the various dog figures. While praising warrior-class and Buddhist values, The Eight Dog Chronicles reveals Bakin's obvious fascination with carnality and commoner culture, which gives a compelling quality to a wide variety of characters, even those who are morally weak or evil. The book also raises fascinating issues of gender and human-nonhuman relations. The book presents a number of strong female characters, such as the brave young woman Fusehime, who is the spiritual creator and inspiration of all eight heroes. The Eight Dog Chronicles also contains many suggestions of androgyny, a common late-Edo theme. In the scenes translated here, Fusehime is described as being manlike, and by spreading her seedlike soul beads, she becomes the virtual mother-father of the eight heroes. Yatsufusa, who marries Fusehime, is a male dog possessed by a female soul. Shino, the first dog-hero to appear in the story, grows up disguised as a girl and imitates a female god. Fusehime is faced with the tragic dilemma of attempting both to achieve spiritual purity and preserve her chastity and to accept her destiny of bearing the children of a dog."
Publisher: Tsutaya Kichizô (Kôeidô)
Condition: Great color, backed on thick paper, trimmed as shown