“Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari” (# 8, pp. 2-3), ca. 1850
hanshita-e artist: Kanwatei Onotake
8.5 x 6 inch pages, woodblock print book
Jiraiya (“Young Thunder”) is the toad-riding character of the Japanese folklore Jiraiya Gōketsu Monogatari(The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya). The story, first recorded in 1806, was adapted into a mid-19th-century serialized novel (43 installments, 1839-1868) and a kabuki drama, based on the first 10 installments, by Kawatake Mokuami, in 1852. In the 20th-century, the story was adapted in several films, in video games, and in a manga.
Jiraiya is a ninja who uses shapeshifting magic to morph into a gigantic toad. Heir of the Ogata clan, Jiraiya fell in love with Tsunade, a beautiful young maiden who has mastered slug magic. His arch-enemy was his one-time follower Yashagorō, also known as Orochimaru, a master of serpent magic.
Here is a great image of Jiraiya confronting a warrior spirit. The feel of this page could be drawn from any double-page spread of a modern super-hero comic and it’s got better art than most.
Books printed by carved woodblocks were all hand-printed and limited to a print-run that was determined by the fidelity of the woodblock used to page the pages.