I am now pleased to introduce the mainest main character of my secret project, "SHARAKUSAI!!!". This person is based on a man who may or may not have existed, because there is a good deal of mystery surrounding his supposed alias.
There was a Japanese Ukiyo-e artist at the end of the 18th century named Toshusai Sharaku (known simply as Sharaku), who created a vast ammount of kabuki actor prints, with a unique style all his own. He made them true to how they looked, and exaggerated any special qualities the actor portrayed in the special moment that he captured them, such as greed, villany, and pompous behavour. The style of the day, however, was to draw the actors to an ideal, and make them all look pretty and refined. It may have been for this reason that his career only lasted 10 months, and the world never saw Sharaku again. It was not untill the western world was reacquainted with Japan that he became noticed and appreciated. Sharaku is now considered to be one of the best portrait artists in history, right up there with Rembrant, and he is my personal hero.
So, who is this man in my picture? Sharaku is said to be the alias of a former Noh actor who served under the daimyo of Awa, named Saito Jurobei. Saito was a patron of the Kabuki theater, which his master dissaproved of, and Saito was let go because of his varying tastes. My writing comes in when Saito, shaken by this sudden turn of evens, decides to involve himself with the Kabuki world more. He adopts the alias "Saijuro", and dons the persona of "Okina" as his new, permanent look. Okina is an old god, who's masks predate Noh, and the masks are always in two peices which together display jolly laughter. I decided to give Saijuro a much darker look than Okina normally has. He decided that he isn't the right kind of person for Kabuki theater for reasons he will not reveal, and decides instead to involve himself with the world of art surrounding the theater. He still wants to make an impact on the mantra, if only indirectly.
There are more than one theories involving the origin of Sharaku, and the second is that he wasn't a real person at all! Some say that he was a project launched by a group of artists to repay the kindness the woodblock printers had shown them. They named their false persona "Sharaku" taken from the phrase "sharakusai", which means "nonsense", as an in joke that there was no actual Sharaku. This is, of course, where I get the name of the series from. I plan to combine this, the Saito Jurobei theory, and a third theory to be named later, in my story. Saijuro meets up with an aspiring artist on hard times (also to be named later), and the two of them devise a plan to change the face of Kabuki! They are assited by Sayagata Sashiko (whom I drew earlier), the head of a woodblock printing house, and an aspiring artist herself.
The artist, the actor, and the woodblock print master come together to form team SHARAKUSAI!!!, a secret to all but they. Can the team change the world of art in Edo, and the face of Kabuki? History only knows.
One final thought about Okina: The fan that Saijuro is holding is the Okina fan, used specifically with the character. Saijuro will appear in other forms, as other characters from the Noh world, but this is his most favored, and those will be drawn in later pictures. If you wish to learn more about Sharaku, just google his name. I'm sure you've seen at least one of his pictures before.