Critical Evaluation

Sant Kyden, also known in the West by his artist’s name of Kitao Masanobu, followed his early successes in print designing and fiction by concentrating his attention on the latter. He was the most versatile and gifted of the popular Edo (modern Tokyo) writers. In addition to the picture books and fanciful didactic yomihon reading books to which he turned under the pressure of Tokugawa censorship, he wrote many excellent sharebon (books of wit), sophisticated sketches of manners in the Yoshiwara and other pleasure quarters. Though these were limited in subject matter, their realistic dialogue technique greatly influenced the two leading kinds of realistic Edo fiction of the nineteenth century. This tendency toward realism is evident in Lightning.

Using the central themes of rivalry for succession to a great feudal house and the triumph of good over evil, right over wrong, Kyden took his materials from traditional Kabuki plays and wrote Lightning with stage production in mind. The scenes change rapidly, and the plot is complicated by the appearance of a large number of secondary characters who disrupt the unity of the story. The principal theme thus tends to move away from the succession intrigues to a depiction of the feudal loyalty of a secondary character, Sasara Sampachir. That this novel was soon produced on the Kabuki stage was a matter of course, and it was staged under various titles. The first was in Osaka in...

(The entire section is 507 words.)