In the early nineteenth century shunga books came to be produced increasingly with full-color printing. The most important work to mark this shift was Manpuku wagojin (Gods of Intercourse) of 1821 by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).
Both text and pictures are thought to be by Hokusai himself and the book was innovative in the way in which it constituted one complete story, which continued in pictures and text throughout all three volumes.
Erotic Tales in Color
Unlike other erotic books, which concentrate on tales of the pleasure quarters Manpuku wagojin is an example of the enpon (erotic tales in color) form and describes stories concerning ordinary men and women. In this case the story involves Osane, daughter of the rich merchant Sazayama Arisuku, and Otsubi, daughter of the ruined merchant Kawanuya Hinbei.
The tale is an ironic variation of moralistic stories: Otsubi learns to take advantage of her sexual attraction in order to gain an important position in society, while Osane, who grew up without a proper awareness of her own femininity ends up as a depraved prostitute. The explicitly anti-Confucian message is that the achievement of a certain social status depends entirely on one's skill in exploiting sexual resources.
Deity of Conjugality
The book begins with pictures of them aged thirteen and ends with them aged thirty. By the last picture their wealth and poverty have been reversed and the book ends with an appearance by the deity of conjugality (see Premium) to explain why this has happened.
The printing in the books is of the finest quality and the illustrations, too, are uniformly excellent. This work features a number of multiple scenes: double pairs of couples, onlookers, and the like. The technique has appeared earlier in classical shunga scrolls, and Hokusai adapts it to fill each frame to the limit in complex compositions
Including the influential ‘sex toys‘ scene (Fig.3), a couple using a helmet sex toy (Fig.5), group rape involving palanquin bearers (Fig.8), a very rare anal scene (see Premium), the classic post-rape scene with a depraved Osane (see Premium), the dog scene (see Premium), many scenes involving female voyeurism (alternately Osane and Otsubi) and much more…
Fig.2. First text page
The series opens with a tableau depicting an exhibition of the multitude of sex toys that appear in the course of the story. For an extensive, detailed description of all the sex toys in the image see Premium.
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Sources: Shunga, Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art by Timothy Clark a.o., Shunga, the Erotic Art of Japan by M. Fagioli, Love's Labour's Found: The Erotic Art of Hokusai by Richard Lane
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