Anno Moyoco (b. 1971)
Untitled (Illustration from the text Sakuran)
Japan, 2001-2003
Painting; ink and color on paper
Copyright: Anno Moyoco / Cork Inc.
Loan from Moyoco Anno / Cork Inc.

In this original painting, which was reproduced with dialogue as a page in Sakuran, two kamuro (adolescent assistants) in the Yoshiwara brothel district argue loudly over which of the oiran (the highest-ranking courtesans in the district) is the prettiest. Suddenly, Kiyoha, a middle-rank courtesan from the Tamagiku brothel, grabs one of the girls by the hair and silences her. Sakuran is a portrait of Kiyoha, ranging from her first days as a kamuro to her eventual fame as the Yoshiwara’s most celebrated oiran.

The composition, which, like traditional manga, is read from upper right to lower left, displays Anno’s brilliant sense of cinematography. The stage is set with a shot of an empty corridor, along which the children’s argument can be heard. We turn to see the kamuro themselves, and as our eyes descend the page, we see the looming figure of Kiyoha from the point of view of the terrified girls.