The birth of stock characters
At this point, Kabuki could only be performed by grown men, and its theatrical character was enhanced. Rather than visual beauty or the fun of show-like performance, people wanted the art of performers and productions. Plots became more complex, introducing men and women of a variety of ages, and, as enemies and allies became distinct, stereotyped stock characters were created so that audiences could easily understand the content. The role of the onnagata, a male actor who plays female characters, also gradually developed.
The rough hero and elegant lover
New cultures appeared one after another from the second half of the 17th century to the early 18th century. Kabuki also developed significantly, and contrasting stock characters appeared in east and west Japan. In Edo (modern-day Tokyo), a boisterous, high-energy city with many samurai, bold and strong aragoto performance was born. The hero, who punishes the villain with superhuman strength, is played by a performer wearing bright make-up and clothes, who uses exaggerated movements and shapes—this became extremely popular. On the other hand, soft, realistic wagoto performance, reflecting the morals of the age, appeared in the refined cities of Kyoto and Osaka. The appearance of a high-class playboy in shabby disguise as he visits his courtesan lover, played with an elegant and subtle air, was well received.