At the height of Japan's Edo period, the famous artist Hokusai, known to his family as Tetsuzo, works in the nation's buzzing capital also known as Edo, or Old Tokyo. In this ukiyo (floating world), the lack of concern for the future is embodied by Tetsuzo himself. Producing dazzling works for powerful clients, he is assisted by his talented and outspoken daughter O-Ei. She does not only help her father in the workshop – she is often left to deal with matters at home such as regularly visiting her mother and younger sister. Her motto "With 2 brushes and 4 chopsticks, we'll get by anywhere" shows both her determination and also the way she sees herself as an equal partner to her erratic father.

The crepe myrtle (or sarusuberi) in their backyard is mentioned in a poem often used to describe the people of Edo, "Scatter briskly; bloom heartily." While Japan developed during its seclusion from the world, so did O-Ei herself blossom despite being in the shadow of her renowned father.

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