An Artist of the Floating World tells the story of Masuji Ono, a Japanese artist who became a leading cultural figure in support of imperialism and Japan's involvement in World War II. In the years leading up to the war, his pro-war propaganda made Ono a highly respected artist, and he commanded a prestigious reputation in the community. Since as a young boy his father had told him he'd never amount to anything if he pursued his art, success was particularly sweet to Ono. Moreover, his first art teacher, Seiji Moriyama, also told Ono he would never amount to anything if he eschewed Moriyama's aesthetic style to paint his political works of art. On separate occasions, both his father and Moriyama went so far as to burn Ono's paintings. An Artist of the Floating World tells the story of how Ono's political life leads him to the point where he denounces his star art student, Kuroda, causing his pupil to be arrested and his paintings burned.