Comic Book Review: 47 Ronin

Comic Book Review: 47 Ronin by Mike Richardson and Stan Sakai

The tale of the forty-seven ronin is one of the classics of Japanese culture.  It’s based on actual events that occurred in 1701-2.  Lord Asano was provoked into an offense that caused him to be sentenced to ritual suicide, his lands were confiscated, and his samurai warriors were made ronin (masterless) and forbidden from seeking revenge against Lord Kira, who was responsible for Asano’s downfall.

47 Ronin

Forty-seven of these men  decided to disobey that order, but their leader Oishi realized that Lord Kira would be expecting them to do that, and in fact had gotten extra bodyguards from a powerful relative because of this.  So the ronin began a year-long plan to lull Kira into complacency before their attack….

This version is ably illustrated by Stan Sakai, creator of Usagi Yojimbo, but without the more cartoony touches of that series.  His research into the period gives the comic weight.  The author of the series consulted with Kazuo Koike, creator of Lone Wolf and Cub, to make sure that the story stayed faithful to its roots.

There’s a considerable amount of violence, especially in the big battle scene at the end, but the depiction is relatively tasteful.  Oishi spends time in a red-light district as part of the plan.  And just in case you didn’t notice the mention before, this story could be triggery for suicide.  With this last, it’s important to remember that Shogunate era Japan had a culture very different from ours, and ritual suicide was viewed as a way of preserving one’s honor.

The series has just ended, but a collected volume will be out soon.  Highly recommended!

For those of you who prefer prose, here’s a review of The 47 Ronin, a book with that and other tales of Old Japan.

A movie called “The 47 Ronin” starring Keanu Reeves as a half-British 48th ronin and having about zero to do with the original story, will be out soon.

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