The 47 Ronin is a famous Japanese legend. I say legend because of its epic scope but it is actually based on a true story from the era of the Shoguns. One can even visit their graves in Japan. The original fictionalized account is known as Chūshingura. The tale is so compelling it has even made it to the west, most recently as a movie with Keanu Reeves. This edition, written by Mike Richardson and drawn by Stan Sakai of Usagi Yojimbo fame, has nothing to do with the film. It is its own retelling of the tale and it does so reverently and engagingly.
The story, for those unfamiliar with it, is fairly straight forward. A feudal lord is expected to kill himself due to his attack on a court official. He was considered an honorable man and it was felt by many that he was forced into his dishonorable behavior but the sentence is carried out. His samurai, now ronin for they have no master, plot their revenge for two years. When the time is right they strike to avenge him.
This graphic novel collects the 5 issue miniseries from Dark Horse. The story on its own is gripping. It speaks to honor and revenge, which are universal themes. Richardson’s obvious love and respect for the tale allow him to serve it well in this version. His research shows in the smallest details of the story. I was enthralled on my train ride and nearly missed my stop to finish it.
The art is gorgeous. Sakai gives it a classical feel and truly evokes the era it’s depicting. It felt like an ancient tale in its original telling, not the millionth time it has been retold. There were a few panels I just stayed on to take in every bit of them. There is an inherent peace in many of them just as there are darker emotions in others.
I give this 5 out of 5 stars. A masterful telling of a never tiring tale.
Writer: Mike Richardson
Artist: Stan Sakai
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Cover Artist: Stan Sakai
Publication Date: March 12, 2014
Format: FC, 144 pages; HC, 6˝ x 9˝