Many people are familiar with the historical “Forty-seven Ronin” story. It’s legendary in Japanese culture – but make no mistake to think it mythical. No, the revenge of the “Forty-seven Ronin” is a true story from 18th century Japan and the most famous account of the samurai code of honour called “bushido”.
Plays, novels, movies and even operas have been made of the famous tale.
And now you can experience it in the form of sequential art, in a five issue mini series published by Dark Horse Comics. And, in keeping with the theme, the creators behind the monthly series are also something of legend.
For those that don’t know the story of 47 Ronin, there are a few eastern concepts that need to be understood:
“Bushido” is the Japanese word that describes the way of samurai life – a sort of chivalry for those in the western world. “Seppuku” is a form of ritual suicide by agonizing disembowelment and part of the bushido honour code. Samurai warriors used seppuku voluntarily so that they would die with honour as opposed to be captured or put to death by the hand of their enemies. A samurai warrior with no lord or master (due to death or a fall from grace) would become a “ronin”.
And that’s where the story of 47 Ronin comes into focus.
I’m not going to spoil the engrossing historical story for those that don’t know the various plot points, however, those three words: “ronin”, “bushido”, and “seppuku” all play the most prominent of parts in the telling.
The writer of Dark Horse Comic’s publication of 47 Ronin was also the company’s founder, back in 1986. Mike Richardson has gone on to write comics, books, and produce films including The Mask, Alien vs. Predator, and the Hellboy series of movies. Dark Horse, in it’s twenty-six years of operation, has published classic comics and sequential art including Sin City, The Umbrella Academy, the Star Wars and Hellboy series, and various Japanese manga.
The artist on 47 Ronin is Stan Sakai, a Japanese-American cartoonist, famous for writing and illustrating the long-standing rabbit ronin series, Usagi Yojimbo. Not everyone will recognize that particular title, but believe me when I say that although it’s a little niche, it’s quite famous in the industry. The beloved series has been published continuously since 1987 (Dark Horse Comics has had a hand in that, naturally), and has garnered Sakai with a number of awards including Eisner Awards for “Best Serialized Story” and, more importantly, “Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition”. Perhaps 47 Ronin will enable that “wider recognition” for Sakai.
One last legendary name affiliated with the series is that of Kazuo Koike, creator and writer of the famous Japanese manga series, Lone Wolf and Cub. Here, he plays the role of editorial consultant.
With that kind of talent, 47 Ronin is sure to be a beautifully enjoyable series about one of the greatest of historical tales in Japanese culture. Listen to your inner bushido and make the run to your local comic book story and pick it up!
Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!