Among the best-known tales in Japanese history, the legend of the 47 Ronin and their epic mission to avenge their disgraced master epitomizes the samurai code of honor. It has been said, “To know the story of the 47 Ronin is to know Japan.” Retold through the ages, the legend at last comes to comics in a meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated miniseries from Mike Richardson, Stan Sakai, and editorial consultant Kazuo Koike! Recounting this sweeping tale of honor and violence in all its grandeur, chapter one details the tragic incident that would seal the fate of Lord Asano and set forty-seven of his vassals on a years-long path of vengeance!
47 Ronin in comic book form has been many, many years in the making. Mike Richardson (The Secret) and artist Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo) finally bring the story new life in the pages of Darkhorse’s 47 Ronin #1. The question is, have Richardson’s years of research paid off?
The story is a new adaptation of Japan’s most famous national legend. Book 1 of 5 in 1703 as Murakami Kiken visits the shrine where the samurai are buried. When a priest begins talking to him about why he is visiting, Murakami is reluctant to tell him the story that involves his ultimate shame. His story takes us back to March of 1701 when Lord Asano must travel to the palace of the shogun for official duties. Asano goes to learn the way he should handle himself in the court when he brings on the ire of the man who teaches him- Kira Kozukenosuke Yoshinaka. The story of being honorable and trying to do what is right unfolds from there for Lord Asano. He finds himself in a massive amount of trouble, and therein lies the setup for the series.
At the conclusion of the book is a piece by Richardson about the long journey the book took from idea to printed page. It is a very interesting read and shows how well researched the subject is. Richardson is reverent to the source and does a good job of retelling it in the comic book medium. Artist Stan Sakai does a fantastic job with the art. Best known for his anthropomorphic story in a similar vein, Usagi Yojimbo, Sakai does a good job of translating that skill to the human characters in 47 Ronin.
Bottom Line: This is a historical retelling of 47 Ronin and is not a non-stop action-packed samurai story. It is a fantastic piece of Japanese history in an accessible format. If you are interested in a well put together story on samurai, it is for you. There will certainly be samurai action in the story, but don’t let that be the only selling point for you, this story is so much more 5/5