The tale of 47 Ronin is one of grand mythos, born from a true story. How much sincerity, and how much truth is up to speculation. Most westerners will likely be unfamiliar with the tale, and to be frank, after reading this version, I am somewhat upset that I have remained oblivious as long as I have.
It is the tale of a kindly lord, with a short temper, and no flair for courtly protocol. His honor bruised among his noble peers, via goading and his own personal ignorance, he is corralled into social taboo, and ordered to take his own life. His death is one forced in a manner far beyond custom and is tainted with the stench of betrayal and subterfuge.
His retainers, hundreds strong, are bound by honor to avenge their master, and 47 take to the task.
The graphic novelization was undertaken by some of Dark Horse’s heaviest hitters, as founder Mike Richardson, personally drove this book into production, and undertakes writing duties. The characters, mood, and flow of this entire book is one of sincere reverence.
The pacing is patient, the characters feel grounded in reality, and there is this alien other worldness that, for a westerner, must be felt. The reader glances through a foreign lens as the tale progresses, and though custom and culture may feel somewhat alienating, the writing is approachable, and the tale does manage to invoke a sense of empathy with characters from beginning to end. The story, though lashed together by a basic plot, is reinforced and tempered in the development of believable characters, vicious and noble alike.
The art duties, taken on by Stan Sakai are powerful and direct. Every person, every scene, is crafted with a sense of purpose. No scene feels like filler, and there is no sense that the story is ever stalling for time or traction. Sakai’s ability to invoke feudal Japan has been time tested, and again rings true. There are few artists that come to mind that would be able to undertake such a task, and manage to stride through the work with such grace.
The letter, the coloring, the editing, it feels like the entire book comes together organically, and gels into a seamlessly woven narrative.
In summation, this is the rare comic that does invoke a sense of whimsy and awe. Pens, pencils, edits, and dialogue, nothing feels out of place. This is a book worth your time and investment.
5 out of 5.