by Mike Richardson
and Stan Sakai
@SPL: GN FIC Richa
“To know the 47 Ronin is to know Japan.” So claims a centuries-old saying of a story based on real events in feudal Japan. Also known as The Tale of the Loyal Retainers, it is set in the Edo period, a time when the Shoguns ruled, and a class of samurai called Daimyo, or Lords, managed estates on which his vassals worked.
During times of peace, however, many samurai warriors - who once followed the honorable code of Bushido - became corrupt at court; it is one of these times that forms the basis for the 47 Ronin.
When Lord Asano is summoned to spend some time at the Shogun’s palace, he is assigned to an official to learn proper court etiquette – but this official, Kira, is corrupt and wants extra payment. When Asano refuses to bribe him, Kira goads Asano into an act that leads the naïve samurai into certain death.
When Asano refuses to defend himself and Kira goes unpunished, news of the Lord’s noble but unjust death quickly spreads back to his estate, where his chief retainer Oishi springs into action - but his plan to avenge Asano requires not just loyalty but almost intolerable patience and stealth.
Oishi and the other retainers achieve their goal while finding honour for themselves, but must pay the ultimate price in the end.
Artist Stan Sakai – known for his artwork on the series Usagi Yojimbo – was inspired for this graphic novel by the art of Japanese artist Ogata Gekko, who also created a set of woodblock prints based on the very same story of the Loyal Retainers. The result is an ancient tale beautifully rendered in a muted palette of those vintage Japanese prints, but with all the action one would expect from Dark Horse comics.
Find 47 Ronin in the graphic novels section at Stratford Public Library, or at spl.bibliocommons.com under the tag “shelf life reviewed.”
– Robyn Godfrey, Outreach and collections librarian