A grand and articulate undertaking, 47 Ronin #1 tells a sweeping tale of honor and revenge with the utmost confidence. Full of epic and stunning visuals, this is a promising start of truly bold ambition. The exotic images of Japan will stay in your mind long after you’ve finished reading. With so much attention to history, readers will feel like they are reliving the past.
WRITTEN BY: Mike Richardson
ART BY: Stan Sakai
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
RELEASE: November 7th, 2012
Referred to as Japan’s national legend, the tale of the 47 Ronin has been translated into plays, books, and movies. As the most celebrated tale in Japanese history, this centers on a group of samurai who band together against a tyrannical official. The loyal 47 Ronin constructed a carefully planned scheme, a year in the making, to seek revenge for their fallen master. They stick together even when the opposition was great in numbers, and death was the only possible outcome.
To keep the narrative engaging and at a steady pace, writer Mike Richardson plays with storytelling techniques. In the opening pages, Richardson doesn’t use any dialogue as his protagonist, Murakami, performs his daily routine of meditation. In a story within a story, Murakami narrates the tale of the 47 Ronin, centering on a samurai named Asano. In the upcoming issues, the difficult challenge Richardson has to face is providing a large amount of characters with their own distinct personalities and voices. But with the eloquent dialogue, readers can easily tell Richardson is up for the task in providing his characterizations with real emotion. Even though Asano’s daughter shares just one scene with him, the focus is on the heartfelt message of a father saying his last good-bye.
By recounting the tale from mythology and accurate testimonials, Richardson uses themes, such as survivor’s guilt and corruption, that are still contemporary concerns. Richardson portrays Asano, as a soldier who has no war to fight. Asano feels out of place because he has no function in society without the samurai’s code. Richardson could have easily made Kira an over-the-top caricature, but instead chose to depict a realistic and grounded antagonist. As a high authority figure, Kira enjoys the fact he can manipulate and bully others into doing what he wants.
Just by looking at each illustrated page, Stan Sakai’s achievement in recreating a past history of Japan cannot be denied. In each panel, there is such meticulous detail in the backgrounds, hairstyles, and wardrobe. Because of the beautifully designed graveyards, forests, and interior rooms, you’re brought right into the atmosphere. Sakai has clearly put loads of research into creating a specific environment. The use of samurai action comes out more as shock value. Sakai illustrates Asano, who seems to be in complete control, even when he is taunted by Kira. But when he reaches his breaking point, Asano slashes his sword and draws first blood. Sakai uses wide shots to create a suspenseful vibe when Asano is surrounded by an army of swordsmen. This is almost like looking at a Mexican standoff, but without the use of guns.
Off to a promising start, “47 Ronin” #1 provides flashes of the trouble and vengeance to come. With so much dedication to research, readers will feel like a forgotten time period has been brought back to life. With Sakai and Richardson giving equally solid work on this project, “47 Ronin” is on its way to becoming an elegant hit.
Rating: 4/5 skulls
Reviewed by Jorge Solis