cover image 47 Ronin

47 Ronin

Mike Richardson and Stan Sakai, with Kazuo Koike. Dark Horse, $19.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-59582-954-2

Lord Asano, honorable but naïve in the ways of the Shogun’s court, offends court functionary Kira Yoshinaka by refusing to give in to the latter’s crass demands for a bribe. What follows is a campaign of harassment and sabotage by Kira; finally pressed too far, Asano draws his sword on the functionary—an unforgivable violation of the Shogun’s regulations. Asano is ordered to commit seppuku (ritual suicide), his lands are seized and his household is scattered. Kira’s victory appears complete, save for one thing: the determination of Asano’s legion of faithful retainers—men willing to go to legendary extremes to win justice for Asano. Emerging as one of Japan’s most popular folk tales (perhaps similar to our own Robin Hood), despite the censorship laws of Genroku-era Japan, the story of the 47 ronin (masterless samurai) has been adapted many times in almost every conceivable medium. Richardson, whose day job is Dark Horse publisher, and Sakai (much-honored creator of Uasgi Yojimbo) treat the source material with respect and skill, Richardson’s craft as a storyteller is more than matched by Sakai’s ability to convey both thoughtful introspection and lightning-fast action in a series of still drawings. The result is a homage more than worthy of its source material. (Mar.)