47 Ronin

Richardson, Mike (text) & (illus.). Dark Horse. 2014. 144p. ISBN 9781595829542. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781621159001. ACTION/ADVENTURE
OrangeReviewStarRichardson, founder of Dark Horse Comics, and Sakai, creator of the long-running and award-laden Usagi Yojimbo samurai series, combine talents to produce this terrific graphic interpretation of one of Japan's most important sagas. After Lord Asano is goaded into an illegal attack upon Lord Kira and then sentenced to commit seppuku (stomach-cutting, a form of Japanese ritual suicide), 47 of Asano's loyal samurai vow to restore his dignity. Each ronin feigns a fall from honor in order to convince Kira that he is safe from vengeance so that their final, deadly attack comes as a complete surprise. In Richardson's notes, he quotes an old saying about the 47 ronin: "to know the 47 Ronin is to know Japan." Both writer and illustrator show their respect for this legendary story in the depth of their preparatory research. Richardson consulted with Kazuo Koike, creator of Lone Wolf and Cub, while Sakai studied the woodblock prints of Meiji period (1868-1912) artist Ogata Gekko.
VERDICT The level of talent, the research, and the attention to both narrative and artistic detail shine through in this volume, certain to be the definitive graphic version for some time to come.
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