47 Ronin by Stan Sakai

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47 Ronin by Stan Sakai (2012-2013)

5 volumes
32 pages
Goodreads Summary: Japan’s enduring national legend comes to comics! The tale of the 47 Ronin and their epic mission to avenge their wronged master epitomizes the samurai code of honor, and creators Mike Richardson and Stan Sakai have done justice to their story! Meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated, this collection of the acclaimed miniseries recounts this sweeping saga of honor and violence in all its grandeur. Opening with the tragic incident that sealed the fate of Lord Asano, 47 Ronin follows a dedicated group of Asano’s vassals on their years-long path of vengeance!

One of the taglines for this book is “to know this story is to know Japan.”  It is a great story which illustrates a lot about Japanese culture and the sense of honor of the people, especially the samurai.  When their master is wrongfully killed, all of his samurai begin plotting revenge, even though this will mean years of planning, separation from their family, and ultimately death.

It might be hard for a Westerner to understand these ideas and to think that revenge is honorable or that killing yourself helps you preserve your honor after you commit a crime.  But other cultures have different approaches and it’s important to understand their perspective to get an idea of their values.  While I didn’t always agree with the actions of the characters, I thought they were very clear about their values and would do anything to live up to them.  They didn’t just talk the talk, they walked the walk, all the way to the end.

As far as the books, every volume is pretty short.  They are quick reads, the graphics are really well-drawn, and you can easily finish the series in one sitting.  If you’re looking to read more graphic novels or just branch out, this is a series I don’t think a lot of people have read but it is definitely worth picking up.  There was also a movie recently adapted about this story.  It’s not identical to the books and has some supernatural elements as well.  I’m not sure how accurate this series is to the real story but I watched the movie and it was pretty entertaining too.

My Rating: 4 stars

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