Chopping Block Review: 47 Ronin #1

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Review by Nolan P. Smith- Pastrami Nation

Writer: Mike Richardson

Artist: Stan Sakai

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Website: www.darkhorse.com

Stories are one of the greatest things to be passed on by humanity, generation to generation. One of the greatest stories is the legendary tale of the 47 Ronin as they avenge the demise of their disgraced master. It’s one of the most well known stories of all time, and now it’s a comic book in the very capable hands of Dark Horse Comics. I have been waiting on this since I first saw a few panels, and now it’s here. Does it make the cut?

47 Ronin, like I said, is the story of a group of Ronin going on to avenge their fallen master, Lord Asano. In this issue, we see what happens to Asano, and what propels this story into legendary status. This book could have ended up looking like other comics of samurai, but this one is brought to life by a legend in his own right, Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo). It’s his unique art style that really exemplifies what this book is all about. I honestly don’t think another artist could step in for this all important tale.

Mike Richardson (The Secret) pens the story with consulting help from Kazuo Koike of Lone Wolf and Cub fame. This is a perfect start to what is sure to be an epic interpretation of the far east legend. I can’t recommend this book enough: this is a unique and stunning version of the 47 Ronin, one that everyone should jump on board for. Highly recommended, I give 47 Ronin #1 a perfect @@@@@ out of FIVE.

1 thought on “Chopping Block Review: 47 Ronin #1

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      It never bodes well for a film when its release date is delayed – much less when it’s been pushed back a whole year, ostensibly to accommodate reshoots that would bump up Keanu Reeves’ completely imaginary role in a Western blockbuster take on a classic, awe-inspiring tale right out of the Japanese history books. That way lies disaster and madness, one would think – and certainly the bland, monster-heavy trailers for 47 Ronin did the film no favours. Smack down your inner critic, however, and this epic fantasy flick – for that’s what it is – turns out to be reasonably palatable fare.

      The bare bones of the true story are all there: the kindly Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) is ordered to commit seppuku – ritual suicide by disembowelment – when he almost mortally offends Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano – a nicely ironic name if ever there was one). This renders all the honourable samurai in Asano’s service masterless i.e., ronin. Led by the noble Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the loyal band of 47 ronin vow to avenge Asano – even though they have been ordered by their Shogun (top military commander) not to do so.

      What’s less accurate, of course, is pretty much all the rest of it. Reeves plays Kai, a half-British, half-Japanese orphan who’s taken in by Asano but treated like an outcast by everyone in the household – except, of course, for Asano’s loving daughter Mika (Kou Shibasaki). Kira’s nefarious plans have the support of Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi), a witch who can apparently take any form she likes: wolf, snake or dragon. It’s all a bit nonsensical, especially when Kai tries to get swords for the ronin amongst some pretty creepy folk who have gone from society’s outcasts to being part of what looks like a supernatural cult.

      In other words, 47 Ronin is a faintly ridiculous addition to the wealth of Chūshingura – fictionalised accounts of the 47 ronin tale – that already exist in Japan. It’s the kind of big, dumb blockbuster in which the good guys literally live to die another day as long as the plot calls for it. These fearless ronin even survive when the villain is protected by a witch with crazy mystical powers! She can set an entire field on fire, create poisonous spiders and turn into a dragon! And the ronin – at least 47 of them – live anyway! It’s crazy! That’s what makes it all the more surprising when 47 Ronin turns out to be… well, actually not half-bad. Once you’ve accepted the sillier aspects of the film for what they are, it’s easy to get swept along by its very earnest drama and spectacle. Reeves’ storyline is a made-up jumble of nonsense, but is played very straight – this is, in effect, Sad Keanu: The Movie – and it just about works. Casting Reeves as the outsider allows him to do what he does best: play the role with stony-faced reserve, whether he’s levelling up by battling demons in cage matches or pining moodily after Mika. Kai’s restrained love story with Mika is fairly predictable stuff, with the girl fading a little too much into the background (don’t expect any bloodletting from Shibasaki, Battle Royale fans), but it’s salvaged by the rather non-Hollywood way in which it all ends.

      For all that Reeves takes centre stage in the publicity campaign, the film belongs just as much to Sanada’s Oishi. He undertakes a more arduous emotional journey: one that takes him from grudging to full-hearted acceptance of Kai’s worth as a warrior and comrade. His relationship with his family is more fully examined than Kai’s unwavering loyalty to the Asano clan. As Oishi plots his course of action, one that will bring him shame for disobeying the Shogun even as he avenges his master, he warns his wife and son Chikara (Jin Akanishi) to disavow him. Their reactions provide some of the most emotionally resonant moments in the entire film.

      All things considered, the title of the film is a bit of a misnomer – it would more accurately be called 2 Ronin, subtitled Oishi And Kai’s Excellent Adventure – and it suffers from a lamentable lack of humour and historical accuracy. But it’s not a complete travesty. Tucked away beneath a layer of mystical beasts and witches lies a story with enough heart, nobility and soul to survive even the oddest twists and turns.

      More about the movie you can also find it here
      http://movieinfodb.com/en/movie/64686/47+Ronin-2013

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