Written by Mike Richards
Art by Stan Sakai
In feudal Japan a daimyo (a major land holder, think vassals of medieval times), Lord Asano is called upon by the shogun to welcome visiting envoys. To do so he seeks instruction on the ways of the royal court so he may do his job properly. When Asano’s instructor, Kira, becomes displeased with Asano for not paying a bribe for the instruction things start to get bad for Asano.
Mike Richards steps out from behind his desk as head honcho of Dark Horse teaming up with Stan Sakai of Usagi Yojimbo fame to bring to life in comic form the most revered tale in all of Japan, 47 Ronin. For those not familiar with the story it is a tale of 47 ronin (masterless samurai) who seek revenge after their master is forced to commit ritual suicide for retaliating against a member of the shogun’s court who insulted him. It’s a super interesting tale and has a high place in Japanese culture. For the first of five books in the miniseries Richards recounts the tale of the events that kick starts the ronin into action.
When Asano is called upon by the shogun he leaves early to gain instruction on the workings of palace and royal court life. Asano soon finds that court life can be full of corruption when he refuses to pay a bribe to his instructor, Kira, for his lessons. Asano sees the bribe request as an insult since Kira is just doing a job he’s getting paid to do anyway. Kira sees the nonpayment of the bribe as an insult and goes about making Asano’s life in the royal court hard. Without giving away too much lets just say that things don’t end well for Asano.
Richardson delivers a strong beginning to this tale with a solid first issue. The style of writing hits all the right notes that bring to life ancient Japan perfectly. Even though the action as yet to kick off I really enjoyed how the first chapter was set up to build the story. One of my favorite moments was Asano talking to his daughter, Miko, before he heads off to the shogun’s palace. He tells her to be strong for her mother in his absence, when she replies that she is too small weak, Asano makes a great analogy comparing her to a tree seed that starts off as something so small only to grow up into a strong tree. I’ll have to remember that one for when my son gets older.
Sakai’s art really meshes well with the story and delivers some beautiful shots like the splash page of the palace. Though its done quite simply all the emotions shine through with some great facial expressions. The mean faces that Kira makes really set me off; man do I hate that guy. Richardson and Sakai working as a team to tackle this great story means things will only get even better from here. I’m will definitely be checking out the next issue to see how they work this tale.
4 out 5 nerds
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