Coming this Christmas is an action-adventure fantasy movie called 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves as a hero leading 47 “leaderless samurai” (“ronin”) to avenge their dead master in “a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witchcraft, and wondrous terrors”. It’s based on an historical Japanese tale, but with various liberties taken and a mystical overlay. (The release has been delayed almost a year for effects work and reshoots, which doesn’t bode well.) Here’s the trailer:
Because it’s based on a well-known (at least in that culture) tale, anyone can tell a version of the story and use the title, and at least two graphic novel publishers have done so, hoping to ride interest in the film.
The first is Dark Horse, who haven’t timed the release very well, since their hardcover (collecting a five-issue miniseries) comes out next February, by which point I’m betting the movie will have been forgotten. It’s written by publisher Mike Richardson and drawn by Usagi Yojimbo author Stan Sakai. They’re emphasizing fidelity to the original story, claiming it’s “meticulously researched” and “epitomizes the samurai code of honor”. I’ve read preview copies, and while I admire Sakai’s skill, I’ve seen him drawing rabbits too long for this dark tale to work for me. The style just doesn’t click.
The other version, a paperback, is from the lesser-known publisher Shambhala Publications. They’re also emphasizing how they’re “historically accurate”, and their book has the advantage of being out now. It’s written by Sean Michael Wilson, a Scottish comic book writer who lives in Japan, and drawn by manga artist Akiko Shimojima.
Personally, I’m not sure the story will succeed with American audiences, who’ve been taught to prefer happier endings in their stories of scrappy groups of underdogs seeking justice.
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