47 Ronin by Mike Richardson and Stan Sakai (illustrator)

47-roninBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Dark Horse Books, 2014
  • Edition, First
  • Description: Hardback; 151 pages : chiefly color illustrations ; 22 cm
  • Dewey Designation: 952 RIC (I changed it to 741.5 RIC since it was essentially a graphic novel)
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: The story of the 47 Ronin is a classic Japanese tale that epitomizes the traditions of the Samurai Class of Old Japan. It is the story of 47 samurai made Ronin (or masterless) by the dishonorable actions of a servant of the Shogun which resulted in the death of their master, Lord Asano.  The loyal 47 spend a year pretending to accept the situation while waiting for the chance to redeem both themselves and their lord through vengeance.         
  • ISBN: 978-1-59582-954-2
  • Subjects:
    • Japanese History – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: They left their homes, their loved ones, and their futures.  For 47 men the cost of loyalty was very high.

Plot Summary: Sometime during the 18th century in Feudal Japan, a young lord (Asano Naganori) was goaded into attacking an official in the Shogan’s court named Kira Yoshinaka.  The punishment for such a violation of protocol was death; Lord Asana was ordered to commit seppuku, which is ritual suicide by sword.  The samurai who served Lord Asano, realizing the injustice of the sentence and the culpability of Kira Yoshinaka in Lord Asano’s death, vowed revenge against the corrupt official they held responsible.  For a year they pretended to not care about his death and to not hold Yoshinaka responsible, but in reality they were plotting and planning.  They acted in way they made people believe they were without honor.  They left their families and became ronin, or masterless samurai.  They were held in contempt by all who knew them.

But it was all an act.  For a year they endured humiliation to lull Kira into believing himself safe from reprisal by Asano’s retainers, so that he would be reachable when the opportunity arose to restore their lord’s honor, and their own.

Critical Evaluation:  This is one of my favorite stories from history.  Certainly, it is not one that most westerners would find to be a heroic example of human behavior, as it involves revenge and murder.  But if you consider it for what it is, a story of men who placed their honor and their regard for their leader to be more important than anything else, it is an exceptional example of human behavior.  Regardless of how others might see it, their loyality and devotion to justice and fairness desires to be remembered and respected by people today who place more value on money than honor.

And this graphic presentation does an excellent job of giving young people today a chance to learn about this story and the traditions of Japan that lead 47 men to behave as they did.  The book is well-written and beautifully illustrated.  The story is presented in a rich and complete manner even though it is abbreviated in length due to the vehicle used to present it.  The story is a moving one and the book’s visual and written components do an excellent job of revealing that.

Author’s Brief Bio:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Richardson_(publisher)
  • Mike Richardson, born June 29, 1950, is an American publisher, writer, and Emmy winning producer. In 1986, he founded Dark Horse Comics, an award winning international publishing house located in Milwaukie, Oregon. Richardson is also the founder and President of the Things From Another World retail chain and president of Dark Horse Entertainment, which has developed and produced numerous projects for film and television based on Dark Horse properties or licensed properties. In addition, he has written numerous graphic novels (including the 47 Ronin) and comic series, such as The Secret, Living with the Dead, and Cut.  He has also co-authored two non-fiction books: Comics Between the Panels and Blast Off!

Genre Designation: Graphic Fiction / Japanese History

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Japanese History & Culture

Book Talk Ideas

  • What is honor? What does it mean to you?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:


Why this book was selected: I have always been interested in Japanese history and learned about this story many years ago.


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