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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Comic Review - 47 Ronin

Title/Storyline
47 Ronin 1-5
Publish Date/Year
2012
Creative Team
Mike Richardson
Stan Sakai
Publisher
Dark Horse

Story
Some basic terminology for better enjoyment when reading this story.

Bushido - Samurai Code of Honor
Ronin - Masterless Samurai
Seppuku - Honorable Ritual Suicide
Shogun - Rulers appointed by Japanese Emperors

I had initially thought this was an original piece of work but in fact it's one of Japan’s most most famous historical legends, supposedly based on a true 18th century epic tale that tells of a group of 47 loyal Samurais who sought vengeance after their master was unjustly murdered by a corrupt palace official.

The series starts off with an old visiting Samurai named Murakami Kiken who re-told the story to a priest serving at the shrine where the 47 samurai are buried.

In 1701, Lord Asano must travel to the Shogun's palace for official duties. Lord Asano must prepare himself with proper court etiquette by learning from the corrupt and greedy Lord Kira who expects a hefty bribe from everyone he teaches.
 Asano confronts Kira
Lord Asano refuses to pay the bribe and this results in Lord Kira humiliating Lord Asano before all the other lords at the palace. In anger, Asano drew his sword against Lord Kira. Drawing a sword in the Shogun's palace is crime is punishable by death, either in honor (ritual suicide - seppuku) or in shame (beheading).

The Shogun ruled that Castle Ako and all of its possessions be transferred to the Shogunate & all the retainers (Samurais) are ordered to disband & leave.

Word of Lord Asano's demise finally arrives at Lord Asano’s Castle Ako. His loyal Samurais are deeply angered by the news.

Led by Lord Asano's Chief Samurai, Oishi, along with 46 other Samurais swore an oath to avenge their master's wrongful death and restore their honor against the corrupt & treacherous Lord Kira.
 Oishi and his Samurais
Lord Kira knows that Asano’s loyal Samurais, led by Oishi, will seek his head to avenge and restore their master's honor. Lord Kira, with hired bodyguards, has been fearfully hiding in his private compound for over a year.

The 47 loyal samurai, now considered by some as Ronin, as the now no longer have a master, spend over a year to execute their plan. The time taken was part of the plan to lure Lord Kira into a false sense of security.

Knowing that Kira's spies are observing them, Oishi, lives a life of debauchery. Openly turning his back on Bushido and instead took up drinking and prostitutes, even to the point of disowning his wife & children.

Kira truly believes Oishi was no longer the Samurai he thought Oishi to be, he releases the extra men he'd hired to protect him.

The night had finally come and the 47 Ronin mount their long-awaited attack ,knowing full well the fate that awaits them after their act of vengeance - death.

Artwork
Stan Sakai, best known for his work in Usagi Yojimbo (Fantagraphics). Many may not like or may take a bit of getting used to his style as it looks very cartoon-like. But once you can see beyond that, you will start to appreciate the beauty of his art style.

Many have commented that they were a little surprised by his work in 47 Ronin as there are no funny animals (read Usagi Yojimbo and you'll know exactly what everyone is saying.) Sakai’s art has been consistent and fantastic the whole way through.

The other famous character that Sakai was involved with was none other than my favorite barbarian - Groo (see B&W image below).

Overall
A tale of Honor, Loyalty & Integrity. Richardson and Sakai's phenomenal 47 Ronin is a MUST READ (especially for my fellow Malaysians as I truly believe so many of us have lost our way and need to relocate these lost but essential virtues)!
Stan SakaiGroo & Usagi
Much to my personal delight, I found out that this will be made into a movie that will be out at the end of this year! However, the bad news is that Keanu Reeves is acting in it. Looks like we'll have to wait and see.

Here are some of the movie posters:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Movie Review (Not) - Ant Man

Can't get enough of the Avengers? Can't wait for Avengers 2 (Named Age of Ultron) to be out? Well, hope this will help assuage your torment...

A few sneek-peek images from the upcoming Ant-Man movie. Geeks will know that the Original Ant-Man was none other than Avengers' founding member Henry "Hank" Pym, who was the creator of Ultron (see image below), Avengers' Arch Villain.

Which version will it be? We'll have to wait and see... 
Ultron

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Movie Review (Not) - Captain America 2 - The Winter Soldier (Teaser Images)

Captain America 2's teaser poster.
Some sneek peek photos while filming. I'll have to say the Winter Soldier looks pretty good!
Some conceptual art pieces for the movie which mainly focuses on the Winter Soldier.
The Black Widow - well, she really does get around. Let me count the ways: Daredevil, Wolverine, Hawkeye, Captain America, Winter Soldier,...well, you get the idea.
So now we know Cap's long-time partner, the Falcon, will be making his debut in the next Captain America movie! However, this looks more like the Ultimate version than the Marvel Universe (616) version, which is unfortunate because the Red/White design would look really good on the big screen.