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with his friend Kazuo Koike (whom he had met while securing distribution rights to Lone Wolf And Cub), Richardson eventually distilled the legend down to a script that would fit four to five single-issue comics in 2008, and set about looking for an artist.
That artist turned out to be someone who has quite a long history of working with comic books AND samurai stories – Stan Sakai, creator of Usagi Yojimbo, the long-running anthropomorphic series about a wandering rabbit ronin.
Already pretty adept at drawing samurai and Japanese locales thanks to Usagi Yojimbo, Sakai was a great choice to illustrate this book. For 47 Ronin, Sakai drew inspiration from traditional Japanese woodblock prints, specifically those by Ogata Gekko, an important Japanese artist from the Meiji Period who had created a set of woodblock prints based on the tale of the 47 ronin.
Clean, crisp, and full of detail, the slightly cartoony style immediately tells you that it’s Sakai’s artwork, but the art here is distinctly different from that of Usagi Yojimbo’s (besides the fact that there are no talking rabbits or rhinos here). Equally adept at illustrating tense samurai fights and all-out battles as he is at the quiet, more contemplative scenes, Sakai also does a great job of fitting the sometimes lengthy text into the artwork without compromising on the details and the flow of the story.
Perhaps the only gripe I have about the book is that there is maybe a little TOO much text to read through at times, though this is understandable because the story does require a lot of exposition, especially when it comes to explaining samurai culture. In this respect, Richardson deserves a lot of credit for putting in the effort to make this as authentic and faithful to the original story and traditions as possible.
Coupled with Sakai’s beautiful illustrations, this is undoubtedly one of the best adaptations of the legend yet, and a worthy addition to any library, whether or not you read comics in the first place.
47 Ronin and Polina are available at Kinokuniya, Suria KLCC. Call 03-2164 8133 or e-mail: ebd3_kbm@kinokuniya. co.jp or visit www.kinokuniya.com/my.