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Manga The 47 Ronin - A Graphic Novel

The first historically accurate graphic-novel version of a legendary event in Japanese history.

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In Japanese history, a graphic novel version of the most dramatic example of bushido - the samurai code.

In the eighteenth century, forty-seven samurai avenged the death of their master in a plot that would take over two years to complete. After succeeding in their mission, the masterless samurai - known as ronin - all committed ritual suicide. The story, a national legend, remains the most potent example of Japan's deeply rooted cultural imperative of honour, persistence, loyalty, and sacrifice.

The historical event has inspired many writers and artists, and numerous fictionalized versions and adaptations have emerged. In The 47 Ronin, Sean Michael Wilson has created a historically factual portrait, enhanced by evocative and often lyrical drawings by Akiko Shimojima. While there are other depictions of the story in manga form, this version is the most accurate and most compelling. Wilson and Shimojima have made the characters nuanced and relatable.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up - The story of 47 warriors who stage an elaborate plan to avenge their fallen master is legendary in Japan, exemplifying the ideals of samurai loyalty and perseverance. While many details of this historical event have been lost through numerous retellings, this work aims to represent it accurately. Though written in English for a Western audience, this graphic novel assumes significant knowledge of Japanese culture and history-in fact, the term ronin (masterless samurai) is never defined. More exposition and context throughout would have been helpful, as not all readers are familiar with 18th-century Japanese politics or the ethical code that compels these warriors to seek vengeance after the unjust death of their master. Despite the steep learning curve, this book offers a dramatic tale of intrigue and action. Readers will enjoy the fast-paced action and intricate plotting once the revenge plan unfolds. Traditional manga-style art enriches the story, bringing Japan's Edo era to life through detailed depictions of period costumes and architecture. Grisly scenes of ritual suicide and battles may deter the faint of heart, but most will be undaunted. While this title will hold the greatest appeal for those interested in Japanese history, it will also attract fans of the recent Hollywood screen adaptation, providing an engaging way to learn about the film's inspiration. A solid purchase where the manga is popular. - Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA


"This is a tightly focused, perfectly pitched retelling of the story and a perfect entry point for anyone coming to the story for the first time. The Keanu Reeves version may have all the spectacle, but this version has all the heart." - BleedingCool.com

"Like the great Chivalric tales of Europe, The 47 Ronin harks back to an earlier, simpler time and an idealized concept of honour. It displays a dedication to honour, comradeship, and nobility that few real people can live up to, yet deep inside our souls we yearn to be as worthy as those examples." - Joe Gordon, Forbidden Planet International.

"Despite being widely known in both Japan and abroad, the story of the assassination of a court official named Kira Yoshihisa by the 47 Ronin—and their subsequent suicide—has seldom been retold with accuracy since its occurrence in December 1702. . . . Readers interested in accurate Japanese history rather than Hollywood embellishment will enjoy this well-done retelling of the legendary event." - The Japan Times

"A masterful retelling of one of the greatest stories in Japanese culture. An engrossing, engaging, emotional and unforgettable epic." - Jonathan Ross, BBC television presenter

"Wilson uses exactly the right scenes to tell this famous story, creating a quick, engaging read." - Library Journal

"Spare and understated, the script sticks close to historical events and elegantly recounts the legend's central elements." - School Library Journal

About the Author

Sean Michael Wilson is a Harvey- and Eisner-Award-nominated comic book writer who has authored more than a dozen graphic novels and manga comics, including adaptations of The Book of Five Rings and The 47 Ronin. He is also the editor of the critically acclaimed anthology AX: A Collection of Alternative Manga (one of Publishers Weekly's "Best Ten Books of 2010"). Originally from Scotland, he now lives in Japan.

Akiko Shimojima is a comic and manga artist from Tokyo, Japan. A teacher of digital comics art at a school in Tokyo, she is the illustrator of The 47 Ronin and has contributed work to many other publications. Her book with Sean Michael Wilson, Secrets of the Ninja, received a medal in the 10th International Manga Award, organised by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Additional information

Sean Michael Wilson (author) / Akiko Shimojima (illustrator)
Shambhala Publications
Year of publication
5 November 2013
Number of pages

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