Described on the cover as “A story of honor (sic) and bloody revenge”, the Japanese legend of the 47 ronin tells of a group of samurai left leaderless after their Master was forced to commit suicide for assaulting a court official. After two years of planning, the ronin (literally wave-man) avenged their Master’s honour by killing the official. In turn, they too were forced to commit suicide.
Based on a true and very popular (in Japan) story, this tale describes, in various versions, an almost unbelievable culture of prescribed loyalty and, ultimately, sacrifice that formed the code of the samurai. Even more unbelievable, such ritual deaths continued until the late 1860s.
Currently on general release at cinemas across the UK, the film has received mixed notices. As to the book, it’s fascinating, bloody, moving and intriguing; the fact that I (one of the most squeamish of readers) read it from cover to cover, despite the frequent and graphic references to ritual disembowelling and beheading, gives a hint as to the strength of the story.