After news of Lord Asano’s death and dishonor at the hands of the Shogun and Lord Kira, the loyal retainers of castle Aso prepare for their grim future. Some swear an oath to avenge their fallen lord, to repay the debt that has been created by Kira’s corrupt dealings, while others are not yet ready to give up their lives even if they believe the cause is just. Kira meanwhile hides behind the protection of his extended family’s clan, relying on their fortune to keep him alive from those seeking revenge, but that won’t stop the loyal retainers of the once great and prosperous Asano.
While the issue does a great job at showing how selfish Kira can be, and how noble Asano’s retainers are to their fallen lord, it tends to one-side the situation a lot. I have no doubt that Kira is, indeed, a selfish, paranoid, corrupt courtier in the shogun’s palace, but there has to be more to him than just that; there has to be more depth to the individual that what he is known for in this particular instance—just because he’s best known for the situation does not mean he should be defined exclusively by it. While it may be germane to the subject at hand, I would have loved for there to have been some more information about what really makes him who he is.
I always find it fascinating that the concept of honor can catapult a rich and diverse society into such disastrous circumstances. I don’t discount the advances that feudal Japan has given to the world as a whole, but I do believe that when one puts honor above all things, it can create tragic circumstances such as what is shown within this series. Do not think that I believe some things should not be avenged, but I don’t think that an honor system should so completely dominate society to the point where ritual suicide is the only alternative—there is so much more to life than that.
The plan has been made, and the ronin have set their affairs in order. Those with families and loved ones have said their goodbyes as they prepare for the inevitable, seeking revenge against the man who has dishonored their daimyo. The end result is well known to those of us who have studied the tale, but the intricate details—the thoughts, the feelings that each of the loyal vassals had during the incident—are not as well known, and while we and the writer cannot know for certain, I look forward to what exactly will occur in the next installment. Viva la Ronin.