The time has come, and the loyal retainers of Lord Asano go forth with their long-awaited plan. Surrounding Kira’s residence, and ensuring that none of the neighbors interfere with the fulfillment of their sacred oath, Ōishi and his ilk storm the grounds and kill all of Kira’s retainers. Sparing the women and children, the Forty-Seven find Kira cowering in a pile of clothes, fearing for his life like a whimpering simpleton. Despite all that the august lord has done to their daimyo, Asano’s samurai offer Kira the choice of honorable suicide; unable, or unwilling, to make such a choice, Ōishi fulfills his obligations by killing the ill-fated Imperial courtesan. Befitting their honorable nature, the retainers travel to Asano’s grave and place Kira’s head atop it, praying for their lord’s forgiveness and willing to accept the dire consequences that await them from the shogun’s court. While they avenged the death of their lord in honorable fashion, they have done so by breaking the law; as such, the shogun sentences them to death, but to be done so by honorable suicide. All of the Forty-Seven fulfill their responsibility and obligation, bringing honor to their slain master, and the tale ends with an old man telling an old priest that he has come to pay his respects to Ōishi.
The one thing that this issue, and the series as a whole, demonstrates is the high level of importance that feudal Japan placed on the concept of honor and proper procedure. Despite the fact that they illegally entered the home of a court official, killed several men, and then traipsed to their lord’s grave to show they have fulfilled their obligation to him, the Forty-Seven were regarded as being honorable men in the service of their daimyo and thus swayed the opinion of the shogun to allow them an honorable death as punishment for their transgressions. Truly a society with such a code of honor is a good thing, though it still seems as though terrible acts can still have honorable meaning; I’m not sure if that’s something I’d want to be a part of.
It is nice to know, however, that such a great act of selfless honor, of sacrificing oneself to the achievement of obligation and responsibility, is still regarded highly today to the point that the Forty-Seven are still known to many. I am not sure how many know of this act, but this comic certainly has helped to educate those who did not, and in a very colorful and expressive fashion.
As this is the end of the series, there isn’t really a future to talk about, although there is a film about the Forty-Seven due to be released in December of this year. I’m not sure if I’ll see it, considering it stars Keanu Reeves in a fictional role created for the film. That makes me wonder about the validity of the film itself or how much I’m going to enjoy it given the background I’ve already acquired through research and this comic. Only time will tell.