47 Ronin

On a whim, R and I went to see 47 Ronin tonight. And by ‘whim’ I mean recommendation from JT during a lunchtime discussion of anime and video games.

For those not familiar, the tale of the 47 ronin, sometimes referenced as Japan’s national legend, is the story of, you guessed it, forty seven ronin (leaderless samurai), who successfully sought revenge for their master’s death in the year 1703 (by the Western calendar). It is a story of honor, loyalty, sacrifice, and revenge. It’s quite beautiful.

The film, of course, took liberties with the story – adding in fantastical and supernatural elements that are not present in the historical tellings, but I didn’t feel that the additions took away from the central themes of honor and loyalty.  Keanu wasn’t awful; the Japanese cast were all excellent; the film captured the feel of other Japanese films I have seen, and I was not disappointed.

One result of seeing 47 Ronin is that I am thinking about the concepts of honor and loyalty and sacrifice, and how much these ideas seem to differ between Eastern and Western cultures. For instance, in my experience of Western culture, suicide is always viewed in a negative light, but in the era of Japanese samurai, ritual suicide was an honorable way to die.  I find it curious how differently people and cultures can view the same act.