47 Ronin

July 20th, 2012By Category: Arts & Entertainment

After turning Asian animations such as “The Last Airbender,” “Astroboy” and “Dragonball” into live action films, Hollywood just can’t seem to get enough of the Japanese culture. There were rumors before of turning “Bleach” and “Cowboy Bebop” into live action film, and having live-action  adaptations or remakes of “Akira” and “Oldboy.” But fans can relax and be calm because the rumors stayed rumors. However, Universal Pictures have cooked something for both anime, adventure and history lovers.

Universal Pictures have chosen to base its fantasy-adventure film on the story of the forty-seven ronin (四十七士 Shi-jū-shichi-shi?), also known as the Forty-seven Samurai, the Akō vendetta, or the Genroku Akō incident (元禄赤穂事件 Genroku akō jiken?). The film will be released in February 2013, which is a fantasy-adventure-action film depicting a fictional account of the forty-seven Ronin, a real-life group of Samurai warriors in 18th century Japan, who avenged the murder of their master. The film is directed by Carl Erik Rinsch, based on the screenplay by Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini. It stars Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kou Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi and Jin Akanishi.

While the film is based on the true story of the said warriors, 47 Ronin is a fantastical take, set in a world of witches and giants which will be released on 3D. The film was originally scheduled to be released on November 21, 2012 but it has been moved to February 8, 2013. This isn’t the first film to be based on the story of the forty-seven ronin. In 1958, Kunio Watanabe directed the film based on the story. In 1962, Chushingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki (忠臣蔵 花の巻 雪の巻, USA title: 47 Samurai; also known as Chushingura: 47 Samurai, Australia title: The 47 Ronin) was released and was directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and The 47 Ronin was released in 1941, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.

L-R: Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Keanu Reeves, Kou Shibasaki and film director Carl Rinsch

But what is the real story of the forty-seven ronin? The story took place in Japan at the beginning of the 18th century. It tells the group of samurai who were left leaderless after their feudal lord Asano Naganori, was forced to commit seppuku or ritual suicide for assaulting a court official named Kira Yoshinaka. The ronin avenged their master’s honor after planning and waiting for two years to kill Kira. After the success of their plan, the ronin in turn committed seppuku for committing the crime of murder.

Fictionalized accounts of these events are called Chūshingura and was popularized in plays including bunraku and kabuki. The story of the forty-seven ronin has also been a popular theme in Japanese art, particularly in woodblock prints or ukiyo-e.

Keanu Reeves will play Kai, an outcast who joins the group of Samurai on their journey. His character is half-Japanese and half-British, created particularly for the movie. Hiroyuki Sanada will play Kuranosuke Oishi, leader of the Samurai, Kou Shibasaki as Mika, the slain mater’s daughter and Kai’s love interest, Tadanobu Asano as Lord Kira, the one who killed the Samurais’ master, Rinko Kikuchi as Mizuki, a lady servant of Lord Kira and Jin Akanishi as Chikara Oishi, Kuranosuke’s son.


According to “Variety,” in the fictional take of Universal Pictures, the film will show a mix of the fantasy elements like the ones seen in “The Lord of the Rings” and with battle scenes similar to the structure of “Gladiator.” Keanu Reeves also added in an interview that the scenes were first filmed in the Japanese language to familiarize the cast, and the scenes were filmed again in the English language. The costumes were designed by Penny Rose, a BAFTA-nominated costume designer responsible for films “Evita” and the first and second “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series.

Watch out for the official trailer of 47 Ronin and see for yourselves whether Hollywood will make up for its remake and adaptation mistakes with the release of this film in February.

Photos from Netsui San via Flickr Creative Commons, Slashfilm and Filmofilia

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GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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