Ever since “the true story” of the 47 ronin was first fictionalized as a puppet play, only a few years after the actual events, it has enjoyed greater popularity than any other samurai tale. Up until today new adaptations of Chushingura keep appearing in all sorts of ways and for all sorts of media. Through the centuries the story has also sparked political, ideological and other controversy, for at the core lies the quintessential dilemma caused by giri and ninjo, in English often explained as social obligation versus personal feelings, but in fact much more complex than that.
What was/is more important: obeying the law or loyalty to one’s lord? And what lessons did the acts of 47 masterless samurai in the early eighteenth century have to offer the Japanese soldiers in the modern wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Were they criminals or prime examples of virtue? Opinions remain divided, as we will notice in various examples from numerous film versions.
In 2013 even Hollywood adapted the story with Keanu Reeves in the lead. But can we also see a connection with the contemporary idols of AKB48?
Lecture in English.