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The Loyal 47 Ronin (aka Chūshingura) - arthouse and international DVD / drama DVD / romantic comedy DVD review
(aka Chūshingura)
Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 1/2 stars
Featuring: Kuranosuke Ōishi, Shintarō Katsu, Koji Tsuruta, Raizō Ichikawa, Machiko Kyō
Director: Kunjo Watanabe   Distributor: Animeigo
DVD release: 07 April 2009   Runtime: 166 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Mono - Japanese), Subtitles (Japanese - yellow or white), Trailers, Cast/crew bios, Program notes, Image gallery, DVD credits

Chūshingura) (or The Loyal 47 Ronin) is a 1958 film by Kunio Watanabe that presents an adaption of a classic piece of Japanese history, the story about a group of samurai left masterless after their leader attacks a royal official who insulted him. As punishment, he is forced forfeit his lands and commit suicide, leaving his samurai as masterless ronin. That they will take revenge is assumed by their families but forbidden in the eyes of the law. They appear to forsake their oaths and become workmen and merchants, thus dropping down a few rungs in the Japanese hierarchy.

This is all a ruse to draw down the guard of Kira Yoshinaka, the rude official they feel is responsible for the death of their master. Biding their time for over a year, they face the scorn of family members demanding to know when they betrayed all they stood for; all the while, they wait for the time to be right to strike. Some good intrigue builds during these scenes as both sides try to determine the other's intent and weaknesses. Finally the time is right, and they take their chance to avenge their leader.

This release is excellent on several fronts. The video and audio are great, and I applaud the lack of an English audio track. That's right, kids - nothing but subtitles the whole way through - and there are actually two of them. The normal voice track and another track that pops up when necessary to explain little cultural references and other items that would be lost in an English translation.

Special features include cast and crew bios and an image gallery. Another item not to be missed is the program notes. They detail some of the history and other versions of the Cushingura story, and I found them to be a fascinating read. This is a great release - fans of the genre should not pass it up.
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reviewed by Ryan Strampe
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