Australian Council on Children and the Media

47 Ronin

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Not suitable under 12, not recommended 12-15 (Violence; Disturbing scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for 47 Ronin
  • a review of 47 Ronin completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 21 January 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not suitable due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes.
Children 12-15 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: 47 Ronin
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Fantasy themes and violence
Length 119 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

47 Ronin, set in feudal Japan, opens with a prologue describing the fate of a young “half-breed” boy, who was left for dead by his peasant mother in the Tangled Forest, a supernatural forest infested by demons. The demons train the boy to kill using supernatural powers, but he rebels against the demons and flees. The boy is found lying unconscious in a creek by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), who takes the young boy under his protection, allowing  him to grow up with his young daughter.

Some years later the boy, now a grown man called Kia (Keanu Reeves), has dedicated his life to the protection of Lord Asano and his daughter Princess Mika (Ko Shibasaki). Kia and Mika love each other deeply. Treachery befalls Lord Asano when Lord Kira (Tananobu Asano) a rival lord from a neighbouring province who covets both Lord Asano’s land and his daughter, employs the dark powers of a shape-shifting witch (Rinko Kikuchi).  The witch puts a spell on Lord Asano, forcing him to make an apparently unprovoked attack against Lord Kira. The punishment for the unprovoked attack requires Lord Asano to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) and his samurai are reduced to the status of “ronin” (masterless samurai). Shogun Tsunayoshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) decrees that Mika is to marry Lord Kira after a one-year period of mourning.

Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), Lord Asano’s head samurai, suspects that witchcraft and Lord Kira are responsible for Asano’s downfall.  He enlists Kia and the ronin to rise up against Lord Kira and the evil witch in a bid to rescue the princess Mika and avenge Lord Asano.    

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Feudal Japan; samurai warriors; ritual suicide, the supernatural

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

47 Ronin contains intense sequences of fantasy action violence, including decapitations, stylised martial arts fighting and ritual suicide. However, the film contains very little realistic blood and gore. Examples include:

  • A young boy runs through a forest. He shows signs of having been physically abused, including deep scratches across the top of his head. He collapses unconscious in a creek. A young samurai boy pushes the boy’s head underneath the water in an attempt to drown him, but an older man orders the boy to stop.
  • A man is forced to kneel on the ground and is beaten by three men with wooden stick until he falls to the ground unconscious.  In a later scene we see the man’s naked back covered with large red welts from the beating.    
  • After being poisoned a man hallucinates, picturing his daughter being raped by a man. We see a man dressed in a black gown lying on top of the woman in her bed (only her head is visible) and hear her screaming. The hallucinating man uses a sword to strike the man he thinks is raping his daughter, cutting the man across his back.
  • A man commits ritual suicide.  He is dressed in white robes and kneeling on the ground. He picks up a knife and holds it against his stomach but the actual stabbing is not shown, although the man’s facial expression is. A second man holding a sword then decapitates the man. This is shown as a shadowy image.
  • Another scene depicts the similar mass ritual suicide of over forty men.
  • During a fight between a man and an ogre-like creature, the creature is decapitated. We do not see the actual decapitation but see the severed head lying on the ground. A man picks up the severed head and parades it around for spectators to see.
  • A lord and two men spar with heavy wooded staves. The lord hits the two other men several times with his stave, knocking one of them to the ground. The lord kicks the fallen man in the body and brutally stomps on his head several times.
  • In one scene two women offer another woman a bottle of poison, suggesting that she use the poison to commit suicide, and in a later scene a witch entices a woman to commit suicide.  
  • A band of samurai attack a fortress, killing dozens of guards. Guards are garrotted and pulled over walls, have their throats slit, are stabbed in the chest with swords and shot in the head with arrows; no blood and gore is depicted. During the attack, a samurai and a lord engage in a stylised sword fight until the samurai places the lord in a chokehold and stabs him in the abdomen, then decapitates the lord.  The decapitation occurs off screen but in a later scene we see the samurai standing on a palace wall holding the severed head up in the air while the battle rages below.       

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are many scenes in this movie involving fantasy characters and transformations that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • One scene depicts a rampaging fantasy beast with six eyes, large sharp teeth, a shaggy long haired coat, two branch-like arms extending from its shoulders and a long tail. The creature has a loud roar and uses its horned head to smash through trees and knock down horses and men. We also see the creature use its branch-like arms and hands to pick up men and horses.
  • A witch transforms from a fox into a swirl of fabric and then into a woman. We also see a witch transform into a dragon that has sharp teeth, breaths fire and moves through the air with a fluid motion. One scene depicts the dragon engaged in battle with a man who stabs it through the head with his sword.  The dragon falls to the ground and transforms back into a women who take her last gasping breath before dying with her eyes open.
  • A witch uses a blade to pierce the inside of a man’s arm. Coloured vapour spurts from the wound and the witch blows on the vapour which transforms into a spider. The witch transforms into swirling tendrils of swirling smoke and fabric that float into a man’s room then transforms back. The witch lowers the silver spider onto a sleeping man’s bed and it crawls across his face injecting purple venom into the man’s mouth. He awakens with only the whites of his eyes visible.
  • An ogre-like creature has a grotesquely distorted face and roughly stitched wounds covering parts of his face, back and body.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned violent and scary scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned violent and scary scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

The film contains occasional low-level sexual references. Examples include:

  • A man and women declare their love for each other.
  • One woman tells a second woman that she betrayed a man with her lust for him.
  • We hear a man make reference to a village having brothels and officials that used the brothels.

Nudity and sexual activity

The film contains occasional low-level sensuality. Examples include:

  • A woman caresses a man’s bare chest in a sensual manner.
  • A witch acts in a seductive manner towards another woman who is lying in her bed, lying on top of the woman and then straddling her stomach. When she stands up she has a split up both sides of her dress revealing her legs to her upper thighs.
  • A man and woman hold each other and kiss briefly.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Two women give a third woman a bottle containing poison.
  • Two samurai warriors drink Sake at a gravesite to honour their dead master. 

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

47 Ronin is a fantasy action adventure based upon a Japanese story about honour, sacrifice and courage. While the fight scenes are well choreographed and are likely to appeal to adolescent males, adults may find the film lacking in terms of character development, the quality of the acting and the storyline which is sometimes confusing.  Although the violence in the film is shown with an unrealistic lack of blood and gore, there is plenty to disturb children and younger teens, including beheadings and ritual suicides. There are also scary fantasy characters and scenes of transformation which would disturb younger children. 

The main messages from this movie are that:

  • when a crime goes unpunished the world becomes unbalanced.
  • duty, honour and justice are worth dying for.

Parents may wish to discuss the traditional Japanese belief in suicide as an honourable means of redemption.

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