The story is mainly told in a flashback by Horibe Yasubei, on the the famous 47 Ronin, who took part in the true story of revenge in 1701. He recounts how events in his life brought him to take part in the attack on Lord Kira. Yasubei and a fictional character, Tange Tenzen, are the two main characters in the story.
The movie starts with Yasubei rushing to take part in a duel between his sword school and another. The duel takes place inside a fenced in area with spectators on the outside. When he gets there his school is losing, but his presence immediately begins to turn the tide. Tenzen, from the rival school, is one of the spectators, and he continues to hear of Yusubei wherever he goes. When Tenzen goes back to his dojo, he is asked to challenge Yusebi to a duel, but he refuses and is thrown out of the school. Yasubei is then thrown out of his school, as his dojo feels that is the best way to end the feud between the schools.
Yasubei is quite the hero though, and the ronin is offered several jobs. Tenzen has to kill a dog while defending his wife, and could be in trouble because of an edict by the shogun, but Yasubei who was passing by saw what happened and helps him out. When the members of the enemy sword school, Chishin-ryu, confront Yasubei, it is now Tenzen turn to help him out and cuts up quite a few.
Yasubei has fallen in love with Chiharu, but she is already betrothed to someone else, Tenzen. Yasubei takes a job with another clan. The Chishin-ryu, Tenzen's old school, then attack and violate Chiharu when Tenzen is away. Tenzen then hears a rumor that Chiharu was seeing Yasubei, but figures out that the rumor was started by the Chishin-ryu.
Tenzen is expected to kill Chiharu, but she has done nothing wrong, and he cannot do it. In the samurai world, because Chiharu has been defiled, he cannot be with her. Tenzen will now seek his revenge. Chiharu's brother, not knowing what is going on, argues with and then cuts off Tenzen's right arm, for daring to return Chiharu to his father.
Then Lord Asano attempted to attack Lord Kira. This was the incident that started off the 47 Ronin event. Yasubei becomes on of the ronin involved in the revenge plot. Tenzen, with one arm, returns to revenge himself on the five men who violated Chiharu. When Tenzen confronts the men, one of them shoots him in the leg with a gun. He now has one arm and is wounded.
The Chishin-ryu come for Tenzen, and he fights about thirty from his knees. Like so scenes in so many samurai movies, this one is really unrealistic as Tenzen strikes down attacker after attacker. Yasubei then shows up to avenge the fallen Tenzen. Then we see the 47 Ronin begin their attack.
The movie had beautiful colors and is beautifully filmed, reminiscent of Gate of Hell. The movie moves a little slowly, but that is probably a good thing considering how complicated the plot is. Overall, a very good movie giving us a look at the 47 Ronin event from the point of view of one of the participants.