Usagi Yojimbo 71

Quick Rating: Wonderful
Title: Bells

How many great rabbits have their been in popular illustration?

Writer/Artist: Stan Sakai
Editor: Diana Schutz

It’s Wednesday evening. You stand outside the comic shop, like Dante at the gates of Hell—caveat emptor does not even approach the warnings at the gates of Hell (“Please light a cigarette; keep hands and feet inside the stocks at all times; no flash photography or sound recording permitted.”), but you might want to be wary anyway. You enter the dread comic shop. Some guy in a raincoat stands at the counter, purchasing a stack of comics as high as your forearm. He is arguing with the clerk about the discount charged on one of the books. A middle-aged woman stands in the back, looking shell-shocked, as her pre-teen son selects an issue of Transformers. Her arms are wrapped around her young daughter, shielding her eyes from the action figures portraying a variety of eviscerations just at the child’s eye level. Two loud guys are arguing about the latest controversy regarding Dave Sim, Mark Waid, Joe Quesada, a quart of vodka, and an antelope. And this is where you go in the hope of finding some sort of art that will entertain and sustain you for the next week.

And yet, we ignore the good stuff.

William Stout has described Usagi Yojimbo as a cross between Carl Barks and Akira Kurosawa. I totally agree. If you like either one, then you should jump on the Usagi bandwagon. If you don’t like either one, then you need to turn in your member card for the human race. If you don’t know who either one is, then you need to seek out old Disney comics on ebay and go rent some foreign movies. (Or you may be blessed with a great public library that has both available.)

Usagi Yojimbo translates roughly as unemployed samurai rabbit, or perhaps more accurately as master-less ronin hare. Yes, he’s a rabbit. And he’s appeared on Saturday morning cartoons (guest spots on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and he’s been an action figure. So, you probably should be reading Stan Sakai’s wonderful creation.

In this issue, Katsuichi figures as the main character. Katsuichi was Usagi’s teacher/mentor/master when he was a child. Now, we see him in the midst of a fight when his concentration is interrupted by a passing girl. This sparks the memories which drive this issue.

Usagi has been around for twenty years. The next issue should be out in the next couple weeks. What are you waiting for?

January, 2004

Leave a Reply