Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai

merry christmas from japan



“A samurai should always be prepared for death – whether his own or someone else’s.”

I first got into Usagi Yojimbo back in the 1980s; just under 40 years ago! My brother lent me an early collection of Stan Sakai’s tales of the wandering rabbit ronin and I fell in love with it immediately. I was already developing an interest in all things Japanese at that point in my life so this was a perfect comic book for me. It introduced me to some Japanese words and gave me glimpses into some aspects of traditional Japanese culture. It also featured regular doses of samurai swordplay, ninja attacks and a myriad of mythological creatures. Can you believe that Stan Sakai has been chronicling the adventures of Usagi Yojimbo for 40 years? That’s very impressive!

The more I read, the more I fell in love with the characters. Miyamoto Usagi, the loyal, good and brave wanderer whose adventures lead us on a compelling journey around feudal Japan. Murakami Gennosuke (Gen), a bounty hunter and friend of Usagi who cares more for money than bushido. Tomoe Ame, bodyguard to the lord of the Geishu clan and Usagi’s loyal friend. Katsuichi-sensei, Usagi’s teacher who developed his own unique style of swordsmanship. Kitsune, street performer and master thief, she has helped Usagi in the past as well as picked his pockets on occasion. Jei, a former priest who believes he was chosen by the gods to detect and punish evil.

The list could go on and on.

usagi friends

So, I was delighted to hear that IDW were going to begin publishing Stan Sakai’s stories from June 2019; and they were going to be in colour! The regular series has been in black and white since its inception, so to see Usagi in full colour every month will be a treat. Tom Luth, who I know from his time colouring Groo the Wanderer, will be adding his palette to the monthly title.

So far, I’ve read the first issue, published in June, and November’s issue 6. Here is a quick synopsis of issue 1 from IDW’s homepage. (It’s part one of a three-part story.)

‘Set in the Edo period of Japan, this adventure sees Usagi embroiled in a puppet drama where the players are not quite what they seem. Sakai adds, “Bunraku (Japanese puppetry) captures many elements that make the world of Usagi Yojimbo unique: an adventure filled with Japanese culture, folklore, and history. It also features the return of a long-awaited fan favorite character and Yokai (Japanese supernatural creatures).’usagi bunraku 1

This is a very good first issue with an intriguing story. I recommend it.

It opens with a dynamic fight scene between Sasuke–a fan favourite character who is a “demon queller”–and a horde of Japanese yokai. Stan Sakai’s fluid drawing skills are on full view here as the action shifts from panel to panel.

Then we cut to a Japanese inn where a puppet show is in progress. Usagi is there enjoying the show. He gets talking to one of the performers after the show finishes and learns that the puppet master is blind. As Usagi is leaving the inn, he bumps into Sasuke. Usagi asks Sasuke if something “evil” in the town has drawn him here…

And that’s where I’ll leave this brief summary. It’s a great time to start reading Usagi Yojimbo if you are interested in the samurai rabbit’s adventures.

Interior art (above) and some of the variant covers of issue 1 (below).


4 thoughts on “Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai

  1. Pingback: 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit | Wakizashi's Teahouse Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s