Usagi Yojimbo #1
Writer/Artist/Letterer: Stan SakaiUsagi Yojimbo
Colorist: Tom Luth
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Review by KrisK
Usagi Yojimbo arrives at IDW Publishing! If you aren’t familiar with the series, Usagi Yojimbo follows Miyamoto Usagi, a rabbit samurai, following a warrior’s path in a world fill with anthropomorphized animals. It borrows and references Japanese cinema, particularly the samurai films. The character first appeared in collections in 1984, before landing his own series in 1987. The creator, Stan Saki, owns the series, and he loves it. So while appearing in eponymous series for 32 years, the character shows up in other collections. Most famously, the rabbit ronin shows up in many Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series on TV. The series has won five Eisner Awards, primarily for lettering.
Usagi Yojimbo #1 opens with seasoned samurai, Sasuke, fighting demons in the woods. After vanquishing them, a spirit visits him, giving him his next assignment. Next scene, cut to our namesake rodent, Usagi, watching Bunraku theater. He marvels at the skill of the puppeteers. Usagi dines briefly with the theater troupe leader after the act. After the brief tea, Usagi runs into Sasuke, who tells him a great evil is in town. Then the evil lets itself be known to the reader.
Usagi Yojimbo #1 feels like a fusion of samurais and Buffy. More importantly, though, and the reason the series won a Parent’s Choice Award, the book informs the reader of facets of Japanese culture by making it organic and important to the story itself. While educational, none of it feels like an exposition dump. It flows with the story. Stan Sakai knows every facet of these characters after 35 years, and he draws them like old friends.
The downside is the book has no introductions. It gives no backstory to the samurai rodent or the other characters.
Verdict: Buy! The story wastes no time in starting, and it proves an all ages book entertains everyone. Yet again, IDW delivers a home run.