“Usagi Yojimbo” is one of those comic stalwarts that feels like it has always existed and many hope will always exist. It supports a corner of independent comics that doesn’t aim to alienate or warp through its sense of cool. The series is unbelievably inclusive as it appeals to all ages and entertains on a variety of levels. It is an ongoing passion and labor of love that deserves as much respect as adoration.
This issue represents the 200th issue of “Usagi Yojimbo” and Stan Sakai smartly uses this milestone to drop a done-in-one tale that anyone can buy into and enjoy. ‘Two Hundred Jizo’ acts like a refined definition of what this character is and does. Usagi sweeps into an unknown town, rids them of their borrowed evil, and the day is once more happy. Along the way there are damsels, there is sword play, and the atmosphere is near silent with anticipation. The tale is simple, easy, and has a little something for everyone.
The biggest shame is that Sakai didn’t use this opportunity to place something monumental into the story. There are no surprises in this tale and most of the elements are cliche and overly predictable. It’s nice as a refresher, and could have worked wonderfully as part of a larger issue of short tales to welcome new readers while pleasing old fans, but on its own makes the book feel like it hasn’t made any growth over the years.
Sakai’s artwork is still as stellar and simple as you know it to be. His characters own their space on the page and his composition is so effortlessly meaningful. The violence blends intent with intonation as it always feels more graphic than it actually is. This rain soaked issue makes you feel like a sidewalk observer and not just a person holding pages.
“Usagi Yojimbo” is still a vibrantly fun comic but it has missed an opportunity to show its many other skill sets off. The basic structure of Usagi as the wandering defender of the innocent is sound and it will please you. If you haven’t dipped a toe into the world of this great comic then right here is a good start and then you can branch into the scores of other amazing tales to be found.