It's still Anthropomorphism Whenever, and I present to you the star of a long-lived, somewhat beloved, independent series created by someone praised for their lettering skills. Yes. The time has come for...
(Oh, right, and-- archive.)
164. Usagi Yojimbo
What, you were expecting someone else? Bah! (Remember, Usagi creator Stan Sakai lettered Sergio Aragones' Groo).
If Akira Kurosawa made a funny animal picture, it'd probably be a lot like Usagi Yojimbo, the fourth rabbit I promised you, oh those several days ago. The book owes its inspiration to real-life samurai Miyamoto Musashi and also such works as Lone Wolf and Cub and the films of Kurosawa himself. The titular rabbit, Miyamoto Usagi, is a ronin on a warrior's journey, and that journey's taken him from simple beginnings in a couple comics anthologies to ongoing series put out by multiple publishers. Usagi is still going strong. The current series just cracked the 100-issue mark. Rock on!
Right, so, "Usagi" means "rabbit," and "Yojimbo," which is totally not his last name, means "Bodyguard," and so we have the story of a lone rabbit swordsman and his love affair with Whitney Houston. Or not. He does take bodyguard jobs, though, as the series shifts from epic storyarcs to short adventures and everything in-between. His journey has also taken him into team-ups with a certain group of shelled ninjas (I proudly own the Usagi action figure from that line), but we'll talk about them some other time.
I'm not much of an expert on Usagi Yojimbo, but it's an exciting series by a cartoonist at the top of his game, and while it's not lighting the internet on fire or anything, it maintains a sense of high quality and is acclaimed by all the critics. Sorry if this column isn't long or too in-depth-- I might update it at a later date-- but I urge you to try the series out and give Usagi some love. It's a brilliantly unique series.
Don't forget, Stan Sakai is also the creator of Space Usagi. As we all know, everything is better when it's in space. Bucky O'Hare proved the viability of rabbits in space-- and Usagi kicked it in the face. That doesn't even make sense, but by God, it sounds cool.
Apparently, a Usagi RPG even came out, which sounds quite interesting. What can my smart readers tell me about it?
The official Usagi Yojimbo website is here, and it is chock full of Usagi Yojinfo. (Urgh. That one was bad.)
There are currently 20 or so trade paperbacks collecting the main Usagi series, with another one on the way soon. And the Wiki is a huge, huge source of information on the series and its characters. Enjoy!