riddler13: (Tomoe Ame as a kid)
[personal profile] riddler13 posting in [community profile] scans_daily
So, I decided to end a 3-year hiatus on the website by posting some Usagi Yojimbo, a comic series which I've only recently discovered, fell madly in love with, and think is underrepresented here. This is as good a time as any, seeing as he's just appeared on Nick's TMNT "Tales of the Turtles" this month (check it out if you can. It's good stuff, and made me long for a UY cartoon series).

Usagi Yojimbo, Stan Sakai's own creation (he plots, writes, draws and inks every single issue since the mid-1980's) is one of those books you're probably tired of hearing praise for... that is, until you pick one yourself and find out how good it really is! It has character development, adventure, humour, and a very deep cultural research which makes you (at least, I did) want to find out more about Feudal Japan and the Japanese movies that inspired Mr. Sakai.

This is one of the most recent arcs, and a story that kept me on my toes until the very end. It's called "Those Who Tread on the Scorpion's Tail", a three-parter than ran on issues #136-138. In order to keep a low page count, I'll scan each issue individually, and comment on them separately.

So, we open up with Usagi wandering as usual (he is a 'ronin', a masterless samurai, a point Stan hammers home in every single issue :p). Five armed men bump into him, mistake him for a criminal and attack him without hearing his defence - again, par for the course. He defeats them with sheathed swords, and they justify their attack to their sensei, who is quick to question their flimsy logic ("If he is the thief, where is the gold he stole, and why didn't you kill you four?" - whoops, I guess there's one unaccounted for!). He decides then to do the civilized thing, and asks Usagi who is he, after all?

(Sorry for the gray borders, but my scanner's past its prime).

But why were his students so jumpy? Well, basically they were patrolling the area looking for members of the Red Scorpion Gang, who have been terrorizing the region lately. Usagi's had a recent run-in with them, as well, and offers to help.

Suzuki escorts Usagi to his own dojo, and the rabbit ronin tests his mettle against the best and brightest, who are no match for him. Ishii, the instructor and Suzuki-sensei's right-hand man (or mountain lion, I think?) - and one of the most obvious villains if I ever saw one - takes it as a personal offence and challenges Usagi to a duel. Suzuki tells him to back down and asks Usagi for a friendly bout:

He thinks it's better not to, so Suzuki can "save face" in front of his students:

Suzuki then offers his hospitality, and our wandering bunny accepts it gracefully. While chilling in the yard, he sees some of Suzuki's students "sneaking out". Once again, they go all out aggressive on him, but he manages to defuse the situation with his friendly demeanour. He starts going "veteran student" on them ("I remember when I was your age and I would sneak out too, blablabla"), but they are not particularly amused:

(A quick aside: I love how naïve Usagi usually is. He's not a simpleton, but he does not have a malicious bone in his body. He reminds me a lot of Tintin - especially his interactions with my favourite character in the series, Gennosukke. Both are people/rabbit with that cheerful optimism we all need sometimes in our lives).

OK, so while Usagi is reminiscing, something comes up and shakes the dojo's peace:

Young Maeda was gambling and drinking (hm...) accompanied by his bodyguard, and they were probably ambushed on their way back. The guard is dead, and a ransom note is found on his body. Suzuki offers his students to help finding the magistrate's son, and Usagi joins in.

After they leave, Suzuki and Ishii have a quiet moment:


Oh noes, friend Suzuki is eeeevil! Evil, I says!

(Don't worry, it's not as obvious as it seems).

If you're interested, I can continue the series. Please share your thoughts, whatever they may be, in the comments section! :)
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