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! :)

Date: 2017-08-26 01:04 am (UTC)
lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
From: [personal profile] lb_lee
I'm totally down to see more! I didn't discover Usagi Yojimbo till later on, and I really enjoy it! And there's so much of it, there's only so much I've been able to read, you know?

Sakai is great. Love the simplicity and clarity of his art.

Date: 2017-08-26 01:09 am (UTC)
ovaltinepatrol: Chairman Kaga from Iron Chef (Default)
From: [personal profile] ovaltinepatrol
Usagi Yojimbo was one of my 2 favorite Ninja Turtle series figures when I was a kid. The other was Ace Duck, but that was just because I was a Duck Tales fan.

Date: 2017-08-26 01:19 am (UTC)
q99: (Default)
From: [personal profile] q99
-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.-

Yeees, it really is.

I remember Chris Sims commenting how it's under talked about possibly *because* of how consistent it is- he could just cut and past "10/10, another fantastic issue from Stan Sakai," each month and be accurate. There's no, 'ah, it's had a return to form after a weak stretch...' because there are no weak stretches! Some stories I prefer or feel are a bit too well-trodden (few too many criminal gang stories), but they're all good.

And yes, I would like to see more!

Date: 2017-08-26 12:13 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] tcampbell1000
Heh, agreed on all points.

Date: 2017-08-26 02:32 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] tripodeca113
Usagi Yojimbo is just so consistently good. It also tricks you into learning about stuff.

Date: 2017-08-26 11:10 am (UTC)
raisedbymoogles: (Default)
From: [personal profile] raisedbymoogles
I first discovered Usagi at the base library at a pretty low point in my life. It was one of few bright spots. Thank you for posting this, and I'd definitely be interested in more.

Date: 2017-08-26 03:49 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] shadur
I'm always down for more Usagi Yojimbo.

Date: 2017-08-27 06:25 pm (UTC)
burkeonthesly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burkeonthesly
The only Usagi Yojimbo I read before this was a short that appeared in Wizard magazine one time. Usagi is returning a lucky netsuke to a friend, and reminisces over how they met before a battle, and the carving fell into his keeping. Last panel, he apologizes to his friend's gravestone that he took so long in returning it.

Date: 2017-08-28 12:57 am (UTC)
burkeonthesly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burkeonthesly

Thank you. I remember at the time being struck by the quality of the writing--which was saying something, I wasn't of an age to appreciate writing very often. If my local comic shop had carried it, and if I'd had money, I probably would've gotten on board.

Do you recommend just reading from the beginning, or is there a better jumping-on point?

Date: 2017-08-28 02:12 am (UTC)
burkeonthesly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burkeonthesly

I appreciate the complete and considered answer. Do the Fantagraphics volumes get reprinted in any of the Sagas, or are they part of the 10-20% not so contained?

Date: 2017-08-28 03:10 am (UTC)
burkeonthesly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burkeonthesly

No, you've made it very clear and concise, thank you. I think I have some things to add to my Amazon wishlist now.


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