riddler13: (Tomoe Ame as a kid)
[personal profile] riddler13 posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Although continuity plays a big part in Usagi Yojimbo's world, with recurring characters, arcs that span 4 or more issues, and situations that take years to pay off, there are also a lot of stand-alone stories, in which the long-eared ronin stumbles into a situation and becomes inevitably wrapped into.

The good thing about those kind of stories is that they allow Stan to write pretty much any genre he chooses without having to worry about future repercussions. So he can choose to tell a funny story, or a horror tale, or to tug at the reader's heartstrings (read "A Mother's Love" and cry yourself a river) - all of them a testament to his multi writing skills.

Another good thing about UY is its educational value. According to the introductory notes to the story, "Grasscutter pt. I" was used as a textbook in Japanese history classes at the University of Portland. Others teach you about making swords, soy sauce, transporting ice and so on.

So, this is a short self-contained story in which Usagi is involved in a dispute between seaweed farmers and helps them settle their problem. It was done during the 16-issue Mirage run and, therefore, it's in colour.

6 and 2/3 of a page below.

Usagi is standing by the seaside and I had to waste a page in order to show this bitchin' pose. I'm sure it would make an excellent print.

Behind him is Kichiro, who drops the load he's carrying. Usagi helps him stand up and carry his load to his home, much to the other's surprise (samurai did not usually help peasants in their labours). During their journey back to Kichiro's home, he tells the rabbit wanderer he is not a fisherman but a farmer. When asked about where his farm lies, he points towards the sea.

Back home, Kichiro tells of his current predicament:

The next day, Usagi helps Kichiro in the seaweed farms and learns a thing or two about the process (and so do we!).

Stan always adds some notes at the end of the story in order to clarify some points, go into details in others and sometimes suggest further reading. In this one, he adds (among other things): "Kichiro's seaweed farm is based upon a farm in Tokyo Bay shortly after the turn of the century. The seaweed fences and geta-stilts may have been unique to this time and/or place since I didn't find any mention of them in descriptions of farms further up north".

Next day, the competing farms meet, and hurl accusations at each other:

Usagi and Kichiro go on to sell the seaweed to Yamanaka the broker, who's making a killing with the low seaweed prices. The ronin immediately picks up that Yamanaka is probably the one causing the conflict in order to drive prices down, and so hatches a plan: he tells him that Kichiro found seaweed near the Shark Rock, the point that divides his crops from Bunji's - much to his friend's amazement, since everyone in the region knows there's no seaweed there.

Of course, Usagi's idea is to catch Yamanaka's men red-handed, and he does so. They tell everything and the farmers witness the hired thugs' confession:

Having found out they have a common enemy, the farmers unite and drive him out of business:

(Kichiro was dropped in the water during the thugs' attack).

There you have it. Short and interesting :)

Two additional points for discussion:

1) Yamanaka does come back and hires an assassin to try to kill Usagi. However, the story is focused on the assassin himself, so the seaweed broker is nothing more than a plot device;

2) A throwaway line from Usagi during this story is an endless source of debate among UY fans. Kichiro offers him a job half-jokingly, and Usagi says "Your offer is almost tempting". Did he mean it, and if so, does he really think of stop wandering and holding a steady occupation? I've my own theory, of course, but I'd love to hear yours (and other thoughts too).

You can find this story in black and white in Usagi Yojimbo Saga #1, as well as online.

Date: 2017-08-29 05:07 pm (UTC)
michaelsaint: (Default)
From: [personal profile] michaelsaint
Wow this is a great book!! The art is perfect and I love how the writer is diving deeply into Japanese culture.

How long did Stan Sakai work on Usagi Yojimbo?

Date: 2017-08-29 05:33 pm (UTC)
janegray: (Default)
From: [personal profile] janegray
Well, you convinced me :)

This was both fun and educational. I like it when comics teach you stuff. One big reason I'm so fond of Kaoru Mori's Emma.

samurai did not usually help peasants in their labours

I remember I was pretty shocked when I watched Princess Mononoke and the Samurai were slaughtering defenceless villagers for sport. Until then I had always bought the traditional view of samurai as noble honourable knight in shining robes. Turns out actual historic samurai were more like violent thugs (much like actual historic knights).

Date: 2017-08-29 09:23 pm (UTC)
raisedbymoogles: (Default)
From: [personal profile] raisedbymoogles
I bought the same story until one of the authors doing his thing on John Scalzi's Big Idea series went into the historical truth of knights-as-violent-thugs a little bit. Turned me off on the entire historical adventure thing, I'll tell you what. Ignorance really is bliss sometimes.

Date: 2017-08-30 04:02 am (UTC)
mastiff: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mastiff
That was the original impetus for the first Crusades; when the knights of Europe weren't at war, they tended to get bored and terrorize the countryside. Starting a Crusade was a good way to send them far away where they could get the glory they were seeking, possibly riches and land, and stop the killing and plundering that were destroying all the peacetime profits.

Date: 2017-08-30 01:49 am (UTC)
q99: (Default)
From: [personal profile] q99
And while Usagi and a number of others are a bit more towards the ideal, we do see samurai view nothing of peasant's lives as well.

Date: 2017-08-29 09:27 pm (UTC)
raisedbymoogles: (Default)
From: [personal profile] raisedbymoogles
Not that it matters, but can anyone tell what Kichiro's family's species is? I wanna say lion, but that'd be weird for a peasant family...

Date: 2017-08-29 09:45 pm (UTC)
raisedbymoogles: (Default)
From: [personal profile] raisedbymoogles
Huh. Maybe lions don't have the same automatic "regal!" connotations in Japan as they do in the West. Or Mr. Sakai was just drawing whatever came to mind and I'm overthinking it.

Date: 2017-08-31 01:03 am (UTC)
full_metal_ox: (Default)
From: [personal profile] full_metal_ox
I wanna say lion, but that'd be kinda weird for a peasant family...

Well, it's not as if rabbits are the first species you'd think to cast as wandering ronin; it looks as though we may have species-blind casting.

Date: 2017-08-29 10:22 pm (UTC)
bradygirl_12: (lobster dinner)
From: [personal profile] bradygirl_12
Very interesting story, I enjoyed learning about seaweed farming. :)

Date: 2017-08-29 10:28 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] tripodeca113
First time I've seen this story in colour,(they were in black and white for the trade, because the colour grade was lost). It looks really nice.

The educational stuff in Usagi, is presented in a way that just makes it seem really interesting.

Date: 2017-08-30 01:41 am (UTC)
q99: (Default)
From: [personal profile] q99
-Kichiro offers him a job half-jokingly, and Usagi says "Your offer is almost tempting". Did he mean it, and if so, does he really think of stop wandering and holding a steady occupation? I've my own theory, of course, but I'd love to hear yours (and other thoughts too).-

Ah, I would say not, but if a job is fun he will say he's considering it.

Something could possibly tempt him to stop wandering, but a job? If he wished a job, even a particularly nice one, he could have easily found one among his journies. He is too strongly a Samurai for that, at least now.

Date: 2017-08-30 02:12 am (UTC)
q99: (Default)
From: [personal profile] q99
I'm not sure if he's still hung up over Mariko, but otherwise I agree. It'd be something of a betrayal of what-could've-been.

I do hope he moves on enough to allow himself to be with someone again. Though I'd prefer it if this someone then came wandering with him rather than vice-versa ^^

Date: 2017-08-30 03:58 am (UTC)
q99: (Default)
From: [personal profile] q99
Yea, I can definitely see that. Separate from her clan, she'd take to the wandering life well, and when it was time to settle down it'd be together.

Of course, Kitsune would be the most lulz answer ^^

Then there's 'somehow ends up living in the same pad as Gen against their will,' answer...

Date: 2017-08-30 02:11 pm (UTC)
janegray: (Default)
From: [personal profile] janegray
Wait, so this Kitsune character dies? "Senso" sounds like a story that takes place in the future.

Date: 2017-08-30 04:18 pm (UTC)
janegray: (Default)
From: [personal profile] janegray
Whew! Thanks ^^"

I just added this series to my backlog, and it would have been really depressing if it had started out with "btw this belived character dies."

Date: 2017-08-30 07:57 am (UTC)
sisterofbloomerjunior: Husky on blanket (Default)
From: [personal profile] sisterofbloomerjunior
Thanks for sharing this.

For some reason I couldn't see these scans on the desktop, but can on my Kindle. I can see other scans on my desktop, though. (Shrugs)

Date: 2017-08-30 04:08 pm (UTC)
lb_lee: A happy little brain with a bandage on it, surrounded by a circle and the words LB Lee. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lb_lee
Huh! So THAT'S how they made nori into sheets!

Date: 2017-08-30 09:20 pm (UTC)
full_metal_ox: (Default)
From: [personal profile] full_metal_ox
Mind if I link this over on [community profile] seaweed?

Date: 2017-08-31 01:22 am (UTC)
full_metal_ox: (Default)
From: [personal profile] full_metal_ox
I do believe I will, inasmuch as it just so happens that I have a cupboard full of the stuff.

It occurs to me that the geta-stilts may have encouraged legends of ninja with the ability to walk on water--even if (or precisely because!) they weren't in common use.


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