riddler13: (gennosuke)
[personal profile] riddler13
In yesterday's post, we met Sakura, and we saw her getting in trouble by kidnapping an enslaved serving girl in order to set her free.

Part II is the conclusion to her first adventure.

With your trademark Sakai Twist™ )

Sakura is slated to return, according to Stan Sakai, but I've seen no indication of her comeback so far.

Edit: this story is available on Book 25: Fox Hunt and the Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol. 6.

Comments, opinions, requests, all in the little boxes below :)
riddler13: (gennosuke)
[personal profile] riddler13
Sakura is another one of those characters so deftly created by Sakai in his "Usagi Yojimbo" series. She wields a whip and travels the land looking for her brother. To that end, she works in several gambling parlours as a dice-handler, reasoning that gamblers are usually the best source of information in their respective cities. To make it even more interesting, Sakai lets on that this whip-wielding gambler is not too right in the head.

This two-parter is her origin story, and her only appearance so far.

Whip it! )

Part II next.
riddler13: (Tomoe Ame as a kid)
[personal profile] riddler13
One character I didn't profile in previous Usagi Yojimbo posts is actually quite a fan favourite - blind masseur pig Zato-Ino. Based upon Zatoichi, a fictional character in a series of films and a television show, he is sort of this universe's Daredevil. His uncanny sense of smell compensates for his lack of eyesight.

He was introduced in a short 10-page story in Critters #7, January 1987, which can also be found in Fantagraphics' first Usagi Yojimbo book, "The Ronin".

Only 3 and 1/3 pages below )

Ino was used a lot in the Fantagraphics run (1984-1993), then not so much in the Mirage run (1993-1996), when he was retired by Stan with a beautiful story, and has been absent from the Dark Horse 20+ years run. He still remains a favourite for lots of Usagi fans, including several names in the comic book industry.
riddler13: (Tomoe Ame as a kid)
[personal profile] riddler13
Whenever you see artists re-imagining Usagi Yojimbo, one of their favourite choices to include in their drawings are the tokagé lizards. In a world in which pretty much everyone is an anthropomorphic animal, those lizards fill up most of the possible niches (pets, food, predators).

Usagi did have, for a brief time, a tokagé pet, Spot. This is the story of how they met.

Meep! )

Zato-Ino, the blind swordspig (I should really profile him someday), eventually became Spot's owner not too long after this story.
riddler13: (Kitsune and Kyoko)
[personal profile] riddler13
In the final part of "The Thief and the Kunoichi", Kitsuné tries to pull off her risky plan, while convincing Chizu and Usagi that she is on their side. Will they be an unwilling help or a hindrance to her?

(Parts one and two here).

She's very emotional, Kiyoko )

Comments/thoughts/requests below, as usual :)
riddler13: (Kitsune and Kyoko)
[personal profile] riddler13
Part 2 of "The Thief and the Kunoichi", in which Kitsuné tries to make as many enemies as possible in the smallest amount of time.

Count your seconds, woman, because you will not have many more )

The conclusion tomorrow.
riddler13: (Kitsune and Kyoko)
[personal profile] riddler13
Most characters in "Usagi Yojimbo" have a hard time dealing with Kitsuné the fox thief and her thieving antics because she is at the same time selfish and endearing. In my last post, I showed how much exasperation Tomoe Ame with her strong moral code went through. This three-parter, "The Thief and the Kunoichi", pits Kitsuné against an oh-so-serious ninja, and the result is equally funny, if not outright hilarious.

I'm going to kill you, woman! )

Part 2 tomorrow.
riddler13: (Kitsune and Kyoko)
[personal profile] riddler13
Stan Sakai does a great job at creating unique characters, with motivations, aspirations and fears we all can relate to. Whether primarily comical, serious, greedy, honest, cowardly, they all possess a depth that makes them go beyond those stereotypes. So we care for them, root for them, and when personalities rebound each other, we have a lot of fun with it.

Case in point: serious, dutiful, proud Tomoe Ame x light-hearted, selfish and clever Kitsuné in "The Thief and the Lotus Scroll". With Usagi caught in the middle.

Read more... )

Another great Kitsuné interaction is with Chizu the ninja. I'll try to post it later.
riddler13: (Default)
[personal profile] riddler13
Continuing from yesterday's post, let's have a look at how Usagi crossed over with the Ninja Turtles in other media, shall we?

Yo, Jimbo! )

I relied heavily on Fiction Addiction's 23min video to do this, so check it out if you're interested! (NSFW language).

And if I managed to get you into Usagi, you might consider signing up to the two - yes, two - official forums, CCF and Usagi's Dojo. Stan Sakai is an active participant in both.
riddler13: (Default)
[personal profile] riddler13
Usagi Yojimbo and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began at around the same time, in the mid-1980's. And they have crossed over lots of times since then, including a very recent one, from July 2017. Laird and Eastman have always had a good collaboration with Stan Sakai, which made Usagi cameos in TMNT comics, cartoons and toy lines easy from the start.

Scan-heavy post below )

Up next: other media (I'll find a way to post the mandatory scans, though).

riddler13: (Default)
[personal profile] riddler13
This is probably my last UY character profile for a while, and I've decided to focus on one that, according to the author himself, is his most popular supporting character: Inspector Ishida.

Based on real life detective Chang Apana, the same source for Charlie Chan, Ishida is a tough but fair detective. Usagi met him in vol. 3 issues #26 and 27 "The Hairpin Murders", where he arrives in Ishida's town to collect the bounty for a criminal Gen had captured (the rhino was unable to collect it himself). Usagi gets to help Ishida analyse the scene of a crime and impresses him, and from then on we got ourselves a detective in the Usagiverse.

There's no origin story for Ishida, not even in "The Hairpin Murders". I chose then his only standalone story so far, "After the Rat", in order to illustrate how Stan handles mystery stories.

Read more... )

That's it for my Usagi Yojimbo character profiles. Previous ones can be found below, if you missed any:

Usagi the rabbit ronin
Tomoe the cat samurai
Jotaro the "nephew"
Gen the rhino bounty hunter
Kitsuné the fox thief
Jei the Blade of the Gods
Chizu the cat ninja
Inazuma the Lightning
Sasuké the Demon Queller

I want to lay off Usagi Yojimbo for a while, unless there's another character or some storyline you want covered. Please let me know, and I'll be glad to comply! :)

riddler13: (Default)
[personal profile] riddler13
UY is a series who, despite using anthropomorphic animals, is pretty much rooted in historical feudal Japan, with events that took place in real life serving as most of the inspiration. However, Japan is also a country with a rich mythology, and Usagi couldn't shy away from exploring those more fantastic tales.

At first, the bunny ronin himself would face supernatural threats, but they didn't quite fit the tone of his series. When Stan introduced Sasuké the Demon Queller in Usagi Yojimbo (v.3) #37: "Kumo", things got different. Now he had a character better suited to fight supernatural beings and add that element organically into the Usagiverse.

There has never been a conclusive origin story as to how Sasuké came to be, but the best explanation we've got so far is in the beautifully-illustrated 25th-anniversary special edition "Yokai". It is a canon one-off in which monsters of folklore (yokai) come to haunt the Earth in a sort of mega-Halloween. It's over 60 pages long but I'll stick to the usual 8 scans to focus more on Sasuké himself.

Who you gonna call? )

If I had to bet on a spinoff series from Usagi Yojimbo I think it'd be either Sasuké or, according to polls taken by the author himself, the most popular supporting character and my next and last profile: Inspector Ishida.
riddler13: (Default)
[personal profile] riddler13
The best sword yielders in Usagi's world are obviously skilled, but they've also had years of training practice. We've seen Usagi train to become one of the best samurais in the kingdom, we saw Gen being trained by his father, we've had the opportunity to see Tomoe training since she was a kitty.

However, for one person in this particular universe, the ability to fight with swords came by as naturally as breathing. Her name is Inazuma, "the Lightning". She took on Gen and would have killed him if it weren't for a slip. After that, she fought both him and his fellow bounty hunter Stray Dog simultaneously and almost won, having to escape at the end.

We saw her origin early in just her second appearance, since the desire for revenge was her initial motivation.

Trigger warning for domestic abuse )

This story was collected in Book 10: The Brink of Life and Death and Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol. 1.

Inazuma is my definition of "badass" in the Usagi Yojimbo universe, more than Tomoe, Katsuichi-sensei and Usagi himself. I've read in some places that Sakai himself acknowledges her as the best fighter in their universe, but never saw a direct a quote from him. Anyway, I do not dispute that affirmation.

And to end in a typical Scans Daily vibe - I think she would be the most attractive woman of the series if they were real people instead of anthropomorphic animals.

Tomorrow: Sasuké the demon queller.
riddler13: (Default)
[personal profile] riddler13
Ninjas are a constant feature in Usagi Yojimbo's universe. They are pretty much the go-to cannon fodder baddies, along with "brigands", and the three factions we see (Mole - Kagura, Bat - Komori and Cat - Neko) attack Usagi and his allies on a consistent basis.

They have, however, their own internal and external wars, which lead to some interesting stories. All of them are vying Lord Hikiji's favour, who uses them to his advantage, pitting them against each other and making them compete for his approval.

The clan currently on top is the Neko ninja. They were some of Usagi's first adversaries, appearing in his second story, but became temporary allies under the leadership of Shingen during Book 4: "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy". After that, Shingen is replaced by his sister, Chizu, but her position was challenged from the very start, seeing as she is a female ninja (kunoichi). Even so, she is capable of holding her own and carrying out several errands for Lord Hikiji. But, after her first meeting with Usagi, in "Shades of Green" (a crossover with the TMNT), she develops a soft spot for the rabbit, which makes it a bit more difficult to accomplish her work.

She is eventually expelled from the Neko ninja and becomes a fugitive. This is the story of her fall from grace.

The first tenet of ninja is deceit )

This story was collected in Book 16: The Shrouded Moon and Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol. 3.

Barring (possibly) Chizu, Usagi constantly expresses his hatred towards ninjas all through the series. Which is funny, given he has starred in all three TMNT cartoon incarnations, has crossed over with them in at least three canon stories and considers Leo one of his best friends.

A running gag is that Chizu always departs leaving Usagi with a kiss, "a way foreigners use to show affection". Maybe that is why he tolerates her.

Next, the most skilled fighter in Usagi's universe: Inazuma, the lightning!
riddler13: (Default)
[personal profile] riddler13
They say a hero is only as good as his villains, and Usagi has had his fair share of adversaries. From forgettable "gang boss of the week" to memorable ones like General Fujii, there has always been an antagonist to keep him busy during his wanderings.

His most noteworthy enemy, however, is Jei, the psychopathic killer who calls himself the "Blade of the Gods". The best way to describe him would be "self-deluded body-hopping Jason Voorhees (Jei-san is a pun and an homage to Friday 13th) meets the Joker". He kills mercilessly and gleefully anyone his Gods deem "evil". Problem is, that is pretty much everyone (although I've never seen him kill a child), and he considers Usagi the ultimate evil - his endgame is to kill Usagi and become "one with the Gods".

Read more... )

Jei is a very versatile villain. He can be used in one-shots, he can be the big baddie in an arc, he can be that ever-looming menace. He was used as the antagonist in both recent TMNT/Usagi crossovers (TV and comics) and, in both cases, they used his first incarnation (Jizonobu).

His origin and Hama's possession were collected in Book 24: Return of the Black Soul and Usagi Yojimbo Saga Book 6.

Next profile: Chizu the cat ninja.

riddler13: (Kitsune and Kyoko)
[personal profile] riddler13
In my posts about Usagi Yojimbo characters, I've profiled Usagi himself, Tomoe, Jotaro and Gen. I'm now tackling a big fan favourite: the fox thief Kitsuné.

Kitsuné is, as her namesake in Japanese tradition, a trickster fox, inasmuch as she steals and cons to make ends meet. She has a naturally bubbly, friendly disposition, but don't let that fool you - she might consider you her best friend and yet cheat you blind. She is always putting herself first, except when it comes to her protegé Kiyoko, who is becoming quite an adept con artist and pickpocket herself.

Kitsuné's origin story was told in UY's #52, and it is a somewhat sadder story than most of her tales (barring "Noodles", which is a veritable punch in the gut). It is also the story that introduces Kiyoko to the ever-growing UY character roster.

A girl has to do what she can to get by, neh? )

This story was collected in Book 16: The Shrouded Moon and Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol. 3.

Kitsuné's popularity is enduring, and Stan is using her a lot in his recent stories. She was featured recently in the hilarious "The Thief and the Kunoichi" (#145-147) and is in the most recent issue, a two-parter called "A Body in the Library" (#161, already released, and 162).

Next up: Jei-san, the Blade of the Gods!
riddler13: (gennosuke)
[personal profile] riddler13
And now I'll focus on my favourite Usagi Yojimbo character: Murakami Gennosuke, a.k.a. Gen, the rhino bounty hunter!

Gen is a gruff, cantankerous mercenary who will always put money before honour. He has a penchant for shortcuts that always get him, or whoever is foolish enough to take his advice (usually Usagi) in trouble. He is a glutton who enjoys his saké. But he is also a very competent swordsman and, (not so) deep down, someone with a very generous heart and loyal to his friends. And, no matter what Usagi might say, he is Long Ears' best friend, with most of the "buddy comedy" angle of the series stemming from their interactions.

'Would I cheat a friend?' )

Stan noticed that the rhino bounty hunter's lack of morals made a good foil to Usagi's more serious and honourable personality, so Gen came back several times since then (although he hasn't shown up lately).

Also, his horn was cut off in a fight with Zato-Ino the blind swordspig, who I plan to profile someday. The complete horn he sports while telling his origin story is a ceramic prosthetic which is broken in the course of the story.

To end: Gen's inspiration is Toshiro Mifune in the film "Yojimbo"

Next: Kitsuné, the flirty fox thief!
riddler13: (Default)
[personal profile] riddler13
Continuing with my ongoing series of Usagi Yojimbo character profiles (Usagi and Tomoe so far), we now turn to another essential character in the series: Jotaro.

He is a young samurai-in-training who hails from the same village as Usagi, and is being trained by our rabbit ronin's former teacher, Katsuichi. Jotaro has met his "Uncle Usagi" several times, whenever Long Ears went to visit his birthplace. After Katsuichi-sensei is challenged to a duel by an old adversary and has to leave the mountains (I really want to post this storyline in the future) with his students Shunji and Jotaro, the young rabbit meets Usagi and gets to spend some time with our main character.

But there's more to Jotaro than meets the eye. And that is what Tomoe will find out in the story "Kill the Geishu Lord".

My most spoilerrific post so far )

That's it for Jotaro. Stay tuned for the next profile; my favourite character by far. The persimmon-loving, money-grabbing, dirty cheating rhino bounty hunter with a heart of gold: Gen!
riddler13: (Default)
[personal profile] riddler13
Usagi Yojimbo has always had a large amount of positive female role models. You can choose to identify yourself with wily and serious Chizu the cat ninja; clever and funny Kitsuné the fox thief; Inazuma, the most naturally gifted swordsperson in the comics (acknowledged in-universe). Even Mariko, Usagi's perennial love lost, is not a damsel in distress, but a competent samurai in her own right who chose to marry and raise a family.

But they all take a backseat to Tomoe Ame, the cat samurai. She is his equal in fighting abilities, having fought him twice onscreen, with one win and a draw. She is a personal bodyguard and senior adviser to Lord Noriyuki, despite her young age. She is Usagi's friend and confidant. She can be sweet and caring when the need arises. She is also the one chance Usagi could have for true happiness. And she is important enough to be the cover and main focus of Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol. 5, a massive 588-page tome collecting 3 whole books.

This is her story as told in Book 22 of Usagi Yojimbo, appropriately titled "Tomoe's Story" (also included in vol. 5 of the Saga).

6 pages out of 20 below )

Next up: Jotaro, Usagi's very own boy blunder!
riddler13: (Default)
[personal profile] riddler13
Before posting more adventures from our long-eared ronin, I though it best to follow [personal profile] burkeonthesly 's advice and do a "character spotlight", in order to get new readers acquainted with his colourful cast of characters, their motivations, their relation to Usagi and so on. I'll try to keep those spoiler-free and just published their official origin stories when available. If not, then I'll post a story I think best illustrates their motivations and tones.

It may seem like 'cheating', but I'd like to start with the hero of the series, Usagi. First, because obviously pretty much every story revolves around him in some way or another and, second, because it is a quick and convenient way to understand the series' setting.

Fortunately for us, Stan already laid out the fundamentals of Usagi's universe in his first 4 issues of his own comics, back in the mid-80's. Before that, 'Long-Ears', as his friend Gen calls him, was a feature in "Albedo Anthropomorphics #2" before getting his own series in 1986 with Fantagraphics.

BTW, UY's publication history runs like this: Fantagraphics #1-38 (which I call vol. 1), Mirage Studios #1-16 (I call them vol. 2) and Dark Horse #1-160 so far, with 161 and 162 ready for pre-order (I call them vol. 3 up to #38, then I simply give their number with no 'vol.' before, for simplicity's sake).

(That's a scar over his left eye, not an eyebrow).

So, let's find out more about the hero of this fascinating series - starting with his name!

20 pages of a badass lagomorph below )

Whoof, that was a lot. Hope you made it through to the end :)

This is collected on the trade paperback Samurai and also on Fantagraphics' "Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition" (which unfortunately seems to be out of print. Maybe it can be found on Amazon?).

I'm planning to do the origin stories of Tomoe Ame the cat samurai, Gen the rhino bounty-hunter, Kitsuné the fox thief, Jei "the Blade of the Gods", and a story illustrating Inspector Ishida, Jotaro (Mariko's son) and Chizu the cat ninja. I might also do one with miscellaneous characters I think are somewhat relevant to some story arcs (Sanshobo the priest, Sasuké the demon queller, Inazuma "the Lightning", Zato-Ino the blind swordspig, General Ikeda), as long as you are interested.


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