Usagi Yojimbo 151, The Bride

UsagiUsagi Yojimbo has been around for thirty-one years, literally as long as I’ve been alive, and it’s still going strong. That is a huge feat for a comic, as many series usually run start to finish in the span of several years, not decades. This duration is a testament to the quality of the work. No comic could ever hope to last this long if it weren’t stellar, as this series proves time and again. I’m not lumping this title in with old school super hero titles such as Batman or Spiderman. Those series have been around for long time, sure, but they are handed off from writer to writer, from artist to artist, and rebooted on such a regular basis that it becomes difficult to perceive them as one, continuous body of work. Usagi Yojimbo, however, is precisely that; one massive body of work created, written, and illustrated by Stan Sakai.

Reading one issue, such as issue 151, the Bride, due out January 20th, 2016, should be enough for one to understand why this series has been so celebrated and successful for so long. This book stands alone, and it’s not for nothing. While it follows a similar format to Aragonés’ Groo, or Sim’s Cerberus, in that they’re all creator owned, independent, cartoony, and long running, the similarities pretty much stop there.

Usagi Yojimbo, set in a feudal Japan populated with anthropomorphic animals (the main character, Miyamoto Usagi, is a rabbit ronin samurai), is largely episodic. This is great, because it allows readers to pick up random Usagi Yojimbo books without having to worry about back story, and it also explains the series longevity, in that there’s always a new story to be told. The writing is heartfelt, and addicting. Sakai seems to have fashioned a comic book after a mixture of the work of the legendary Japanese samurai film maker, Akira Kurosawa, and the equally legendary manga series by Kazuo Koike, Lone Wolf & Cub. The reader follows Usagi on his wandering adventures, all the while enamoring us with his sense of honor, respect, and immense talent as a swordsman. The tone is lovingly steeped in Japanese culture, lore, and history. It’s never overly involved or complicated, in art or writing, such that I can easily crack open a volume of Usagi Yojimbo and pass several hours in what feels like the slash of a katana. In point of fact, one of my favorite aspects of this series is that it’s so binge-able. I still can’t tell if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that after all these years of reading this title, I consistently forget that the characters are animals. It becomes a peripheral detail, overshadowed by the gripping story telling.

For all of its consistent quality, it should also be noted that Usagi Yojimbo can be sporadic. It doesn’t come out like clockwork, which makes every new issue all the more exciting. The next issue, due out in less than two weeks, is as good of an example as any in demonstrating why this book will always be worth picking up. Usagi finds himself thrown into another adventure while he wanders down the road, this time, by meeting a bride-to-be who is set upon by bandits. I don’t want to spoil anything beyond that, but rest assured, Sakai delivers yet another installment of top notch quality Usagi Yojimbo. I hope he keeps it up for decades to come.

I give this latest issue 4 out of 5 shuriken. The only reason it isn’t five stars is that, like so many before, it’s over too soon, and leaves me wanting more.



2 Responses to “Usagi Yojimbo 151, The Bride”

  1. Brian White

    I specifically remember this guy from back in the days when the Turtles were still B&W

  2. Wes Middleton

    Those early TMNT books were AMAZING!