Review of Usagi Yojimbo #143

By Alex Vazquez

This is my first time reading a Usagi Yojimbo comic; my only exposure to the character being the ’87 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, and owning the vintage toy. I’m aware of the high praise this long running series has received though and I can see why. There is an unabashed love for traditional Japanese culture, a charming simplicity to the artwork, and a protagonist with gravitas.
The plot in this issue revolves around the brewing of shoyu, or soy sauce. Not the most stimulating of subjects, but our writer extraordinaire, Stan Sakai, filters it through an endearing shoyu brewer, who walks Usagi (if not us readers) through the brewery process. The love of traditional crafts, as portrayed by the hapless brewer, is infectious.
He is, I surmise, the latest of victims that Usagi protects from whatever villainous lot. In this case, our antagonists being a rival brewer and his hired thugs.  While the story may not be groundbreaking it’s still a rewarding and educational read nonetheless (I now have a new found love for soy sauce).

If this issue is any indication of what this series represents then consider me on board. The story ends off on a cliffhanger, so some sword swinging action is bound to ensue in the next issue. As such, I’ll be there faster than our wandering samurai can swing his sword.

Follow Alex on Twitter @Nettomono

Usagi Yojimbo #141 Review

By Chuck Suffel

Usagi Yojimbo #141 Created, Written & Illustrated by Stan Sakai

This issue is quite a milestone as it marks the two hundredth appearance of Usagi in his own comic illustrated by Stan Sakai. I’ve read this title once or twice in the past but until this issue I don’t think I ever gave it the chance it deserved. Sakai drafts a simple yet compelling story one we think we’ve read before, it feels so familiar, but in lending it his voice he changes it, makes it mean something different. It’s a very personal and symbolic issue and one I’m sure it felt wonderful to write.

For the un-indoctrinated Miyamoto Usagi is a Ronin (masterless samurai), traveling the “warriors pilgrimage” as yojimbo (bodyguard for hire). He is also an anthropomorphic rabbit. As I said the story is quite familiar, a town being terrorized by a
gang. A gang who takes what they want and kills whomever they wish. We all know how those stories play out, there’s a girl to save and her father. There were several interesting differences this time, the supporting character Masa a stone carver who has set himself to the task of carving 200 statues of Jizo (a deity who relieves suffering) in order to rid his village of this blight. And his daughter, Tomiko who despite being a beautiful damsel in distress does not become the hero’s love interest. Another interesting shift in the story away from the formula is how the bad guy gets his comeuppance. I won’t spoil it here but lets say it was more satisfying than a straight dual would have been. When you finish this issue you realize that this story has been a tribute by Sakai. To his fans to Usagi to the craft. Masa is asked if when he reaches his goal will he continue to carve his reply? “Of course– Until my hands can no longer hold the tools of my craft.” I hope that’s true Sakai because you are a master of the craft and I hope you continue it for many years to come.

Check out Stan Sakai on Facebook here  and his website here

Also a quick bio on Stan:

Name: Stan Sakai
Born: May 25th, 1953 – Kyoto, Japan. Age of two, family moved to Hawaii where he lived for the next 22 years.
Current Residence: Pasadena, California
Occupation: Cartoonist/Letterer
Training: University of Hawaii, B.F.A.; Art Center College of Design
Credits: Art/Story – Usagi Yojimbo, Nilson Groundthumper, Space Usagi, Ten Little Critters. Lettering – Groo The Wanderer, The Legend of Kamui, Spider-man Sunday Strips
Favorite Pen: Kohinoor Art Pen
Favorite Movie: Satomi Hakkenden
Major Influences: Steve Ditko, Sergio Aragones, Milo Manara, Moebius, Jack Kirby, Bill Stout, Walt Kelly, Carl Barks, and (of course) Akira Kurosawa.
Check out Chuck’s Twitter and tumblr!/Chuck_Suffel



October 25, MILWAUKIE, OR—Earlier this year, Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai was named the 2011 Cultural Ambassador by the Japanese American National Museum. Shortly thereafter, the JANM opened their Year of the Rabbit exhibit—the most comprehensive collection of Sakai’s work to date.

Stan Sakai has won several Eisner Awards and has received over twenty Eisner Award nominations. Prior to Dark Horse’s long run on the series, there were thirty-eight Fantagraphics issues, sixteen Mirage issues, a summer special, and four color specials. Dark Horse’s Usagi Yojimbo #141 marks the landmark two hundredth overall issue of master storyteller Stan Sakai’s beloved series, and the rabbit ronin celebrates with a special story perfect for new readers, “200 Buddhas”! With a ruthless gang terrorizing his small town, a humble stonecutter receives a vision and sets out to carve two hundred stone figures. Just as he has finished the 199th, a long-eared stranger comes to his door seeking shelter from the rain!

 “In a perfect world, everyone would read Usagi Yojimbo.”

—Greg McElhatton, Comic Book Resources

 The Japanese American National Museum is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to sharing the experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry. The founding of the museum is a story of high hopes, remarkable achievements, frustration, and, ultimately, success. The JANM is located in Los Angeles, and the Year of the Rabbit exhibit closes its doors October 30, 2011 –

Usagi Yojimbo #141 is on sale October 26, 2011!

Follow Dark Horse comics on Twitter @DarkHorseComics