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.
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
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.
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