Usagi Yojimbo

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Usagi Yojimbo (うさぎ用心棒 or 兎用心棒, translation: "Rabbit Bodyguard") is a comic book series created by Stan Sakai. Set in the beginning of Edo period Japan (early 17th century), with anthropomorphic animals replacing humans (Kemono), it features a rabbit ronin, Miyamoto Usagi, who wanders the land on a shogyusha (warrior's pilgrimage) occasionally selling his services as a bodyguard. The character of Usagi has been inspired by the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi while the tone and inspirations of the stories are heavily influenced by the films of the acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa.

The books consist of short stories, with underlying larger plotlines which culminate in long extended stories. The stories include many references to Japanese history and folklore, and sometimes include mythical creatures. The architecture, clothes, weapons, and other objects are drawn with faithfullness to the period's style. There are often stories whose purpose to illustrate various elements of Japanese arts and crafts, such as the fashioning of kites, swords, and pottery. The grandest example of this is "Grasscutter" a long story arc that featured the mythological and historical background of the legendary sword, Kusanagi before the adventure of Usagi accidentally gaining possession of the weapon.

Usagi first appeared in issue #2 of the anthology Albedo Anthropomorphics, and later in the Fantagraphics Books anthropomorphic anthology Critters, before appearing in his own series. The Usagi Yojimbo series has been published by three different companies. The first publisher was Fantagraphics (volume one; 38 regular issues, plus one Summer Special and four Color Specials), the second was Mirage Comics (volume two; 16 issues), and the third is Dark Horse Comics, at which Usagi Yojimbo is still being published (as volume three; 133 issues, one color special, one full-color painted standalone graphic novel).

In addition, Sakai created a short lived spin off called Space Usagi which featured the characters in the original series in a futuristic setting that also emulated Feudal Japan in political and stylistic ways.

Usagi has also appeared several times in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the comic, the animated series, and the toy line), and the Turtles have appeared in Usagi Yojimbo as well. There was also an abortive project for a Space Usagi animated series before the failure of Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars discouraged further development.

Two editions of an Usagi role-playing game have been made, a 1998 version from Gold Rush Games and a 2005 version from Sanguine Productions. A video game for the Commodore 64, Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo, was produced by Beam Software and published by Firebird in 1988.

Usagi Jojimbo won the Ursa Major Award for Best Anthropomorphic Comic Book five times running from 2001 to 2005, losing in 2006 to i.s.o. by Vince Suzukawa.

Collections[edit]

  1. The Ronin (Fantagraphics ISBN 0930193350).
  2. Samurai (Fantagraphics ISBN 0930193881).
  3. The Wanderer's Road (Fantagraphics ISBN 156097009X).
  4. The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy (Fantagraphics ISBN 1560970634).
  5. Lone Goat and Kid (Fantagraphics ISBN 156097088X).
  6. Circles (Fantagraphics ISBN 1560971460).
  7. Gen's Story (Fantagraphics ISBN 1560973048).
  8. Shades of Death (Dark Horse 1st ed. ISBN 156971259X, 2nd ed. ISBN 159582278X).
  9. Daisho (Dark Horse 1st ed. ISBN 15697129212 2nd ed. ISBN 1595822798).
  10. The Brink of Life and Death (Dark Horse ISBN 1569712972).
  11. Seasons (Dark Horse).
  12. Grasscutter (Dark Horse).
  13. Grey Shadows (Dark Horse).
  14. Demon Mask (Dark Horse).
  15. Grasscutter II—Journey to Atsuta Shrine (Dark Horse).
  16. The Shrouded Moon (Dark Horse).
  17. Duel at Kitanoji (Dark Horse).
  18. Travels with Jotaro (Dark Horse).
  19. Fathers And Sons (Dark Horse).
  20. Glimpses of Death (Dark Horse ISBN 1595822801).
  21. The Mother of Mountains (Dark Horse).
  22. Tomoe's Story (Dark Horse).
  23. Bridge of Tears (Dark Horse).
  24. Return of the Black Soul (Dark Horse).
  25. Usagi Yojimbo (Fantagraphics Special Edition, collecting 1.-7., ISBN 160699154X)
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Ursa Major Awards winners
2000
Best Live Action TV Series: The Muppet Show! · Best Animated TV Series: Animaniacs · Best Live Action Feature Film: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? · Best Animated Feature Film: Fantasia
UrsaMajor-sized.png
Winners
since 2001
Publications