Though Usagi Yojimbo (translated from Japanese, it means ‘rabbit bodyguard’) is usually a black and white comic, this beautifully produced one-shot is fully painted in beautiful watercolours, by series creator Stan Sakai. Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai was published in 2009 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Sakai’s ongoing saga of a wandering ronin – who just happens to be a rabbit – set essentially in feudal Japan, albeit one populated by anthropomorphic animals.
My first exposure to the character was his appearance as an action figure in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line, but he’s also appeared in the TMNT comics too. Sakai’s work has a charmingly cartoony simplicity and his storytelling is impeccable; the stories often feature lots of clever references to famous samurai movies or manga too.
This 25th anniversary tale sees Usagi on a quest to rescue a desperate woman’s kidnapped daughter on a night which sees demons try to take over the world.
It’s a gently spooky tale with lots of great character design – especially on the traditional Japanese folklore-inspired demon Yokai – excellent action and genuinely gorgeous art. Sakai has crafted a tale worthy of his character’s long history – and I’m pleased to report that, 13 years after this volume was published, he’s still going.
Even if you aren’t familiar with the character, this one off story gives you everything you need to be introduced to the rabbit and his world – it’s a great point to start, even if it is 25 years after his first appearance!
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