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CompleteMartialArts.com - Usagi Yojimbo, Book 1: The Ronin


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Manufacturer: Fantagraphics Books
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 741.5973
EAN: 9780930193355
ISBN: 0930193350
Label: Fantagraphics Books
Manufacturer: Fantagraphics Books
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 152
Publication Date: 1987-04
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Studio: Fantagraphics Books

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Editorial Reviews:

Miyamoto Usagi is no Bugs Bunny. He's a rabbit bodyguard, a samurai who wanders the mountains, plains, and villages of a 17th-century Japan populated almost exclusively by anthropomorphic animals. Cats, snakes, rhinos, and ninja moles plot and fight their way across a land ravaged by civil war. The 10 stories in this first collection introduce Usagi, the evil Lord Hikiji, and a host of other characters. The stories themselves can stand alone, but taken together they begin to form an ongoing saga of treachery and revenge. Sometimes violent, sometimes funny, Usagi's adventures are filled with fascinating historical detail. The costumes, landscapes, and buildings are beautifully drawn, creating such a sense of realism it's easy to forget the hero is a rabbit. If you buy the first book in this series, you'll want the rest.


Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Where it all begins, but not necessarily where YOU should begin
Comment: Usagi Yojimbo is the kind of quality work that transcends time, genres, demographics, and even age groups. It crafts a delicate and beautiful balance between honor and savagery, cute innocence and dark brutality, simple heart-warming stories and multi-part epics that shape a dense continuity. Whether or not you've ever been a fan of feudal Japanese culture, furry anthro characters, or independent, non-superhero comics, Usagi Yojimbo is a comic that can't help but impress even the harshest critic.

That being said, it took some time for a simple tale of an honor bound master-less samurai to mature into the complex and infinitely rich series that's benefited from more than twenty years of continuous publication. These early stories are extremely simple, both in art and in writing. The plots and character are relatively two dimensional here. It's not until the emergence of Gen towards the end of this volume that Usagi really begins to show any signs of a personality.

This volume reprints Usagi's earliest scattered appearances, before he had an ongoing series and (perhaps) before creator Stan Sakai had any idea that this character would amount to anything more than a minor project. The next volume begins reprinting Usagi's first ongoing series. Written to be understood by someone who had never encountered Usagi prior to that point, the volume begins with Usagi's poignant four part origin story. This is a far better introduction to the series, even if it is still many steps away from what the series would ultimately become.

This volume is a great read if you are already familiar with Usagi and want to see how it all began (including the introductions of characters like Lord Noriyuki, Tomoe, Gen, and Zato Ino), but I would not recommend it as an entrypoint for a new reader.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: YooooooooooooooooooooooJIMBO!
Comment: In this collection we are introduced to our hero Miyamoto Usagi as well as other notable figures in the Usagi Yojimbo universe.

Here is a summary of the chapters with as little spoilers as possible.

Chapter One: The Goblin of Adachigahara
Our first story pits Miyamoto Usagi against a man eating troll. We are also told a little of Usagi's back story which will be told in greater detail in the next novel.

Chapter Two: Lone Rabbit and Child
In this chapter we are introduced to Tomoe Ame and Lord Noriyuki. They are traveling on their way to Edo so that the young Noriyuki can take his place as the leader but a rival lord placed a bounty on their head and they had to endure several ambushes. They meet Usagi and he accompanies them to their castle fighting threw bounty hunters all the way.

Chapter Three: The Confession
Usagi runs into a dieing Samurai who was carrying a letter that proved Lord Hikiji to be responsible for the attacks on Lord Noriyuki. Usagi delivers the letter to Tomoe Ame

Chapter Four: Bounty Hunter
In this chapter we are introduced to one of my favorite characters Gennosuke (simply called Gen by most). He is a bounty hunter who hires Usagi to be his body guard for a dangerous mission. This is also the beginning of a long running love/hate relationship between Gen and Usagi.

Chapter Five: Horse Thief
Miyamoto Usagi runs into some bandits. After slaying one he takes the bandits horse into town hoping to sell it. He is accused by the villagers as being a horse thief and chased out of town.

Chapter Six: Village of Fear
Usagi meets a monstrous beast that has been haunting a town. He discovers that the beast is actually a shape shifter and he confronts the villain in hopes of freeing the village from fear.

Chapter Seven: A Quiet Meal
One of my favorite stories in the Usagi Yojimbo series. Miyamoto Usagi is enjoying a quiet meal when a group of loud mouth hooligans enters the inn. They raise hell by throwing customers (and the owner) out one at a time, however when they came to Usagi they had a tad bit of difficulties.

Chapter Eight: Blind Swordspig
In this chapter we meet Ino a blind outlaw pig who just wants to find a safe place to live. After fighting off a village who tried to kill him for a reward he meets up with Usagi. They pair share a few laughs but after it is revealed that Ino was the one who destroyed half of the village the pair face off in a showdown that ends in catastrophe. This is the start of a rivalry between Ino and Usagi that will last for many novels to come.

Chapter Nine: Homecoming
Usagi's wanderings leads him back to his home village which just happens to be under attack by mole ninjas. We are introduced to Usagi's love interest Mariko and his old rival Kenichi. We are given another sample of Usagi's past.

Chapter Ten: Bounty Hunter 2
Usagi runs into Gen the Bounty Hunter who once again drags the bunny on a wild adventure. This time however Usagi walks away with the last laugh.

Overall this is an awesome graphic novel. Like many people before me have said it's one for all ages. You'll enjoy this whether you're nine or eighty-nine. It truly is entertainment for the whole family. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in the Usagi Yojimbo series or to those already fans of the series looking for some awesome Usagi tales.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Wascally wabbit!
Comment: It's amazing to think what strange situations walkin' and talkin' animal characters can find themselves in. This long-running series by Stan Sakai features a ronin (masterless samurai) in feudal Japan. This ronin, fierce with his sword and living with the shame of a lord slain under his care, is a rabbit.
Miyamoto Usagi is ruled by guilt ever since his master was killed in battle. Now he wanders the tracks of Japan, righting wrongs where he may, taking mercenary or bodyguard jobs when available. His sword smells of blood.
Did I mention he's a rabbit?
This, the first book of the series newly reprinted by Fantagraphics, certainly has its portion of cartoony violence. But don't make the mistake of assuming it's silly. This series of tales is fascinating, packed with historical detail and completely absorbing. Stand-alone tales are mixed with several that follow Usagi's personal quest for vengeance against an evil and powerful foe; the latter certainly inspire readers to look for other books in this series!
This book is highly recommended.


Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: This is where it all begins....
Comment: In a world filled to the brim with rehashed and revisited super-hero stories, occasionally a comic comes along that is fresh, innovative and entertaining all at once. This is one of those comics. Stan Sakai transports us into an anthropomorphic world were the ronin rabbit Usagi wanders the land looking for whatever comes. His lord is dead and he ekes out a living by working for whatever noble cause he can find. On his journeys he becomes embroiled in political struggles, wars and romances. He also meets a great cast of characters (Jei is my favorite, but he comes later). The story and art are tight and well crafted without being overly complex. Sakai also treats us to a few history lessons interspersed with the story. He tells us briefly about Japanese culture, language and history without deviating from the story too much. If you are looking for an intelligent comic, or just a great adventure, these comics are for you. Incidentally, Sakai is also a nice guy. I met him at a convention a few years ago and he was nice enough to do a great full page sketch for me. He deserves his rep as one of the best comic writers and artists out there today.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Hunting Wabbit
Comment: The boom (and inevitable bust) in the black and white comics market led to an explosion of creative talent, and opportunities for less able souls to foist their doodles on the public. At a time when sifting the good from the bad became an increasingly lengthy task comics had to work hard to be noticed; and Usagi Yojimbo won through on sheer quality.
Quite what made this tale of a wandering rabbit such a success (with well over a dozen collected volumes available) is not easy to say. On the face of it, the premise is bizarre: In a version of late feudal Japan populated by anthropomorphic animals the stories centre around a masterless Samurai, who happens to be a rabbit. For some people that very strangeness is attractive, while others will cite the excellent artwork (which improves in confidence and style throughout the early books) or sensitivity of the writing. There is ample silliness here, but it is deliberate and deftly handled, and the stories frequently have far more depth and feeling than readers are used to in popular literature, let alone comics.
Many of the characters are based on historical and mythical figures, and those with a love of such things will find additional amusement in spotting the prototypes for the likes of the rough and shabby Gen, based on characters played by Toshiro Mifune. Stan Sakai is justly praised for his attention to detail, and that shines through the books both in terms of the art and the writing. There are in-jokes and visual gags, but at its heart this is not a "funny animals" tale. Rather it is an interpretation, a reinvention, of the classic myth cycle. Sublime touches, such as having our hero tie his ears up as a top-knot, fill every page, and these are comics you will want to return to repeatedly.
This first volume introduces the rabbit ronin, although much of his background has to wait for volume two, and places a number of important recurring characters in the scene. It is possible to read Usagi Yojimbo from almost any point, but if you can track down a copy of this shamefully out-of-print book then you will find that later tales reveal more than if you approach them cold. Despite initial appearances ... Mr Sakai has managed to keep his creation above the level of a Saturday morning throwaway cartoon, and he has done so for almost twenty years. A truly remarkable achievement, and a remarkable series.


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