Customer Rating: Summary: Sakai's legendary ronin begins to find his way 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.
Though this is volume 2 in the Usagi series, this is really the volume where Sakai's masterpiece begins to take shape. "Samurai," which begins with Usagi's classic four part origin story, weaves an almost mythological tale of a young, reckless child growing into a serious adult and becoming burdened by the weight of his honor. We see young Usagi dream, struggle, succeed, fail, love, lose, achieve his greatest honor, face his darkest day, and gradually come to terms with the cards that fate has dealt him. This is a powerful, character-building tale that makes you truly care for the character of Miyamoto Usagi with far more emotional investment than you might care for the more serious looking characters found in those other, non-furry comics.
The volume also includes several other stories from the two issues that followed the four part "Samurai" epic. "The Test" is a truly disappointing story, written by Peter Laird as an attempt to help promote Usagi by including a beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but the story is largely self-serving and makes Usagi look like an utter chump. The rest of the stories are stand-alone adventures that do little to further any sense of continuity or character development, but they are quite fun, action-packed, and often heart-warming. I particularly enjoyed "The Silk Fair" as a story in which Usagi's heroics truly make a difference in the lives of an entire community.
In short, this is a great starting point for anyone new to Usagi. It provides a great entrypoint in the form of Usagi's four part origin story, does much to develop the character from how he appeared in Volume 1, and provides a few classic stand-alone stories as well. I highly suggest beginning here with volume 2. It will definitely leave you hungering for the next installment.
Customer Rating: Summary: Usagi's Origin Comment: "Samurai" is the second of the collected Usagi Yojimbo books; the bulk of it is comprised of Usagi's origin story, training under a lone master until pledging to Lord Mifune, and then the day he became a Ronin upon Mifune's death. A few spare stories round out the collection.
By now the mythology and history of samurai have become almost as much of a trope in Western culture as in Eastern; it was less so in the mid-80s when Sakai originally wrote this. So any reader is likely to have encountered something akin to the training sequence here before; Sakai handles it well, however, and the fights (barring a oddly stiff duel between Usagi and his childhood friend Kenichi) are vibrantly drawn. The 3 spare stories - an encounter with a Kappa, one with an odd lizard, and the plight of a town trapped by Bandits have a more laid back approach, and are farther away the common samurai stories. Sakai's art - with its use of exaggerated expressions and character design when appropriate - fits well with both. Customer Rating: Summary: another great buy Comment: This is the novel where you really get to know Miyamoto Usagi. The tale beings when Usagi slays a Samurai. He soon meets up with Gen and begins to share the story of his Samurai training. We are treated to the full backstory of Usagi's life including the rivalry with Kenichi and the death of his lord. There are also three bonus stories in which Usagi confronts a Kappa (turtle demon), runs into baby Godzilla, and saves a village from oppression. Customer Rating: Summary: Great introduction to Usagi's world Comment: This was the first Usagi Yojimbo book that I had ever picked up, and I was glad I did. During the initial 80-90's TMNT boom, I first "discovered" Usagi through the TMNT cartoon. I happened by a local comic book store and saw the graphic novel on the shelves. I picked it up for around $20 (which was a large investment for me at the time!) and never regretted it.
Coming from a Japanese heritage, but with parents who never really shared their experiences, Stan Sakai's incredibly detailed and superbly researched world was like a look into a world which fascinated me, but one that I had never really gotten to know.
Usagi Yojimbo Book Two is sort of like a "Zero" issue in the way of comic book numbering. It tells the back-story of how Usagi came to be both a samurai and ended up being a masterless ronin. If you like Japanese history, are a buff for great storytelling, incredibly detailed art, and just a plain good read, Usagi and Stan Sakai will not let you down. Customer Rating: Summary: Back story for the bunny Comment: An essential, and hard to find, addition for the Usagi fan. I myself discovered this wonderful comic only recently. I promptly purchased all the TPBs as quickly as I could, and this particular book eluded me for about 8 months longer than the rest.
It is well worth finding, however, as it fills in a significant amount of information about Usagi's origins and early life. Much that is in later books will make much more sense once one has read this book. Unless Fantagraphics reprints this (and at last check, they hadn't and have no plans to do so) be prepared to buy a used copy for more than the original list price.