Posts Tagged ‘Usagi Yojimbo’

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Stan Sakai Interviews Usagi…Or Does He?

February 22, 2011

The interview’s conclusion can be found here at Dark Horse’s official site.

I thought this was a lot of fun and wanted to be sure to share it with you guys.

Ah, and while I’m here, please pick up the latest issue or trade-paperback of Usagi Yojimbo. I’d pick it up for you if I could, it’s that good!

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What’s Next for Usagi…

September 22, 2010

It appears that the rest of the year will be a busy one for Usagi Yojimbo as well as his creator, Stan Sakai.

First up, in October we’ll finally see the release of Fantagraphics 2-volume hardcover limited edition release Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition. As noted, it is a limited edition run so don’t hesitate too much about your decision to own it, because I don’t reckon it will last long. Following that we’ve got the “Taiko” (Japanese drums) storyline, “Toad Oil,” a one-shot story featuring the Lord of the Owls and more.

Additional commentary on these storylines and an upcoming exhibition featuring Stan can be found in CBR’s recent interview:

Following the Lord of Owls story in January, there will be a two-part arc called ‘The Red Scorpion,’ in which ‘Usagi goes against a gang who are terrorizing the entire area.’ Sakai also noted that #141 will be the 200th issue of ‘Usagi Yojimbo,’ taking into account its runs at Fantagraphics and Mirage as well as several specials.

Next year, Sakai will be the subject of an exhibition at Los Angeles’ Japanese American National Museum. ‘ 2011 will be the Year of the Rabbit, and they want to do a retrospective of my work on ‘Usagi,’ Sakai said. ‘In conjunction with that, they’re doing a little documentary about me. They started filming at San Diego con, so they got interviews with Sergio Aragones, Scott Shaw!, Mark Evanier, Stan Lee and a whole bunch of others. It’s kind of neat. You get to hear your eulogy even before you’re dead!’

You can read the rest of the interview here. Gotta love the Fall! Family, Food, Football…and Usagi!

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Usagi Yojimbo: 2-Part “Taiko” Story in November

August 11, 2010

The Japanese word for the day is “Taiko,” meaning  “drum.”

But seriously, just a friendly reminder about the upcoming “Taiko” storyline for anyone following Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo (as I know some of you are) or for those looking for a good place to jump on board:

USAGI YOJIMBO #132 and #133: TAIKO Parts 1 and 2

Stan Sakai (W/A)
On sale Oct 27
b&w, 24 pages
$3.50

These issues form both halves of “Taiko,” a special double-issue story line. A group of drought-stricken farmers commission an enormous taiko drum to show their devotion to the gods, and pray for rain. But the bloodthirsty Red Scorpion Gang threatens to destroy the drum unless the farmers pay up, so the farmers must turn to rabbit ronin Usagi to protect the drum, lest they face starvation from drought! When the Red Scorpion Gang burns down the farmers’ temple and the drum is in jeopardy, Usagi must figure out how to rescue it and fight the Red Scorpions at the same time, or all is lost!

• Special double-issue story line makes a great introduction to Usagi Yojimbo for new readers!

• Issue #123 of this Eisner Award-winning series was nominated for the 2010 Eisner for Best Single Issue!

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1 for $1: Usagi Yojimbo (Dark Horse)

May 14, 2010

I’m actually posting from the Land of the Rising Sun as we speak (hence the lack of updates) and couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to share the following Dark Horse solicitation. The chance to enjoy Usagi Yojimbo #1 is always a real treat, but to be able to do so at $1, with a new painted cover is something no comics fan should miss.

I’m kicking myself because I didn’t want to damage the latest Usagi Yojimbo TPB that I was reading so I didn’t bring it with me but I really wish I would have so that I could enjoy his adventures here, and share it with my new family who are always so eager to share their Japanese heritage with me.

Anyhow, please do yourself a favor and pick this special up. It’s a steal at that price and you won’t believe just how good it gets from here.

1 for $1: Usagi Yojimbo

Stan Sakai (W/A)
On sale Aug 18
b&w, 28 pages
$1.00

The close of sixteenth-century Japan is regarded as the age of civil wars, as feudal lords fought amongst themselves for land and power. When one leader finally rose above the others and was proclaimed shogun, a peace came upon Japan and the samurai warriors found themselves suddenly unemployed. Many of these ronin turned to banditry to survive; others found work with minor lords. And a small number traveled the musha shugyo—the warrior pilgrimage—to hone their spiritual and martial skills. But whether they took the honest road or the crooked path, the ronin all found one common link—they were generally less than welcome. Such is the tale of Usagi Yojimbo.

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Review: Yokai by Stan Sakai

March 22, 2010

Yokai by Stan Sakai

Publisher: Dark Horse

What Drew Me to the Book: I’m already a huge Usagi fan, and Stan Sakai celebrated Usagi Yojimbo’s 25th Anniversary in 2009. I jumped at the chance to add this to my collection, as I always do. These last twenty-five years have been spent carefully crafting, and lovingly applying to paper the adventures of a master-less samurai named Miyamoto Usagi (loosely based on Japanese hero Miyamoto Musashi) who travels the dangerous towns and countrysides of feudal Japan on a journey of the soul, often finding himself front and center in a brouhaha that was previously unconcerned with him, all because of a good heart and a nearly unmatched sword.

Well, one of the ways Stan was able to celebrate the 25-year milestone was by giving fans of the long-eared ronin and newcomers alike a full-length, fully painted, stand alone graphic novel entitled Yokai which features one of the things Stan most enjoys drawing alongside Usagi: monsters! Fortunately, Japanese folklore is chock full of interesting monsters just screaming for Stan’s unique art style to commit them to paper as only he can, and it seems a project that was just waiting to happen. Here’s a little background, then, on the anniversary project by Stan himself as found in the interview wrapping up the volume:

I wanted the story to be special, because I had never done a painted story on this scale before. Two stories came to mind. One was the return of Jei, one of my more popular characters, and this story about the yokai, the ghosts, goblins, and haunts of Japanese mythology. I needed a standalone story that those unfamiliar with Usagi could enjoy, but that would satisfy the longtime readers as well.

Japan has such a wonderful tradition of mythology and folklore, with not only the really horrific monsters, but also the goofy ones, such as the animated umbrella or the animated teapot. I wanted to do something with these creatures from folklore. There’s the legend of “The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons,” where every summer the demons get together and parade through towns, scaring people. On this particular night, however, they actually want to overrun and conquer Japan. But they need a living soul to guide them, so they kidnap a little girl, and her mother begs Usagi to rescue her. That’s how the story of Yokai came about. I wanted Usagi to go through a wide range of emotions, so there’s a lot of action, drama, and humor.

I actually had the privilege of  speaking with Stan for a few moments at an event in Austin, Texas several months before Yokai was released and his enthusiasm about the graphic novel was palpable. At that point he hadn’t decided on the story just yet and had apparently been mulling over ideas for some time, but it wasn’t difficult to discern that this was a project close to his heart and that fans would be in for a treat.

The Review: Now, having read the story I can say that the long anticipated wait was very much worth it. The pacing is brisk, the story itself is very clever (made all the more fun by a signature plot twist near the end) and the painted visuals are stunning. In fact, one of the “goodies” included at the stories conclusion is a step-by-step illustration of how an individual panel went from pencils, to inks, to painted illustration and wrapping your head around the kind of time and dedication this must have taken on this scale quickly becomes apparent. Just beautiful stuff.

While it is not the deepest of Usagi’s stories (but, boy, are there plenty of those in the multiple Eisner award-winning series!) it is certainly a fun ride and well worth pulling off the shelf over and over to revisit. And incidentally, for the long time Usagi fan, there’s even a revelation or two about Sasuke the Demon Queller, one of the more interesting supporting characters who populates Usagi’s world, that I thought added another satisfyingly rich layer to the tale, along with that touch of tragedy that so many of Usagi’s adventures are asked to carry with them. So keep an eye out for that if you’ve not already plowed through it already.

The book is beautifully bound in a small, attractive, hardback and retails at $14.95. Please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy and if you enjoyed Stan Sakai’s painted work, see if you can’t track down “Return to Adachi Plain,” another fully painted 8-page story found in The Art of Usagi Yojimbo collection that will aptly introduce you to one of the most fateful days in Usagi’s life and that will likely spur you on to collect his many adventures for years to come (one of my own all-time favorites). It’s been a fantastic ride so far and we can  look forward to much, much more to come which may the best news of all. So, here’s to 25 more years of Usagi with a hearty “thanks” to boot!

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‘My Father’s Swords’ by Stan Sakai

July 15, 2009

uybook13cAfter mulling over the possibility for a couple of weeks, I decided that if you’d be so kind to indulge me, it might be a lot of fun to highlight and/or review select graphic novels here at Follow That Raven from time to time. I don’t plan on turning the blog into a comic-centric one by any means but there are indeed works of graphic fiction that more than deserve the consideration of not only a diverse reading audience, but those that profess to simply love good literature. That said, I’ll try my best to restrict myself to great independent works such as Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, Kazu Kibuishi’s Flight anthologies, Mike Allred’s Madman, Jeff Smith’s Bone etc. as not only are these personal favorites that I believe should get all the attention they can, but because they also represent some of the best stories being published today. I hope you’ll pick them up.

For your consideration then: My Father’s Swords, a stand alone story in Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 13 – Grey Shadows TPB collection by Stan Sakai.

First, for those that are perhaps unaware, Usagi Yojimbo is the story of a masterless samurai named Miyamoto Usagi who travels a sixteenth century Japan trying to apply bushido, or “the way of the warrior” as best he can, often lending his good heart and expert blade to the poor, downtrodden, haunted and the afflicted. Oh, and he’s also a rabbit — which is awesome. Our long-eared friend is actually enjoying his 25th anniversary this year so there’s never been a better time to see what’s made him such an endearing character for as long.

Anyhow, one of the great things about Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo stories is that he’s able to hit you right smack in the gut when you least expect it, but in the most natural of manners. Take, for example, this short story in which, on his travels, Usagi runs into a young samurai named Donbori Chiaki. Recognizing Chiaki’s unique sword technique as he observes a (non-lethal) duel he congratulates the boy on his sound victory, and upon uy3cov23learning his name reminisces that he had known and admired his father Donbori Matsuo while they served together under lord Mifune’s banner, before he died at the Battle of Adachi Plain years prior. Over the course of the story the two talk of the inspiration Matsuo has been for the boy and even see that illustrated when Chiaki defends a crippled man from a drunk samurai before leaving the city.  As they part on their respective journey’s Usagi wishes him the best as he inwardly praises the boy’s commitment to the memory of his father in the way he lives his life. But ‘lo, off in the distance Usagi spots a group of brigands laying in wait for Chiaki and his purse strings, and unable to reach him in time to lend a hand Chiaki is left to fight the band himself, that is until the same crippled man who he had rescued earlier leaps to his aid… Well, I won’t spoil what happens for you but rest assured that it isn’t your typical ending and that it may just pull at your heartstrings more than a little.

Stan is an expert of visually crafting his scenes, be it a peaceful walk as Usagi strides through a forest where a mushroom takes center stage on an old tree, or an action-packed battle scene where the reader cheers the ronin on through seemingly overwhelming odds, Stan pulls you into the world he has created and once he has successfully done so it isn’t a place you want to leave any time soon. Stan’s artistic style can be described as “cartoony” in the same sense that, say, Carl Barks is “cartoony” but like that comics legend he grabs hold of your visual senses and nearly forces you to see the wisdom and skill in the approach. Yes, these are indeed “funny animals” but at the same time…not so much. Likewise, the black and white artwork perfectly captures his steady line work, slick use of blacks, and all the intricate detail.

Rounding out this splendid volume are several other stories including: The Demon Flute, Momo-Usagi-Taro, The Hairpin Murders, The Courtesan, and Tameshigiri. All excellent (and it was a real treat to see Usagi, kinda take the center role in the famous Japanese folk tale of the Peach Boy in Momo-Usagi-Taro). Perhaps more on these later, but please do yourself a real favor and check this out for yourself.