Synopsis: Usagi recounts how he became a ronin (masterless samurai) and fights a goblin with a secret.
Notes: 1st appearance of Usagi
"Only 2,000 copies were ever printed of this issue, and these are the only copies that will ever exist. The original negatives have been lost and the original art is scattered. Although Stan never sells original art from his stories, he does sell cover art. In 2001 David "Wily Pueo" Gravatt snatched up the original art for this cover at the San Diego Comic Con. I've added a scan of this to my gallery. To make reprints even more unlikely, Stan used 'zip-a-tone', cut-out sheets of screentone, on the cover and some of the internal art making it impossible to scan these images with any quality. He learned from his mistake and did not continue to use 'zip-a-tone' in later work.
This book is considered the "holy grail" for Usagi collectors due to its rarity. It can be found from time to time, but with extraordinary price tags attached." -- from www.comicvine.com
Discuss the issue and/or post full reviews below!
Last Edit: Feb 10, 2016 20:19:00 GMT -5 by shaxper
Post by coke & comics on Feb 20, 2016 2:25:21 GMT -5
Summary:Miyamoto Usagi, a samurai rabbit, comes upon a hut, and seeks shelter from the old woman who lives there. The hut is near Adachigahara Plain. The woman's husband had died in that battle. As had Usagi's lord. Usagi recounts how his lord was betrayed in battle against Lord Hikiji by General Toda, and died. Usagi's final duty to his lord was to sever his head and bury it secretly.
That night, Usagi is attacked by a goblin. He battles and slays the beast, only to learn it is the old woman's husband. Her husband was General Toda. He was disgraced after betraying his lord (and receiving no reward for it), so he and his wife came to live in the hut. Every day, his humanity slowly slipped away, until he became a goblin.
Thoughts: This is the first Usagi story, the first one I ever read, and the right place to start. Having read the whole series a few times now, these early stories seem comparatively weak. But I liked this story enough to read the next one. And the entire collection enough to buy the second collection. Which I liked enough to buy the third. Which...
I have read the whole of Usagi in collected editions, but it was first published in the second issue of an anthology series called Albedo Anthropomorphics. If anybody who does own the original has insight about the format lacking here, I would appreciate it. I don't even know what other stories are in the comic.
This story is probably the most important Usagi story as it introduces Usagi. Also of import, it introduces the world. From the settings, we immediately see we are in feudal Japan and may recognize the world from various samurai films. The collected version has preface text which gives us some background. I will repeat the text here, as I am uncertain if it is found elsewhere:
The saga of Usagi Yojimbo (Rabbit Bodyguard) takes place in turn of the 17th century Japan. The age of civil wars has barely ended and the Shogun has just established power. The samurai is the ruling class throughout the land, following a warrior's code of honor known as Bushido. It is a time of settling unrest and political intrigue. Wandering across this country is a masterless samurai named Miyamoto Usagi.
However, this is not quite historical Japan. This world includes elements we would call supernatural. This world has both historical fiction elements and fantastic elements such as goblins. This is the world in which Usagi walks.
Of note in that introduction quoted above is the parenthetical translation of Usagi Yojimbo. Stan Sakai, in a very unpretentious choice, often errs on the side of translating things for the reader. Parentheses and asterisks accomplish this. Though sometimes he inserts it into the dialogue. In this issue, as part of a conversation, Usagi refers to "bushido, the code of the samurai". In context, this appositive is out of place, as there is no reason for Usagi to explain that to the woman, who obviously is familiar with the concept. The aside is for the reader. And I think it's a fine choice. The fear is that the choice will take the reader out of the story, but I find it doesn't. Stan is not demanding any foreknowledge of his audience, but is asking them to stay lost in the story. A reasonable artistic decision.
This is an early depiction of Usagi, a very different looking character from the sleeker design which Stan will come to soon. The look will evolve over a few issues. I prefer the standard look. Perhaps because I am more used to it. But also because Usagi's head is distractingly big for his body at times.
The battle between Usagi and the goblin is brief. Swordfights often will be in this series. After all, it only take one stroke to kill.
For much of the series, I point to Usagi as a how-to-guide on sequential storytelling, in particular depicting battle sequences. But not quite yet. Stan is still learning how to. It sometimes works well and sometimes doesn't.
The first page does not fail, the opening shot establishes the scene of a wanderer approaching a cabin. The onomatopoeic crunching is all that gives a sense of motion to the panel. This scene will be intentionally paralleled a few pages later as the goblin approaches the cabin. The goblin's attack doesn't quite work for me as I think it's supposed to. Stan tries to pull of a trick I've seen in other stories where the goblin attacks Usagi's bed, to find he is not in it, putting logs in his place. But the panels depicting this don't sell me on that idea, as they give no hint I should think Usagi is in the bed. We saw him in bed and then saw the bed with his head gone. Perhaps I am meant to think he pulled the blanket over his head between panels? Either way, it doesn't matter, because the reveal panel is too imposing. My eyes are drawn to the goblin confronting Usagi before they get drawn to the smaller preceding panels. A minor detail, but it seems to me like storytelling mistakes were made, mistakes which will disappear in the issues to come.
All that said, the ending works perfectly. The woman falls to her knees and accepts that Usagi will kill her. He chooses not to, and walks away.
Do we learn anything about Japan?
Well, we learn some basic terms like bushido and sagaki. We get a sense of the civil wars and the notions of honor at the time. In particular, in Usagi's final duty, to secretly bury his lord's head and prevent its desecration. (That becomes an iconic moment in the series). I learned how to say "rabbit" in Japanese.
Also, I understand many of the demons Usagi fights are accurate representations of old Japanese myths, and assume this depiction of the goblin to be rooted in mythology. If anybody could shed light on that, it would be appreciated.
As has been mentioned, Miyamoto Usagi seems to be drawn from Miyamoto Musashi.
What am I missing?
Adachigahara Plain is a real place near Fukushima and "the goblin of Adachigahara" is an actual old legend. This much I gather from internet searching. Except in the traditional legend, it is the old woman herself who turns out to be the goblin. (We will see a story along these lines later on.) Notes:
Introduces Miyamoto Usagi
We learn Usagi's lord was killed at Adachigahara plain in battle with the forces of Lord Hikiji
The betrayal of General Buichi Toda was a key factor in Hikiji's victory
General Toda has been turned into a goblin and dies.
Post by thwhtguardian on Mar 12, 2016 20:15:56 GMT -5
I was watching one of the Lone Wolf and Cub films today and suddenly had a hankering for some more Samurai action but instead of actually reading Lone Wolf I decided to read Usagi instead and so I went to the beginning.
It's definitely a little crude, and the action is slightly hard to follow but the characterization is strong, from the moment that Usagi first begins to speak you get a real sense of who he is and I immediately liked him. He had the strong walk of a warrior but he was kind and smart...it's a lot to get across in a few pages but Sakai does just that and he does it well.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP