Post by coke & comics on Feb 20, 2016 2:39:19 GMT -5
Summary: A retainer rescues her child lord from assassins and seeks refuge in a cabin. At first she mistakes Usagi for another assassin, but soon realizes her error. Usagi saves them from their attackers.
The child is Lord Noriyuki of the Geishu Clan and she is Tomoe Ame, his retainer. Lord Hikiji is behind the attempts to assassinate him before he can be officially recognized as the new clan lord by the Shogun. Usagi also has a history with Hikiji.
Usagi agrees to act as yojimbo for Noriyuki and escort them to Edo. They get attacked on the way and Tomoe is injured. Noriyuki risks his safety to see her to a doctor. In town, they are attacked by the Neko ninja. Usagi defeats them, with Noriyuki himself killing the last attacker.
Noriyuki is instilled as the head of his clan. Usagi continues his wanderings. Lord Hikiji continues to scheme.
Thoughts: Storytelling still not perfect. I see what he's getting at with the first three panels, but it's not immediate. The first full panel of the two characters approaching the cabin brings to mind the first panel of the last story.
Second page has similar issues. It takes a moment to process what is happening and should not.
The fifth page features an awkward transition to evening with a squeezed in establishing panel stuck in the middle of the page with a caption that barely fits.
At this point, I feel guilty about all these nitpicks. Stan Sakai is one of the greatest comic artists. This is just his early work. He will learn and learn fast. And there are already hints of greatness. The touch of sadness in Usagi's face as he stands victorious over the dead. The smooth action as Usagi beheads the warthog.
There is a cute dog with Usagi. An interesting effect as it leads to the Goofy/Pluto question, which Stan has mentioned he has tried to avoid. As the series progresses, we will not see other dogs. The lizards will be a substitute. We see an early design of them this issue. A little more detail than we will see later.
Usagi is not the only character whose look will evolve. Tomoe looks very little like later depictions (her look seems to be evolving even over the course of the issue). She, like Usagi, and all the characters, are generally squatter and bulkier. Stan Sakai will soon develop a sleeker look for everybody. You can see this even in the bandits who attack. The squat rhino can be seen as a precursor to Gen. All these characters will later develop necks.
This issue also seems a bit more graphic in the violence. Stan's trademark skulls over the heads to represent death isn't developed yet. We instead get a lot of blood.
Usagi agrees to be hired as a yojimbo, justifying the series' name. Or perhaps it was sufficiently justified by his former status as personal guard to his lord.
Stan Sakai again helpfully uses and translates Japanese words. Usagi describes himself as a shugyosha and the brackets inform us this means "student warrior". (We also get Shinobi translated as "ninja") I like the brackets to clarify this is not part of the actual dialogue, as opposed to the previous issue where it did seem to be oddly inserted into the dialogue. What do people think of the approach of using and translating these phrases? I feel positively toward the utter lack of pretension.
Did I learn anything else? Edo is the apparently where the Shogun resides.
There is an historic female samurai named Tomoe Gozen, who I assume is the namesake for Tomoe Ame. As far as I can tell, "Ame" means "rain".
Neko is the Japanese word for cat. It is not clear what species the ninja are in this issue, but I assume they are all cats. In later stories, we will meet other ninja tribes also named for their species.
Homages? The title is a reference even I get, based on the other samurai comic I've read. It's probably not a specific homage, but the panel of the peasants singing while harvesting rice reminds me of Seven Samurai, the samurai movie that I've seen. I suspect this is a common motif.
And Usagi passes a barbarian wanderer. I assume this has no significance.
Noriyuki is the Japanese first name of the actor who played Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid. I assume this is not a coincidence as other characters will bear the names of famous Japanese actors.
What animals do we see? A rabbit, a cat, a panda, a snake, a human.. First group of bandits is (guessing here) a tiger, a goat, a rhino, a fox, and something generic. A bear? Then a warthog, another rabbit, some we don't get a clear enough view of. None of the ninjas are clear enough. Noriyuki's retainers seem to be a raccoon and bear. Some other generic animals.
Somebody asked Stan at a recent panel why Hikiji was a human. I think it is clear he regrets the choice in retrospect. He mentioned it was because he had been planning to tie Usagi into the Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy stories, but changed his mind.
While the last issue was a simple story taking place entirely in a cabin with three characters, this is more of an epic. Wandering far across Japan, encountering several assassins, and establishing a lot of the tension that will drive the series. Lord Noriyuki becomes head of the Geishu clan, with the help of Usagi and faithful Tomoe, despite the schemes of Hikiji and Hebi, who are aided by a seemingly endless supply of assassins and the Neko Ninja clan. Noriyuki wants to offer Usagi a retainership, but he departs first, establishing his wandering as another motif. More subtly, the look across a distance exchanged by Tomoe and Usagi will set the tone for their relationship. We also learn more of the origin of Usagi alongside that of Tomoe. A LOT happens, really.
For all that, it's really just an okay story though. Very important, but very straightforward. Usagi is still a straightforward character without much charm. The character comes from Noriyuki when presented (somewhat forcedly) with the choice to risk himself for a retainer (and generally from Noriyuki's obvious good nature). The issue is on the edge of being interesting, without ever quite making the leap.
Introduces Noriyuki, child lord of the geishu clan. A panda.
Introduces Tomoe Ame, a cat, retainer to Lord Noriyuki
Tomoe's father was Tatsutaro, the founder of the Falling Rain school of swordsmanship. He trained her as a swordsman. (Swordsperson?)
Usagi was trained by Katsuichi, who rebelled against the 8 Kyoto styles, to develop his own techniques. Katsuichi is revealed to be dead.
Usagi still does not name his lord, but he refers to becoming a retainer "to a northern clan".
Post by thwhtguardian on Mar 12, 2016 20:30:05 GMT -5
Aside from the first two panels, which are a little cluttered and murky(and don't truly become clear until Tomoe tells her story) the action here is much more clearly portrayed here than in the first story. I particularly liked the battle with the ninjas on the bridge, the panels are well balanced, the sword movements are traced and although this technique will not be used in latter stories I really liked the heavy ink splat used for the blood spray.
Also, I loved the spines on the lizards and I wish they would have stayed.
The best part though?
That last panel of Usagi looking up at the moon. I love that image.