Usagi Yojimbo #127


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Usagi Yojimbo #127


  • Words: Stan Sakai
  • Art: Stan Sakai
  • Story Title: The Sword of Narukami
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Mar 31, 2010

I’m not proud of this, but I have never read Usagi Yojimbo before.  It’s literally as old as I am and I’ve been aware of it throughout my entire comics reading years but I regret to say that I have yet to pick up any Usagi books.  That changes today.  I’ve just finished pre-ordering the Usagi Yojimbo: Special Edition hardcover from Amazon, because if this story is any indication of how the book is, I’m becoming a life-long fan.

This story is called “The Sword of Narukami”.  It’s a standalone story where Usagi meets a samurai on a quest and after hearing his story, decides to help him achieve his goal.  They fight their way through hoards of bandits to retrieve the samurai’s master’s stolen sword.  In the end, after the two achieve their goals, we find that things are not what they seem.  Pretty basic story, right?  Nothing you haven’t seen before.  What this book’s story lacks in originality, it makes up in its novel storytelling and art. 

The style of this book is like a Disney movie directed by Quentin Tarantino.  The characters, walking and talking animals dressed in Japanese clothing, are very charming.  Their expressions, movements and reactions are all done in the cartoonish and exaggerated manner that anime and manga has come to be known for.  However, if you pay attention to what’s going on in the action scenes, you will see that it’s actually quite graphic.  The characters are being tortured, disemboweled and decapitated, but because of the style that it’s drawn in, it all seems fun and innocent. 

In one panel (on page 8), a group of guards are forced to commit suicide by gutting themselves.  While two of the guards in this panel are making horribly twisted faces or doubling over in pain, one has a wide-eyed surprised look on his face, with a few dazed expression bubbles floating alongside his face. Near the end of the story (page 23), the bandits’ leader is lying dead on the ground with a blade embedded between his eyes and a floating skull bubble to indicate how dead he is. 
In the end, the samurai discovers that his life and his quest have all been a lie and his friends died for no reason.  Somehow, within the span of one page, he and Usagi manage to find the humor in it, laugh it off and go their separate ways. That juxtaposition of adult themes and child-like art give this book universal appeal.  

It’s no wonder Usagi Yojimbo has a fan base that stretches from children to adults.  It is highly recommended for anyone who likes comics, fun and craziness.

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