I only just recently discovered the adventures of Usagi Yojimbo, and being a swashbuckler/samurai fan I started thumbing through issue number one at my local library. It looked interesting enough to pick up. The first couple of books were fun, you can see where artist Stan Sakai borrowed from Japanese mythology and other sources, and look a few homages to some of Kurosawa's greatest films. Light entertainment. And then I picked up Grasscutter. What a story!!! Starting of with the legend of the sacred sword Grasscutter, Sakai spins an amazing quest saga. All the elements are there, love, betrayal, friendship, loyalty, honor, magic, monsters, plots, ninjas .... A fast moving tale with surprises on almost every other page. To add even more depth to the story, Sakai cleverly weaves in characters and plot points from past adventures. You don't need to read previous Usagi Yojimbo novels to enjoy this tale, but trust me, it's well worth it!
Stan Sakai's long running series hits an all time high with this ambitious story mixing history, mythology, and his own unique universe of anthropomorphic characters.The book begins delving in Japan's mythological past to tell story of the origin of "Grasscutter," one of the three sacred treasures given to the Emperor of Japan, and how it was lost in a battle that decided the fate of who should rule the nation. This trade paperback contains copious notes on Japanese history and mythology so it is much more than just reading a comic book.This story includes other storylines that have appeared as loose threads in previous books and they all tie neatly together in a well thought out epic confrontation, including a climatic showdown between Usagi and long time nemisis, the demonic Jei.I would recommend this series to more than just fans of comic books and graphic novels. It's just an excellent story. Period.
The first four prologue chapters outlines the origins of Japanese history starting with the creation of the world by the gods. Then we fast forward to the time of the ruling Taira (Heike) family in 12th century Japan. They are overthrown by the Minamoto family faction. At that time, one of the symbols of the emperor, the ancient sword named Grasscutter was lost in the Inland Sea. The Heike crabs in the sea, have the appearance of the lost Heike warrior's faces (Google the image of these crabs, they are amazing!). Fast forward again to Usagi and the ongoing plot to restore the emperor to power and overthrow the shogun. In this volume, brilliantly as ever penned and written by incomparable Stan Sakai, Usagi stumbles literally upon Grasscutter. The conspirators had enlisted supernatural powers to secure the sword, and it is up to Usagi to prevent Grasscutter from falling into evil hands. Other highlights of this volume include Usagi's on-again, off-again bounty hunter sidekick Gen, and the supremely evil Jei, emissary of the gods. Sakai never fails to disappoint and is able to maintain an amazingly high standard for his graphic novels.
Stan Sakai gives us a glimpse of the mythos of the creation of Japan. A sword - Murakumo-nu-tsurugi - from this legend resurfaces in the age of Usagi Yojimbo. The sword was once in the possession of the Emperor but vanished beneath the ocean. Desperate samurai seek to reclaim the sword as Usagi stumbles upon it. Usagi slowly realizes the potential danger of this sword and wishes that he had never found it. When the sword is taken away from him he charges after it realizing that the sword could cause civil war in his beloved Japan. In this book Usagi again meets the bountyhunter Gen, the mad samurai Jei, priest Shobo and the lightning fast samurai-ko - Inazuma. Outstanding artistry from Sakai and awesome swordplay from Miyamoto Usagi. In the end of this book Stan Sakai writes about the myths that inspire him to write these stories and explain these myths. Really interesting if you want to know more about japanese mythology.
It's 2010, and I'm barely reading this for the first time. Last year I got into Usagi Yojimbo for the first time, and, at first, I wanted to hate this series. The first few books had me pondering has to how in the world anyone can enjoy this franchise as much as they do. However, due to an Amazon.com reviewer's urges, I pressed on.
When I read Daisho, and then Grasscutter, I now understand why people look forward to reading Stan Sakai's masterful work.
Grasscutter tells the powerful story of a legendary sword (complete with a brief, introductory history recreation by Sakai) and Usagi's quest with the sword in his day. I won't tell you what happens to avoid spoilers, but, dear readers, you are all in for a treat!