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Usagi Yojimbo, Book 1: The Ronin Paperback – April 1, 1987


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; GPH edition (April 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0930193350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0930193355
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Miyamoto Usagi is no Bugs Bunny. He's a rabbit bodyguard, a samurai who wanders the mountains, plains, and villages of a 17th-century Japan populated almost exclusively by anthropomorphic animals. Cats, snakes, rhinos, and ninja moles plot and fight their way across a land ravaged by civil war. The 10 stories in this first collection introduce Usagi, the evil Lord Hikiji, and a host of other characters. The stories themselves can stand alone, but taken together they begin to form an ongoing saga of treachery and revenge. Sometimes violent, sometimes funny, Usagi's adventures are filled with fascinating historical detail. The costumes, landscapes, and buildings are beautifully drawn, creating such a sense of realism it's easy to forget the hero is a rabbit. If you buy the first book in this series, you'll want the rest.

Review

“These bittersweet adventure stories offer entertaining reading, especially for young Asian-Americans who feel excluded from mainstream juvenile literature.” (Los Angeles Times)

“One of the most original, innovative, well-executed comic books anywhere to be found.” (Stan Lee)

“While I enjoyed Sakai's artwork in the first volume, this second trade collection is even stronger. ... Usagi Yojimbo is a great addition to the canon of samurai stories, and is definitely highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of wandering ronin or just good storytelling.” (Rob McMonigal - Panel Patter)

“As a fan of samurai fiction (to the point of having a Seven Samurai tattoo) and comics, I can’t recommend Stan Sakai’s beautifully drawn, note-perfect reinvention of the genre highly enough.” (Kevin Church - BeaucoupKevin.com)

“Fans of comics set in historical Japan should definitely check this out. You'll be glad you did. I think it would also be a good fit for manga fans looking to try a non-Japanese comic. I enjoyed this book a lot, and look forward to reading more. –” (Panel Patter)

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Customer Reviews

I know I need to read that comic book someday, but I just thought it was a funny moment in the book.
Morgan Floyd
Stan Sakai is justly praised for his attention to detail, and that shines through the books both in terms of the art and the writing.
Jon Hancock
Highly recommended to everyone, specially if you like comics, graphic novels, etc... This is a great book and a great series!
Gabo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hancock on May 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The boom (and inevitable bust) in the black and white comics market led to an explosion of creative talent, and opportunities for less able souls to foist their doodles on the public. At a time when sifting the good from the bad became an increasingly lengthy task comics had to work hard to be noticed; and Usagi Yojimbo won through on sheer quality.
Quite what made this tale of a wandering rabbit such a success (with well over a dozen collected volumes available) is not easy to say. On the face of it, the premise is bizarre: In a version of late feudal Japan populated by anthropomorphic animals the stories centre around a masterless Samurai, who happens to be a rabbit. For some people that very strangeness is attractive, while others will cite the excellent artwork (which improves in confidence and style throughout the early books) or sensitivity of the writing. There is ample silliness here, but it is deliberate and deftly handled, and the stories frequently have far more depth and feeling than readers are used to in popular literature, let alone comics.
Many of the characters are based on historical and mythical figures, and those with a love of such things will find additional amusement in spotting the prototypes for the likes of the rough and shabby Gen, based on characters played by Toshiro Mifune. Stan Sakai is justly praised for his attention to detail, and that shines through the books both in terms of the art and the writing. There are in-jokes and visual gags, but at its heart this is not a "funny animals" tale. Rather it is an interpretation, a reinvention, of the classic myth cycle. Sublime touches, such as having our hero tie his ears up as a top-knot, fill every page, and these are comics you will want to return to repeatedly.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By shaxper on June 14, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Usagi Yojimbo is the kind of quality work that transcends time, genres, demographics, and even age groups. It crafts a delicate and beautiful balance between honor and savagery, cute innocence and dark brutality, simple heart-warming stories and multi-part epics that shape a dense continuity. Whether or not you've ever been a fan of feudal Japanese culture, furry anthro characters, or independent, non-superhero comics, Usagi Yojimbo is a comic that can't help but impress even the harshest critic.

That being said, it took some time for a simple tale of an honor bound master-less samurai to mature into the complex and infinitely rich series that's benefited from more than twenty years of continuous publication. These early stories are extremely simple, both in art and in writing. The plots and character are relatively two dimensional here. It's not until the emergence of Gen towards the end of this volume that Usagi really begins to show any signs of a personality.

This volume reprints Usagi's earliest scattered appearances, before he had an ongoing series and (perhaps) before creator Stan Sakai had any idea that this character would amount to anything more than a minor project. The next volume begins reprinting Usagi's first ongoing series. Written to be understood by someone who had never encountered Usagi prior to that point, the volume begins with Usagi's poignant four part origin story. This is a far better introduction to the series, even if it is still many steps away from what the series would ultimately become.

This volume is a great read if you are already familiar with Usagi and want to see how it all began (including the introductions of characters like Lord Noriyuki, Tomoe, Gen, and Zato Ino), but I would not recommend it as an entrypoint for a new reader.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By romevi VINE VOICE on April 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
I know, I know: the title of this review sounds pretty harsh. But before you start yelling at me, please don't get me wrong: I thought this first book of Usagi is good, but I just don't think it's great. I haven't read the other comics, and so I obviously wanted to get started with the first one.
I was slightly disappointed.

After hearing so much about the wonderful creation of Stan Sakai (and being mildly familiar with Usagi through his cameos in the Ninja Turtles) I was so eager to begin reading his work.
But the stories are extremely simple and short. They deal with a masterless samurai (hence, "ronin") and his life in finding short jobs to get through everyday life after his last war.

The animation is done pretty well, though it doesn't go into too much detail as many other graphic novels. It stays simple and basic, as are the stories in this collection.

I'm giving it three-and-a-half stars, and I know it might be a little harsh, but I'm sticking with it in hopes that the later books will prove me wrong.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tom Knapp VINE VOICE on November 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
It's amazing to think what strange situations walkin' and talkin' animal characters can find themselves in. This long-running series by Stan Sakai features a ronin (masterless samurai) in feudal Japan. This ronin, fierce with his sword and living with the shame of a lord slain under his care, is a rabbit.

Miyamoto Usagi is ruled by guilt ever since his master was killed in battle. Now he wanders the tracks of Japan, righting wrongs where he may, taking mercenary or bodyguard jobs when available. His sword smells of blood.

Did I mention he's a rabbit?

This, the first book of the series newly reprinted by Fantagraphics, certainly has its portion of cartoony violence. But don't make the mistake of assuming it's silly. This series of tales is fascinating, packed with historical detail and completely absorbing. Stand-alone tales are mixed with several that follow Usagi's personal quest for vengeance against an evil and powerful foe; the latter certainly inspire readers to look for other books in this series!

This book is highly recommended.
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