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

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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.

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

I don’t think I’m exaggerating at all when I say that Stan Sakai is arguably the greatest living comic book creator in the world, and Usagi Yojimbo is a thirty-year masterpiece that has a consistency and craftsmanship that other comics only touch when they’re at their peak. (Chris Sims - ComicsAlliance)

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

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)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; GPH edition (April 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0930193350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0930193355
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 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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26 of 30 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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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
I know this may sound pretentious, but I'll say it anyway: Usagi Yojimbo is a triumph of the comic book form. After reading over 25 years worth of the series (each page written and drawn entirely by Stan Sakai) and being delighted by the adventures of the rabbit ronin and his acquaintances there is simply no other way to put it.

The stories in this collection, however, are not Usagi at its best. They represent Stan Sakai experimenting as a young cartoonist, skilled but not yet a master (though mastery would come rather quick). Usagi has become Sakai's life's work, but at the time (the mid-`80s) he had a masterplan for another series in mind, one also featuring anthropomorphic animals but with a European setting. Usagi was supposed to be a supporting character in this series, but once Sakai began the short stories collected in this volume (originally published in anthology titles) he couldn't stop. Sakai's love a Japanese cinema and culture (being a third generation Japanese American himself) won out and he's still doing Usagi today.

That being said, the stories in this first volume are still entertaining, and contain much of what would later make the series excellent, if sometimes in embryonic form. Miyamoto Usagi is presented as a serious, no-nonsense warrior, much different from the humble, personable fellow he would become. An astounding amount of his supporting cast is introduced almost right-off-the-bat: the young Lord Noriyuki and his female samurai guardian Tomoe Ame, gruff rhino bounty hunter Gennosuke (or "Gen"), blind swordspig Zato-Ino (a play on the famous Zatoichi sword fighting movies), and Usagi's childhood sweetheart Mariko and childhood rival Kenechi (as well as their son, Jotaro).
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Usagi Yojimbo, Book 1: The Ronin
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