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

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
Book 1 of 25 in the Usagi Yojimbo Series

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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.

Review

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

  • Age Range: 11 - 15 years
  • Grade Level: 6 - 10
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; GPH edition (April 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 (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How do I begin a review for Stan Sakai's epic tale of Usagi Yojimbo? For those who do not know, Miyamoto Usagi is a wandering masterless samurai who just happens to be a giant anthropomorphic rabbit. The story itself takes place in Japan during the turn of the 17th century, thus making this book historical fiction rather than anthropomorphic fantasy. Usagi Yojimbo is also a widely recognizable and popular character in the comic book genre.

The best thing about this volume was my impression of the book's quality. It reads more like a light novel than an actual comic book. It is smaller than most of the standard comic books trades. It is also not set up in issue numbers, but chapters like a novel. You would think looking at the artwork that it is going to be all comedy and kid appropriate, but it is not at all. I was pleasantly surprised this was smart, clever, and very heartwarming at times. There is comedy within the stories, but there is also tragedy.

When I first got this, I knew very little about Usagi. I have always liked his character since his appearances in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, but never really got to read any of his stories. For the longest time I thought his name was Usagi Yojimbo and not Miyamoto Usagi. I thought these comics were comedy more than actual drama. I also always wanted to read his comics, but never did when I saw them without color. Now that I am older, I can finally appreciate black and white cartoons. It means they are hand drawn and done before computers took over the art world.

I have to say that Usagi's origin story is probably one of the best I have read in a while. This comic actually taught me what the term "ronin" means. I knew "ronin" was a rank in the Japanese's army, but that is all I knew.
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