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Usagi Yojimbo, Book 2: Samurai Paperback – June 2, 2015
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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
“I’ve just finished the fourth Usagi Yojimbo trade and the fifth is sitting next to me... If you’re like me, throw away your preconceptions about anthropomorphic comics and get on board. 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
About the Author
Stan Sakai is a third-generation Japanese American and multiple Eisner-Award-winning cartoonist, creator of the popular and long-running Usagi Yojimbo comic book. (Usagi Yojimbo is a recurring "guest star" in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle universe.) Born in Japan, he grew up in Hawaii and lives in Pasadena, CA.
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Though this is volume 2 in the Usagi series, this is really the volume where Sakai's masterpiece begins to take shape. "Samurai," which begins with Usagi's classic four part origin story, weaves an almost mythological tale of a young, reckless child growing into a serious adult and becoming burdened by the weight of his honor. We see young Usagi dream, struggle, succeed, fail, love, lose, achieve his greatest honor, face his darkest day, and gradually come to terms with the cards that fate has dealt him. This is a powerful, character-building tale that makes you truly care for the character of Miyamoto Usagi with far more emotional investment than you might care for the more serious looking characters found in those other, non-furry comics.
The volume also includes several other stories from the two issues that followed the four part "Samurai" epic. "The Test" is a truly disappointing story, written by Peter Laird as an attempt to help promote Usagi by including a beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but the story is largely self-serving and makes Usagi look like an utter chump. The rest of the stories are stand-alone adventures that do little to further any sense of continuity or character development, but they are quite fun, action-packed, and often heart-warming. I particularly enjoyed "The Silk Fair" as a story in which Usagi's heroics truly make a difference in the lives of an entire community.
In short, this is a great starting point for anyone new to Usagi. It provides a great entrypoint in the form of Usagi's four part origin story, does much to develop the character from how he appeared in Volume 1, and provides a few classic stand-alone stories as well. I highly suggest beginning here with volume 2. It will definitely leave you hungering for the next installment.
This book mostly details the important events of Miyamoto Usagi's life under the premise of telling Gensuke why he killed a man. When the tale is eventually wound up and at least four bottles of sake have been finished off the reader is left with more knowledge of Usagi himself and a little bit of food for thought on the subject of Samuri honor.
After this long story line the book is finished up with a couple of little stories that will entertain the reader.
Personally I'm a reader of novels and regular books, I'm really not too fond of pictures when I read and that includes comics, but Sakai's art is refreshing and simplistic, often including small gestures that make me laugh without overloading the reader with details and color the way some of the major publishers do. His stories and interesting and often thought provoking. I highly recommend this volume.
It is with this volume that Stan Sakai really kicks in the world building after a few years of doing Usagi stories for various anthology comics (collected in Book 1). This paperback collects the beginning of the ongoing Usagi comic book which still runs today. Building up on the facts established in the earlier stories, Sakai fleshes out Usagi's back story and starts the transition from the somewhat boring hero of Book 1 into the very human character we know today. Perhaps the biggest addition in this book is the introduction of Usagi's sensei Katsuichi, one of the best characters in the series. This story gives a brief overview of Usagi's training with the master swordsman, but Sakai goes back to this time period many times in future books and fills in the blanks with all sorts of lessons and adventures young Usagi had while in training, a very rich vein of stories.