Usagi Yojimbo Senso

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It’s war of the worlds with samurai. Do I really need to say more? Go buy it. Yesterday. It’s a fantastic six issue series set twenty years in the future of Usagi Yojimbo, a comic about a samurai rabbit who wanders the Japanese countryside. That’s literally all you need to know going in. The main character, Usagi, the bounty hunter Gennosuke, and Usagi’s son, Jotaro, have become high ranking members of the Geishu clan. They’re waging the deciding battle in the war against Lord Hikiji when a giant, mysterious object falls from the sky. From then on, it’s war: samurai versus aliens and it is glorious. Each issue is action packed and chaotic, with fantastic artwork. Stan Sakai is the master of the action sequence and mixing loud battle scenes with quiet character moments. In the twenty years between this series and the main, a lot has obviously happened.

24431My favorite moments are not the samurai fighting the aliens’ tripods but instead the quiet character moments. There’s a lot of history between them, and it’s made obvious from page one, but it’s a testament to Mr. Sakai’s writing that he can keep a story new reader friendly while also making the character moments meaningful for both old and new fans. Look no further than Usagi and Tomoe. These two have been teased as a couple almost from the start, but in the twenty years, Tomoe was in an arranged political marriage with high ranking member of another clan. I lover their conversations of what might have been, and after the death of her husband, the future. They bicker a lot more often than before, but it’s still obvious that they love each other. It takes the characters to a place that they hadn’t really gone before, and I like it.

Spaceusagi

Another bit of brilliance of Senso is how it fits into Space Usagi, another series set in the same universe. Without giving too much away, the ending of Senso ties into this series, and fits perfectly. For those who haven’t read the awesome Space Usagi, the main plot is a space opera where the descendants of Usagi still live by the samurai code. Usagi Yojimbo takes place during the time period where Japan closed itself off to trade so one would expect that in the future the United States would eventually force Japan to open its doors to trade and later westernize. So what changed? The alien invasion. By the end of the series, they have the aliens’ technology, and the protagonists adapt it so that they can explore space, thus creating the world of Space Usagi. That’s just my personal theory, but wouldn’t that be cool?

I don’t want to give too much away, because Senso has some really usagi-yojimbo-sagashocking and heartrending moment better experienced for yourself, but I highly recommend it to both new and old readers. The artwork is beautiful, the story epic, and it’s just fascinating to see where the characters will be in twenty years. Go check it out. You will not be disappointed.

11 thoughts on “Usagi Yojimbo Senso”

  1. I love Usagi. It is the only comic that I considered writing into over 15 years of reading comics. I planned to thank Stan for specific moments that brought big smiles to my face as I read the series. I read every issue back to back over a few month period 7 or 8 years back. I put off writing in and then forgot the issue specifics that I wanted to praise Stan for . I regret that I never wrote in. It is one of the best comics ever produced and does not get enough praise. Personally though I think Senso’s quality was affected by Stan’s wife’s illness. It could be that I prefer not mixing genres but for me it wasn’t the high quality art and writing I expect from Mr Sakai. Just my opinion though. I’ ll be one of the first ones chomping at the bit to get my hands on the new series when it arrives.

  2. Usagi Yojimbo was actually my gateway drug into comics. I agree completely that it doesn’t get nearly enough attention–it deserves at least one animated movie or cartoon. I see what you’re saying, but I don’t really have a problem with the mixing of genres. I think that it could have benefited from being a bit longer. I wasn’t as big a fan of all the deaths, but I didn’t really want to get into why and how because I didn’t want to spoil it. Still a great series though.

  3. Nice article. My man iroberts has been promoting Usagi for years now. I recently saw Usagi on an old episode of TMNT from the 80’s. It was pretty funny.
    Perhaps it’s time I came firmly on board with the series. Is it something I could read with my 5 yr old?

    1. I started reading it when I was a very sheltered ten year old, but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for five year olds. There are onscreen deaths (including seppuku), discussions of illegitimate children, very very mild and rare cussing, and implications of sex. The sexuality aspect would probably fly over your kid’s head. Mr. Sakai doesn’t shy away from sad stories and less pleasant aspects of Japanese culture, but he remains very tasteful. The violence is fairly toned down, with most deaths happening off panel or aren’t too graphic, but they’re still there. It has a lot you’d have to explain to your kid, especially the cultural differences. It’s about as violent as Samurai Jack or Ninja Turtles 2003. The latter, which followed the original mirage comics very closely, I started watching when I was about six or seven. I would suggest checking a few issues out and deciding for yourself. Five is a little young, but it depends on the kid and your sensibilities as a parent. The violence also varies from issue to issue. For example, Dark Horse issue #31 (“The Inn on Moon Shadow Hill”) is extremely kid friendly, but the issue title “Fever Dream” from volume 23 is not. I’d say that it’s probably alright to share as long as you read it first. As a comics fan though, you need to at least check it out for yourself and decide. It’s definitely worth a read, and I’m sure your kid would love it whenever you choose to introduce it to them.

        1. Ya, Stan has a kind of interesting way of showing death. Floating skulls over newly killed combatants. I think KaneThari is right about age appropriateness. There are a lot of powerful/ positive lessons in this book and when bad things are shown consequences follow.

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