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Usagi Yojimbo #103
By Geoff Hoppe
July 18, 2007 - 23:36

Dark Horse Comics
Writer(s): Stan Sakai
Penciller(s): Stan Sakai
Cover Artist(s): Stan Sakai


Everybody and his brother in comics (and movies, and video games, and tv…) uses Japanese swords. It’s as if Japan was a country with only one variety of edged weapon, which, I assure you, is far from the case. Thank goodness for Stan Sakai’s interest in history, which brings a spear-wielding priest to the pages of Usagi Yojimbo #103.


In Usagi Yojimbo #103, Jizonobu, a Buddhist priest, diagnoses a mysterious disease affecting a local village. When the regional Daimyo’s (like a feudal lord) daughter falls sick of the same disease, he brings the girl to Jizonobu with an ultimatum. Cure her, and Jizo’s temple will have a new patron. Fail, and the monastery will be razed.  


This issue abounds in the things Sakai’s series does right: an in-depth look at Japanese folklore, simple, likeable characters, and a significant dose of Japan’s variety of dark weirdness. Sakai’s heroes and villains tend to be uncomplicated, but their adventures are usually intriguing enough to carry a story. Admittedly, it should also be noted that the Western standard of what makes a character “deep” isn’t the same as the Japanese standard, so really, I’m splitting hairs.


The art, also by Sakai, adapts remarkably well to the story’s content. There’s a clear love for the details of medieval Japanese life, landscape and habits that makes Usagi Yojimbo a joy to read. Sakai has a habit of drawing cartoony skulls above the heads of recently dead characters, a habit that often seems inconsistent with the occasionally grim plotlines. No floating skulls here, though, which is definitely to the book’s benefit.


Worth the money? Yes, for fans and casual readers alike. Since #103 begins a storyline, it’s a good place for new readers to enter the series.

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