Usagi Yojimbo #1 is published by IDW Publishing, with writing, art and letters by Stan Sakai and colors by Tom Luth. I’ve been aware of the existence of Usagi Yojimbo all my life but have never actually gotten around to reading one of his stories. With the series getting a fresh number one it seemed like the perfect time to give this long running series a try.
With demonic forces on the prowl in Usagi Yojimbo #1, some are revealed while others remain secret. The beginning of a new chapter in the long adventures of the samurai Usagi finds him taking in a Bunraku performance and enjoying a moment of quiet and rest. It seems it is not going to last.
While writers often take the start of a new series to touch on some of the characters and concepts to let new reader understand a little more about what they are getting into, there is no such information provided here. While this does allow the story to flow along, it does not serve as any better of a start point for a new reader than the beginning of any other story arc in a long running series. So be prepared if you are jumping in fresh that the story isn’t going to hold your hand.
I found myself having a difficult time becoming absorbed in the narrative the book put before me. The writing felt extremely stiff, with little flair to distinguish one character from another. This wooden approach to writing never let me get a sense of personality from the characters themselves, and made this issue, which was mostly setup to begin with, feel even more barren of personality.
Perhaps this is intentional and is a directly reminiscent of how characters from this time period, Edo Period Japan, held discourse. That being said, whether intentional or not, it didn’t work for.
The art bore a certain charm to it, working to capture an old time feel. Everything, from the various characters’ dress, to objects in the environment feel like a unified presence in the panels, belonging together as a wonderful representation of a bygone era. I also appreciated how the design of the various characters are done.
With the entire cast being anthropomorphic animals getting, too cute with the design is always an easy trap to fall into. This was avoided here, giving the various characters enough animalistic qualities to be clear what they are without overdoing it.
The art also does a great job of using color to make Usagi stand out. As both the only white furred animal and the only character donning blue in the issue, Usagi’s presence is always striking within the panels making the reader always take note of him, but in a subtle enough way that it isn’t being obnoxious about it. My only complaint about the art as a whole was a lack of depth to the images, as little shading is used and everything feels rather flat.
While Usagi Yojimbo #1 did not impress upon me as a whole I can certainly see where it has lots of potential. The creative team is certainly committed to its setting, and have begun laying down the foundation for future stories that could bring more life into the series.
Usagi Yojimbo #1
While Usagi Yojimbo #1 did not impress upon me as a whole I can certainly see where it has lots of potential.