Usagi Yojimbo

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Usagi Yojimbo (rabbit bodyguard) is an comic book series about a samurai ronin, and is hailed as one of the greatest comics ever written outside the cape genre. It mixes actual history with myths and legends of Japan. The series takes after many of the more radical ideas of the 1980's-90's comic scene by using anthropomorphic animals in serious contexts (this was before furries were anywhere near as well-known, mind you). Like most characters published by Dark Horse Comics, he met the Ninja Turtles from time to time. Both came into being entirely independently of each other despite similar themes.

The author, Stan Sakai, also really knows his history and if you're willing to overlook the fact that it's filled with anthropomorphic animals killing each other, with most herd animals being tiny dinosaurs, Usagi Yojimbo can be appreciated for its highly accurate depiction of 1600s Japan.

The Setting[edit]

Usagi Yojimbo is set in a Low Fantasy Oriental Adventures world, which can be summed up as "Early Edo Japan, with real yokai, and humans replaced by beastfolk". It's an incredibly in-depth setting, with strictly researched roots in 1600s Japanese history, liberally mixed with Japanese folklore and elements of Japanese culture, predominantly elements of manga and cinema; Samurai movies, Lone Wolf and Cub, the cultural references are obvious if you're familiar with them.

All in all, this setting is A: a Low Fantasy nut's dream for its blend of realism and myth, and B: proof positive that beastfolk aren't a bad racial choice. Mind you, most of the background characters are so abstractly drawn they look more like hideous humans than actual anthros, so yeah.

The Story[edit]

Though Usaji Yojimbo has the honor of being one of the longest running comics to be continually written and drawn by a single person, fundamentally, it's an episodic story. The backstory is simple; our protagonist, Miyamoto Usagi, is the last survivor of his clan after it was wiped out in battle with the forces of Lord Hikiji, the setting's only known human character and an archrival of Usagi's lord prior to said lord's death. With no master to serve, Usagi began a a musha shugyŨ (warrior's pilgrimage) and has since begun wandering the land, battling evil, doing heroic deeds and occasionally selling his services as a bodyguard

The Characters[edit]

Miyamato Usagi: The titular rabbitfolk ronin, a compulsive hero who endlessly roams the land, content to strike against evil where he finds it.

Tomoe Ame: A female catfolk samurai, who must constantly struggle to prove her skills in the sexist land she lives in. Loyal retainer of the Geishu clan, Tomoe is one of Usagi's closest friends and a love interest of his.

Murakami "Gen" Gennosuke: A rhinocerous bounty hunter and sometimes traveling companion of Usagi. Originally, he was the son of an important samurai, sworn into the service of a prominent noble lady - until her husband was assassinated by a villainous subordinate. The lady took her entire entourage, including Gen's family, on a quest for vengeance, only to gradually slide into utter poverty. His mother was forced to prostitute herself for her family to survive; eventually she died, and as Gen matured, his father trained him in the ways of the sword. Upon reaching adulthood, Gen abandoned his father, wanting nothing to do with his vendetta, and became a professional bounty hunter who disdains bushido in favor of a cynical mercenary attitude never to be poor again.

Kitsune: A female fox street performer and thief who frequently travels with both Usagi and Gen.

Lord Hikiji: A human daimyo and the closest thing to an overarching villain in the series, although he prefers to operate through minions, such as his retainer Lord Hebi, a fuck-off huge snake.

Jei: The closest thing Usagi has to a personal arch-rival, this wandering wolf warrior sports a black-bladed sword and is utterly crazed, if not demon-possessed (the series is characteristically ambiguous). He believes himself to be a chosen champion of the gods, sent to purge the world of evil... but his vision of "evil" is absurdly skewed, so he basically just kills everybody he encounters. No matter how many times Usagi has seemingly killed him, Jei has always returned to bedevil him again - fittingly, the comic's creator states that Jei was inspired by Jason, the undead serial killer of the Friday the 13th slasher film series; his usual adress of "Jei-san" is literally a punny Japanification of "Jason".

The Rabbit and the Turtles[edit]

The creators of Usagi Yojimbo and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are friends. So, Usagi and the turtles have crossed paths quite a few times; they've met each other repeatedly in the comics, and have crossed each other's paths at least once in three of the cartoons - the 1987 one, the 2003 one, and the 2012 one. In fact, the actual crossover lore can get kind of confusing, so let's try and straighten it out.

The Comics version of Usagi is canonically a part of the Turtles multiverse, and has met two different Turtles teams as a result; the original Mirage Comics team, and the IDW Comics team.

  • He first encountered Mirage!Leonardo in the story "Turtle Soup And Rabbit Stew", originally published in the 1987 TMNT anthology book Turtle Soup, with the story also being reprinted in Usagi Yojimbo Book 3: The Wanderer's Road.
  • He would meet Mirage!Leonardo alone in two more stories; "The Crossing" (in Usagi Vol. 1 #10) and "The Treaty" (the TMNT anthology book Shell Shock).
  • He'd finally meet the whole Mirage TMNT team in the three part story "Shades of Green", which make up the 1st through 3rd issues of Usagi Volume 2.
  • His first (and only, so far) meeting with the IDW TMNT team takes place in the one-shot story "Namazu", more commonly known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo.
  • IDW would subsequently release Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo: The Complete Collection, which is an anthology comic that collects all five of the crossover comic stories mentioned above.

In the 1987 cartoon, a version of Usagi (here misnamed "Usagi Yojimbo") is accidentally teleported from his world to that of the Fred Wolf TMNTs by one of Donatello's machines backfiring in the episode "Usagi Yojimbo", in the third season. He would make a subsequent appearance in that season in the episode "Usagi Come Home", but the plotline of his being returned to his own world was never resolved; these two episodes had been an ultimately aborted test about creating an Usagi Yojimbo cartoon.

In the 2003 Cartoon, Usagi and Gen appear as extradimensional aliens. They first feature in the season 2 4-parter "Big Brawl", returning for season 3's "The Christmas Aliens" and "The Real World", with a final appearance in season 4's "Samurai Tourist". The revival series/season Back To The Sewers also featured them in the episode "Wedding Bells and Bytes".

Finally, in the 2012 Cartoon, Usagi appears in three episodes that tell a singular story across the 5th seasons; "Yojimbo", "Osoroshi no Tabi", and "Kageyaki! Kintaro".

Usagi Yojimbo Role-playing Game[edit]

There have been two versions of an Usagi Yojimbo RPG released in its history.

Firstly, Gold Rush Games released the first version in 1998. This... didn't sell very well, so it's been mostly forgotten. It only produced two books; a core rulebook, and a bestiary, titled "Monsters!"

Secondly, in 2005, Sanguine Productions, author of other "furry RPGs" such as ironclaw, Jadeclaw and Albedo: Platinum Catalyst, published their own version of the Usagi Yojimbo, which uses a modified version of rules from their other Asian-inspired games. It's also fallen mostly under the radar, consisting of just a corebook. It does have a Spanish translation of the corebook, though.

Gallery[edit]

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