Tuesday, February 16, 2010

1980's Flashback: Usagi Yojimbo

The anthropomorphic series Usagi Yojimbo is set primarily at the beginning of the Edo period of Japan (early 17th century), created by Stan Sakai in 1983, the book features a rabbit ronin, Miyamoto Usagi, who is partially based on the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Usagi wanders the land on a warrior's pilgrimage occasionally selling his services as a bodyguard.

The characters in the series were originally going to be portrayed as human in stories explicitly modeled after the life of Miyamoto Musashi. However while idly doodling, Sakai drew rabbit ears tied in a topknot on his proposed hero and was thus inspired by the distinctive image that this gave him. Sakai quickly expanded on his idea and created a fantasy setting that he decided suited his dramatic needs better, plus with a unique look that could potentially attract new readers.

After Usagi's 1983 appearance in Albedo, and later Critters, he began appearing in his own series in 1987. The Usagi Yojimbo series has been published by three different companies: Fantagraphics, Mirage and Dark Horse.

For his efforts, Stan Sakai has received the Comics Buyer's Guide Fan Award for Favorite Story for 1999. The trade paperback collection of this story also earned the Comics Buyer's Guide Fan Award for Favorite Reprint Graphic Album for 2000. Usagi Yojimbo has won several Ursa Major Awards, the major awards of the furry fandom genre and a Parents' Choice Award in 1990 for its educational value in accurately incorporating historical elements.


usagigoya said...

Stan Sakai has been writing, drawing, and lettering Usagi Yojimbo stories for over 185 self-titled issues and 25 years, and the 24th trade paperback collection is scheduled to be released from Dark Horse later this summer.

The series has also garnered Stan Sakai the 1996 Eisner Award for "Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition" (Usagi Yojimbo), the 1999 Eisner Award for "Best Serialized Story" (Usagi Yojimbo "Grasscutter"), the 1999 Haxtur Award for "Best Short Story [in Spain]" (Usagi Yojimbo "Noodles" [Spanish Edition]), the 2000 Haxtur Award for "Best Script [in Spain]" (Usagi Yojimbo's "Grasscutter" [Spanish Edition]), and the 2002 National Cartoonists Society Comic Book Division Award (Usagi yojimbo). Over the years, Stan Sakai has been nominated for at least 21 Eisner Awards for his work in the comic industry.

- Steve

Chuck Wells said...

Um, what he said!!!!

Stan is also super nice. I'm glad to have had an opportunity to meet him in person.