Usagi Yojimbo Volume 1: The Horse Thief

Kirin walked to the basement where Lilly and Eli were working. Lilly was scanning the wall with her phone while Eli was writing in a brown, leather-bound book. “Any news?” she asked.

“Nope, nothing yet,” Lilly said, pushing her long orange hair from her eyes. With their angular features and slightly pointed ears, the two vaguely resembled elves. Kirin stood awkwardly at the door for a moment.

“You know, it would be easier to work if you weren’t hovering,” Eli said. “And can you get your friend to be quiet for a moment? It’s hard to work with him asking us to throw toys into the portal.” Kirin laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Lilly asked.

“Oh, nothing. It’s just that I’d have better luck breathing under water than getting him to shut up for two seconds,” she replied.

“Hey, I resemble that remark! And I’ll have you know, I don’t talk all the time. I only talk when it suits me, annoys you, when I’m all alone, when I’m not happy, when I’m really happy, when I…” Textbox droned on, listing all the circumstances when he talks. Kirin gave them a look that was a mixture amusement, resignation, and long suffering.

“This is what I deal with all the time,” she said as Textbox continued to talk. “Hey Textbox,” she yelled.

“And whenever I jump out of a bachelor cake in a squirrel suit, and when–what?’ Textbox asked.

“I need you to catch up on The Gorgeous and The Graceful for me. I want you to memorize every line of dialogue so you can tell me exactly what happened,” she said.

“Will do boss,” Textbox replied. She heard the TV upstairs turn on and the melodramatic piano music begin playing.

“That outta hold him for a while. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask,” she said as she went upstairs and began typing on her laptop.

Hello, I’m a unicorn. Even though I’ve talked about how Usagi Yojimbo is my favorite comic, I haven’t actually reviewed any of the issues. That’s mainly because 90% of the stories are excellent and all I’d be doing is fangirling. And you don’t want to see that, now do you? I selected this story because it is the weakest out of all 27 volumes. I think that speaks a lot about Stan Sakai that his weakest story was in the beginning of his super long and super amazing run on the title. (Okay, so maybe a little fangirling.) Well, without further adieu, let’s dive into this story and see its biggest problems.

Usagi happens upon a group of bandits, and thinking that there might be a reward for their capture, dives into the fight. He scares the bandits off, but since the guards and porters are all dead, he won’t get a reward. Fortunately though, they left behind a handsome steed. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Usagi decides to take it to the next town to sell it.

Seriously, Kirin? Ow, just–just ow.

Yeah that was pretty bad. I am so sorry. Wait, aren’t you supposed to be memorizing the episode?

Yeah, but that pun was so bad, it hurt from downstairs.

Well, get back to it then! Anyway, Usagi runs into trouble when he accidentally tries to sell the horse back to its owner. Oops. He flees with the owner’s posse on his fluffy tail and decides to take refuge in an outpost with horse traders. Unfortunately, the outpost is actually filled with with the bandits that he had scared off in the first place. Double oops. So, while the owner’s posse and the bandits fight, he flees again, this time meeting two woodcutters who had their horse taken by the town magistrate. Usagi gets off the horse and gives it to them. The issue ending with him walking away laughing hysterically.

This issue is actually pretty funny in hindsight because of how out of character Usagi is behaving. In any other later issue, he’d fight the bandits because he wants to help in any way he could. He usually helps victims of thieves because his own morality wouldn’t let it be any other way.  The behavior in this story is what I would expect more out the bounty hunter, Gennosuké, who is more prone to morally ambiguous motivations. Seriously, if I erased Usagi in every panel and replace it with Gen, no one would be the wiser. Like I said though, this is a very early issue, so I can understand the weirdness of Usagi’s behavior. At this point in the series, the kinks of his personality haven’t quite been ironed out yet. Aside from that oddness, this short issue is still a pretty good read. The art, as usual, is great, although not nearly as good as the later issues. It’s enjoyable, but weak in the grand scheme of the series. So what are you waiting for? Read some Usagi Yojimbo now, but maybe not this issue.

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