Hello, I’m a unicorn. It’s that time of the year again! Christmas for all Usagi fans, a special time of the year where we rush to Amazon and get the latest trade of everyone’s favorite rabbit ronin.
The trade, of course,was awesome. It’s everything you’d expect from the master that is Stan Sakai: great art, memorable and well rounded characters, and fascinating historical and cultural notes. In this volume, we have the return of Kitsune and Kiyoko, two thieves and friends of Usagi, and a mysterious swordsman known as the Lord of Owls. We also have new villains in the form of the Red Scorpion gang. In all honesty, the subplot involving the Red Scorpions was one of the weaker ones. For the majority of their appearances, I could easily replace the gang with a group of generic brigands and literally nothing would be changed. The leader of the gang barely interacts with Usagi, and they don’t even fight. He was made out to be a great criminal mastermind, but his defeat is somewhat anticlimactic. Compared all of the great villains in this series, he falls short. The leader never does anything truly despicable or monstrous, so he’s not too memorable. Sure, he makes the lives of farmers and peasants miserable, but compared to the mass murdering Jei and the “blood princess” Noriko, he’s just small potatoes. The red herring was actually much more interesting than the actual villain because he interacted with Usagi and was more complex. As much as I harp on the big bad though, the fight between the red herring and the Red Scorpion was still very well done, and the ending was beautifully bittersweet.
Overall, this is definitely worth a read. The villain may have been a bit weak, but the stories themselves more than make up for it. They’re all hopeful, clever, sometimes sad, and very entertaining. Like every volume, it’s a great jumping on point for new readers because each of the stories are self contained and there is adequate introduction to the recurring characters. You don’t have to read the previous volumes to know what is happening. There are allusions to past events, but they don’t distract from the current plot. As usual, the story notes in the back are very interesting and a must read for that reason. You won’t be lost without reading them but it is helpful. So what are you waiting for? Read it now! And happy thirtieth anniversary Usagi. May you spend another thirty years on your journey. I will be there all along the way with your every triumph, failure, and adventure. You were the hero that got me into comics and the hero that kept me coming back. I’ve been avidly reading about your travels since the fifth grade, and my love for them has never left.