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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai

A few couple of days ago, I wrote about yōkai (妖怪)- the supernatural spirits that seem to flood Japanese mythology and lore.

Back on July 2, 2015, I wrote about a cool comic book character called Usagi Yojimbo, an American-made black and white comic book series about a ronin (masterless samurai) rabbit who travels Japan doing good in exchange for lodgings and a meal.

And then  earlier today I was looking for a book for my son to do as a book report and pulled down a small hardcover graphic novel starring Usagi Yojimbo called "Yokai". By the way, yojimbo is Japanese for 'protector or bodyguard', while usagi means rabbit. Rabbit Bodyguard.

Usagi's real name is Miyamoto Usagi (surname first).

That's the problem with having over 35,000 comic books. Sometimes you don't remember every single one you own. Sometimes. Not very often. I'm usually like the guy in Rain Man: "Yeah... definitely have that issue of Jonah Hex, yeah, definitely."

If you were in the room with me as I wrote that, you would have heard a perfect copy of Dustin Hoffman's character, Charlie Babbit. He was NOT the Rain Man. That was just how he called his brother (played by Tom Cruise), Raymond.

Anyhow...Yōkai starring Usagi Yojimbo is written, drawn, lettered and painted in watercolors by Stan Sakai.

Stan is a genius.

Not only are his stories always entertaining - with pockets of actual Japanese history, mythology and dynamite renditions of real Japanese items and homes of the Edo-era, his work also features humor, pathos, drama, swashbuckling (for lack of a better word to describe the katana battles) and horror.

The anthropomorphic rabbit (animals that act like humans as Donald Duck, Cerebus the Aardvark et al do - I must like that form of story-telling) in the Yokai story is brilliant.

Published by Dark Horse Comics back in November of 2009 when I was still happy, Yōkai tells the story of the Hyakki Yako - the Night Parade of 100 Demons... I actually used an ukiyo-e image of that folk tale as the first image when I wrote about the yōkai a few days back. See below:

Anyhow, Sakai adds a twist to the myth, adding that every 100 years of the yōkai gathering, there is that one year when they attempt to usurp the living world... and for Usagi Yojimbo and old friend Sasuke the Demon Queller, they attempt to save the soul of a young girl while battling the supernatural.

A panel spread over pages 38 & 39 of Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai by Stan Sakai from Dark Horse Comics. No... it's not a full-blown splash page, because there are six panels below it in the book.
Sakai was born in Kyoto, but grew up in Hawaii, and I think he now lives and works in California.

While I did go over to to see if they had the book, it seemed to range in price for the hardcover from $50 in very good, but used condition all the way up to $264.70 for a new copy. But is it the first edition?

I have to admit those prices surprised me, but should you be so inclined, you could get a Kindle Edition for $6.99.  That's like $0.47 American? Stupid Canadian dollar.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I'll be honest, after seeing the prices for the book, I don't want to flatten it out to scan any pages for here, so I'm pulling from the 'net.


  1. I haven't gone to Japan, but reading this feels like a learn alot about it culture and tradition. Thank you for sharing this such informative post.

    1. Thank you Ms. Burke for saying so. I lived there for three years, and in the six years plus since I began this blog as a means to initially showcase the 90 comedic articles I wrote about the place and my place in it, it has expanded in to learning as much as possible about Japan. I think the cool thing is, however, that you could choose any country in the world, and if you are curious enough, you could spend years delving into that place's mysteries.
      Best of luck, Princess.