Written by guest contributor Lance Lambert
There’s so much to love in every issue of Usagi Yojimbo. Sure, it may be that I am a major Usagi fan, but Sakai is always producing the finest work after years of writing and drawing. Usagi Yojimbo #146 continues the story arc, The Thief and the Kunoichi, where Kitsune has stolen an important piece of artwork from Chizu. The issue opens with Chizu and Kitsune at odds over previous trials. Our valiant ronin, Usagi, is caught in the middle. The mood remains light despite the tension. That is something that Sakai has always done well. The argument builds and Chizu eventually makes a move to attack Kitsune. A tussle ensues and Usagi takes a couple of blows trying to separate the two. Finally, they are able to calm the situation but finally reveal the importance of the painting stolen.
The painting had a hidden item behind it that revealed an evil conspiracy. Once revealed, Usagi and Chizu devise a plan to kick evil’s ass once again. Sakai shows again that this isn’t his first rodeo. Only the second issue in the story arc, and I’m rushing to see what happens next. Readers don’t worry because there is plenty of action to unfold after they realize they are being spied on by a Neko clansman. A hot pursuit follows and we get to see what we’ve all been waiting for, a gnarly fight scene with Chizu, Usagi, and the Neko clan goons. If Sakai’s artwork hasn’t impressed you yet, then it certainly will after this scene. Sakai has a very simple style of line work, but its clean, fun, and exciting. The fight scene in #146 flows like that of a martial arts film and the only thing missing are some quirky sound effects. If you’re a kung fu film head like me, you might just even make your own and never realize it.
After the fight, Usagi and Chizu return to find Kitsune and her partner missing. This sends Chizu back into a rage. She believes Kitsune is double-crossing her. Unknown to Chizu, Kitsune is just doing what she does best, making money. Kitsune returned the painting(special note) to the original owner, Inouye the merchant. The only problem is she is blackmailing him for 500 ren. I don’t trust Inouye, so I am interested of what may happen. Chizu is still dealing with the Neko clan’s revenge and now Chizu is involved with some shady folk. It seems like Usagi may be stuck in the middle. Sakai is an exceptional writer and although his writing is typically light and fun, he is realistic. It is not out of the question for something terrible to happen to our characters, who are in just a little too deep. His realism, outside of animal ninjas and samurai’s, goes with the characters also. Each decision made affects others and we see the characters trying to make decision in light of that. So even when a decision is a little on the bad side of the moral compass, we build a sentimental attachment. Even though the plot doesn’t seem intricate at the surface, there’s a lot to this comic and a lot to take away from it.
After closing the issue I looked around for the next one and of course I had to deal with the reality of waiting another month. There’s everything to like about Usagi in this issue. This issue was more about building the action than really making moves, but there was still an exciting fight scene and plenty of plotting. If you’re a Usagi fan it’s a must. If not, you should really start reading Usagi. Usagi appreciation aside, it’s a fun comic and if you’re not a regular reader it is worth it to check out.