In Review: Usagi Yojimbo #153

Supernatural characters must be stopped by the ronin, but is he strong enough?

The cover: A kappa seems to be leaping out of a wall to attack Usagi. The ronin looks ready to fight, but will his blade be strong enough to penetrate the creature’s hard shell? In the foreground a female and young kappa watch the battle begin. Great cover by Stan Sakai with colors by Tom Luth. I love the action frozen in time just before things get intense, and the colors are really cool with the skin of the kappa and Usagi blended into smooth, different colored shades. Overall grade: A+

The story: Stan Sakai again has Usagi helping a village as a nearby river’s waters rise during a storm. The villagers do as they are told and get some rocks to throw behind the wood pilings, but the ronin warns, “…but don’t get too close to the water’s edge…” Just after Jiro throws in the first rock, a frenzied looking kappa leaps out of the water and pulls him under. Usagi witnesses the event and is shocked. The storm abates and the villagers rejoice, unaware that the ronin is running alongside the river, demanding the kappa let his friend go. He catches the kappa out of the water, pulling its prize, and what happens next sets the path of this tale. “Kyuri” is a very appropriate title for this story and you’re going have to pick this up for yourself to have that word translated. What can be told that is that this is a high action issue, given that Usagi’s antagonist is very different from what he’s encountered recently. And, no, this is not solely an action issue; Page 10 has him doing something he’s never done before, he receives the worst wound I’ve ever seen him have, and 22 and 23 give him a miracle. Action and emotion. Outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The art: This issue, illustrated by Stan Sakai, has got a good mix of horror and joy. The opening storm is just as severe as last issue’s, but the addition of the kappa leaping out at poor Jiro is a pretty terrifying thing. I haven’t seen a supernatural creature in this series since I’ve started buying the new issues and the kappa is creepy. A turtle monster with a flat head containing water doesn’t sound like it could induce chills, but its attack on Page 3 is outstanding. Helping with the horror is Usagi’s reaction at the bottom of the page. Page 7 introduces a new setting and one that starts out with the expected thrills, but is completely softened by the appearance of the character in the last panel. The arrival of another character continues to make the moment unexpected, and it’s impossible for any reader not to have empathy for the last three panels on 9. Page 11 returns to the monster and Sakai makes him terrible without making him grisly, though there is ample opportunity to do so. The battle with Usagi is impressive, with the largest panel on 17 being a jaw dropper, and Usagi’s reactions on the bottom of 21 unsettling. The final panel of the issue completely encapsulates the joy of the title character having survived this adventure. Beautiful work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The story’s title (done in a gorgeous style), dialogue, sounds, and screams are also done by Stan Sakai. Sakai has won three Eisner Awards for his lettering skills and they are definitely on display in this issue with the work done on Pages 13 – 20 during the fight against the kappa. It’s powerful looking and a reader can feel the impact of those exclamations when they are uttered and those disturbing sounds. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Supernatural characters must be stopped by the ronin, but is he strong enough? Stan Sakai creates thrills packed with a lot of heart in this installment, which is highly recommended. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
    One Comment
  • Stan Sakai
    21 March 2016 at 5:01 pm -

    Thank you, Patrick.

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