Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Usagi Yojimbo: The Wanderer's Road (Review)

In this volume; The Wanderer's Road, Usagi Yojimbo finds himself in one adventure after another by chance. The greatness of this title by Stan Sakai, is that the character is constantly on the move...so is constantly going to have different events, in different places, with a multitude of characters.  It's genius really, it would far more difficult to write Usagi if he were bound to one locale.

In this volume...he meets a new friend,  has a run-in with an old foe, spends the night with a demon, breaks a tea cup, and spends time with a woodcutter.

In The Tower, Usagi journeys into town to find a tokage (japanese for "lizard") stuck on the town's watchtower....and an angry cook with a butcher's knife waiting for him to come down!  Usagi decides to aid the frightened animal and climbs up the watchtower to the hungry tokage, and feeds it.   The bully cook; angry that the tokage stole food & that our favorite Ronin Samurai is aiding it, chops through half the rungs, stranding Usagi & the tokage at the top of the watchtower as a cold winter storm blows into the town.

After "accidentally" dumping snow & tea on the head of he bully cook, Usagi & Spot (the tokage) find themselves in great danger as the angry cook begins chopping down the tower.  They crash through the roof of the cooks restaurant, leaving Usagi injured and unconscious.  The cook; seeking vengeance for being embarrassed by Usagi & having his roof caved in, attempts to kill Usagi....but is thwarted by an angry Spot who defends his new friend.  The two leave town and journey on.....

In A Mother's Love,  Usagi Yojimbo & Spot are welcome company to an old woman walking home from a pilgrimage.  As they walk together toward her village, she expresses her prayers were for her son, Atsuo.....who Usagi soons learns is a money-lender in the village, and is not very nice to those in his debt.  A hired thug threatens Spot, until he sees the edge of Usagi's sword.  The villagers hate the old woman because of her son, but Usagi & Spot accompany her to their home for dinner & lodging.

The old woman's son; Atsuo, does not like a Ronin in his home & does not like them interferring in his business.....he slaps his mother, but Usagi forces an apology.  The Old Woman begs them to come to dinner the next evening.  As Usagi & Spot arrive for dinner, they are attacked by Atsuo's men, who are put down by Usagi Yojimbo's blade! Usagi frantically searches the house until he finds the Old Woman.....holding her dead son in her arms.  She used Usagi as a diversion, and killed Atsuo herself.  She asks Usagi to end her life, as she doesn't have the will to do it herself after murdering her son.  Usagi Yojimbo does her this honor, praying that the gods are merciful.

In Return of the Blind Swordspig, Usagi finds himself face-to-face with Zato-Ino...the blind swordspig who lost his nose to Usagi in past dual.  With an almost supernatural sense of smell, Zato-Ino is much to reckon with, as a group of mercenary bounty hunters learn at the beginning of this tale.  He may have been caught unawares, but Spot (Usagi's pet-friend tokage) warns him.

Zato-Ino then happens upon Usagi's scent and finds him to settle the score, a "nose for a nose" so to speak. The two dual, and Zato-Ino has Usagi at his mercy when Spot comes to defend his friend.....Zato-Ino; owing Spot his life, spares Usagi.  Spot; wanting a place to settle down, goes with Zato-Ino, who wants the same.  Usagi wishes them well, and hopes they find the peace they seek.

In Blade of the Gods, Usagi finds himself in the midst of a storm and stops at a cabin for shelter.  He meets Jei, an unusual Samurai with a black blade....and believes he's an agent for the gods.  Believing that he is a blade of justice, he seeks to kill Usagi....believing he is evil.  They fight, but Jei is unharmed by Usagi's sword. Supernatural events occur that lead to Jei's end.

In The Tea Cup, Usagi meets up with his old friend Gen the Bounty Hunter....who is protecting a priceless tea cup until he can deliver it for a reward.  The two journey together, and happen upon two orphans heading to the same destination.  They are poor, and Usagi feels empathy for them, but Gen seems disinterested and even hostile.

They are attacked by a rival Tea Master's mercenaries.....so in the midst of the fight, Gen gives Usagi the tea cup!!  The mercenaries chase after Usagi, who puts them down with the edge of his sword.  As Usagi travels to the destination to meet Gen, he trips and the tea cup shatters!  Distraught by his failure, he apologizes to Gen who finds the whole situation humorous.  Gen gave Usagi a "decoy" tea cup, while he kept the priceless one.  Usagi is enraged, but simmers down once Gen explains that he gave the reward to the Orphans' Uncle to help care for them.

In The Shogun's Gift, Lord Noriyuki has a beautiful sword made for The Shogun. The sword is stolen, and Lord Noriyuki's chief Samurai Tomoe seeks to find the thief.  Shingen of the Neko Ninja clan is the culprit, and believes he has escaped....disguising himself as a woodcutter.

Lord Noriyuki

Tomoe happens upon Usagi Yojimbo, who happens upon Shingen by accident.  Shingen's suspicious actions lead Usagi to follow him, join him for a meal and conversation with other woodcutters, and craftily stealing back the sword.  The two face each other in combat, but it ends in stalemate.  Usagi learns that Lord Hikiji is behind the attempted theft. The sword finds it's way back to Tomoe, who realizes that Usagi was behind it's return. She returns the blade to Noriyuki, who gives it to the Shogun.

A wonderful volume filled with stand alone stories of great substance, and within this one book are adventures of morality, supernatural evils, great sword fights, and ninjas.....mix in some humor and great lessons from these stories and this volume of Usagi Yojimbo is entertaining and uplifting.  Citizen's Grade: O.K.

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