In 1987 Stan Sakai had a bright idea. He decided that it would be interesting to mix Japanese folklore, Akira Kurosawa and a rabbit swordsman and throw them together in a graphic novel. His intention was to highlight parts of Japanese culture and arts, but he wound up creating a classic comic series. Full of epic storylines and great stand-out characters, Usagi Yojimobo is essential reading.
I'm not alone in thinking this either. Both IGN and Empire magazine have voted the main character of Usagi Yojimbo, the rabbit Miyamoto Usagi, into their greatest comic book character lists. In 1990, the book earned a Parents choice award for it's educational value, not an award that comic books usually get. On top of this, Usagi Yojimbo has won three Eisner awards for Best Letterer, Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition and Best Serialised Story. You see - I'm not alone in recommending this book to you.
Now, I've chosen to focus on book six of the series, Circles. This is a homecoming of sorts for Usagi, as he travels back to his village only to find that everything has changed. Circles is a novel-length story, one that you can just sit and get lost in. If you like sword battles, love stories, humour and excellent artwork, this is what you should read.
One criticism of Usagi Yojimbo is aimed straight at an aspect of the book that also gets the most praise; the main character. Despite his high placing in bestof lists, some people find the master swords-rabbit hard to relate to. It might be his near perfection with the sword, his infallible moral compass or his unrelenting compulsion to do the right thing, but it can be hard to see something of yourself in the rabbit. Seeing parts of your own psyche buried in a main character's is absolutely essential in how invested you can get in them, and this was an area in which Usagi fell short.
I say was, because Circles goes some way to changing that. Through revisiting his own village Usagi also revisits his past, and through this, we learn more about him. We learn things that despite him being a rabbit, make him seem more human, and turn him into someone we can relate to. This is why I have picked Circles out of all the other Usagi Yojimbo graphic novels. It is well worthy of it's placing in our top 100 list.
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