Jab’s Reviews: TMNT (Usagi Yojimbo)

Hundreds of years before sewers were even invented, Usagi Yojimbo (Rabbit Bodyguard), a skilled but masterless Samurai, wandered ancient legendary Japan. In a freakish burst of reception through Donatello’s trans-dimensional portal, this medieval hare wound up thrashing his way through the Turtles’ lair, kicking shell and more or less proving a few points with his Katana. Splinter recognized the ronin’s skills at once as Usagi repeatedly put the Turtles on the cutting edge. Trapped in Turtle-time, Usagi Yojimbo quickly became a trusted and honorable ally in the ongoing pursuit of pizza and a Shredder-less world.

USAGI YOJIMBO (Miyamoto Usagi)
Created By:
 Stan Sakai
First Appearance: Albedo Anthropomorphics #2 (1983)

Miyamoto Usagi- The Big Guest Star:
-Usagi Yojimbo (properly called Miyamoto Usagi– the cartoon & toy use the title of his BOOK as his name) actually comes from a LONG-running comic book series by Stan Sakai, but he showed up in TMNT continuity a trio of times, namely in the cartoon. Personally, I’d never heard of the guy (I was like TWO when his comic debuted, and I didn’t read ANY indie comics until I was well into my twenties), and I thought he was kind of a wuss (I mean, a samurai bunny rabbit?), but the series is quite beloved and has a lot of respect, despite the fact that I’m almost 100% certain I’ve never seen a single volume of it in a store until 4-5 years ago. And I’m in a town with a lot of comic book shops- maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places- there aren’t a lot of comics I read in the “U” portion of the shelves (especially since I don’t read X-Books much anymore). Thankfully, I read some in a local library one time, and yeah- they’re definitely quality. I REALLY dug Sakai’s work on the 47 Ronin comic as well- his art style is wonderfully-simplistic, in the best way. It takes a LOT of talent and skills to make so much with so little.

-Unfortunately, as a kid, I gave the character little chance. I found him short, boring-looking and wimpy (a fighting BUNNY)… of course I was also a big fan of the gecko and countless OTHER “wimpy” animals, but what is a kid if not illogical? But I MUCH preferred Casey Jones as “The Turtles’s Non-Turtle Ally”, and despite the two IN NO WAY being in competition, I somehow viewed it like one, and thus Usagi HAD to suck, so that Casey could be the best. Kids, right?

Usagi Joins the ’80s Turtles:
-Usagi appeared in the cartoon & toyline thanks to a deal with Sakai (who ain’t no dummy- why NOT increase the number of people familiar with your character by like a thousand times?)- he received a pair of toys (one named for a side story called Space Usagi about a desendant of his in the far future), and even showed up in the cartoon series! In the cartoon, he is pulled from his world of animal-people into the TMNT’s thanks to a machine of Donatello’s not working properly. Usagi immediately whups on all four brothers, but is finally defeated (by Michaelangelo throwing a PIZZA in his face- against a superior opponent, unconventional tactics will often work) and made to understand that they mean him no harm. There’s also a pointless subplot about him getting stuck working in a Rabbit-Themed Restaurant and leading an “uprising” of the workers against their cruel boss, but it’s rather uninteresting for what’s a pretty long story thread.

-Usagi is trapped on the TMNT Earth, however, and is forced to wait while Donatello tries to perfect his machine. Alas, this never happens- Usagi gets one more episode, and is still waiting. When he is defeated by Shredder in a duel (thanks to cheating via a katana-snagging magnet), he is “honor-bound” to murder the Turtles, and damn near does it- since they can’t fight all-out against a friend, they’re pretty helpless to stop him, and eventually it turns out that the Macguffin Shredder stole is a DRAGON EGG, and only Usagi has the courage to toss the Other Macguffin into the Dragon’s mouth to revert it to an egg-form. He does not reappear in the show thereafter.

Subsequent Guest Shots:
-The 2003 series would bring him in for repeated stories revolving around the Battle Nexus tournament. And he even showed up in the THIRD cartoon, taking five seasons and 119 episodes before appearing in all his trademark gear in the CGI series. An evil monster named Jei slaughters people because he thinks they’re evil themselves, and brings the Turtles to their anthropomorphic world so they can kill Usagi for him- the rabbit ronin has been hunting him for the murders. He defeats all four brothers at once and their brainwashing is broken- Leonardo runs Jei through with his katana, and Usagi takes Jei’s soul into his own blade.

-Usagi is a brilliant swordfighter- easily enough to hold his own with Shredder or Leonardo (he is one of many opponents who can straight-up break Leo’s katana in half with one chop). It’s implied that the Turtles could only stop him if they used extremely-painful tactics against the sword-wielding bunny- four good fighters against a solo elite (among the highest in the series) would usually turn into a numbers game.

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