Writer/Artist: Stan Sakai
Publisher: Dark Horse
Ghost Warriors is a nicely self-contained story, and a good starting point for anyone daunted by Usagi's long history and continuity. Tobu-sama is the harsh and superstitious samurai lord of a small Japanese village. His peasants are suffering under his heavy taxation, and they appeal to the ronin rabbit for help. Through judicious use of paper lanterns, Usagi and the villagers trick Tobu into believing that evil spirits require him to lower taxes.
Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo stories are gentle and unpretentious tales of feudal Japan, told with careful attention to historical accuracy, except that the characters have animal heads. You get used to it. In fact, the anthropomorphism goes a long way to help the reader identify with people from an otherwise unfamiliar culture. Usagi Yojimbo himself is a wandering samurai based on Miyamoto Musashi, an actual historical non-rabbit figure.
Sakai writes, pencils, inks and letters Usagi Yojimbo, and his personality shows through in every panel. In contrast to grim samurai stories like Lone Wolf and Cub, Sakai's tales are full of gentle humour, and his heroes are good-natured and generous. Sakai also works as a letterer on Groo, and there are obvious similarities in style and presentation. Like Groo, there is sometimes violence, but it is always rendered in a cartoon style that makes it palatable and inoffensive. Characters fight and die, but they never bleed.
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