Usagi Yojimbo #148
Dark Horse Comics
Written by: Stan Sakai
Art by: Stan Sakai
The One-Armed Swordsman 1 of 1.
Usagi has a very rich and long history of one shot comic issues that are entertaining and have the feeling of a full length comic arc. Usagi is a wandering ronin (samurai without a lord), and he makes a habit of wandering into trouble or into the thick of a plot. This time, Usagi finds a fellow ronin, who lost his honor when he lost a duel with another samurai known as Te (The Hand). Even though he is without his right hand, the fellow ronin is very underestimated by a band of robbers. A very large theme of the Usagi chronicles is that each story or arc has a lesson that is to be learned. At the outset of this comic I saw it as “never underestimate your opponent”. But as the story continued, that changed.
Stan Sakai’s art and writing deserves each and every award that he has every received, most recently the Eisner Award for “Best Lettering”. The emphasis on certain words has the reader feeling the tempo of the action as everything is going on. The quickness of swordplay in this anthropomorphic feudal Japan is fast paced, and the artwork keeps that pace moving. The robbers’ body language shows the stress and pain of underestimating their foe, and the quick but calm movements of the ronin show how in control of their actions they are.
Seeing the One-Armed Swordsman hold his own in battle, you can see Usagi learning the lesson of underestimating people. But as he is told about Te (the Hand), you get the sense that there is a vengeance mission being plotted. Eventually, the story progresses some time as Usagi runs into The Hand. The samurai tries to get Usagi to challenge him, however, as routine readers of Usagi would know, the rabbit has no need to prove himself to anyone, and ignores the comments. But there is a challenger in the crowd, and he does challenge Te. When Usagi confronts the One-Armed ronin in the end, he imparts a wisdom to Usagi and the readers. It was never about vengeance or any other kind of payback. The reason he fought Te was simple, “There are some people in this world who are just too evil to exist.” It seems another wayward ronin has found a moral code to follow even though he is dishonored and lord-less.