The Art Of Usagi Yojimbo

Distributor: Dark Horse Books

Artist: Stan Sakai

Suggested Retail Price (SRP): 27.99 (Hardback)

Number of Pages: 202

ISBN: 1-59307-268-6

Reviewed: 31st January 2006

Reviewer: Tom (Webmaster)

Released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the long-running series of the samurai rabbit, The Art Of Usagi Yojimbo is certainly worth the twenty year wait is it contains the definitive collection of art of Stan Sakai's much-loved creation. 

The book opens with a humorous yet informative manga by Sakai which features himself talking the reader through his creative process in which he draws the character of Usagi Yojimbo from scratch.  Sakai not only shows his preliminary sketching process in this manga, he even talks about issues such as the lettering in the panels, how he researches his ideas and even criticisms he has faced as well a brief glimpse of his childhood.  Although this introductory manga is only fifteen pages long Sakai manages to cram in as much information as possible without overwhelming the reader and, by doing so, gives a light-hearted serious view of his manga rather then an inclusive arrogant view. 

The book then moves on to show the earliest work of Usagi Yojimbo and contains many original concept sketches by Sakai as well as early appearances by the character in the comic Critters.  Several full-size early art covers and interior designs also appear as well as early manga strips.  This section is not afraid to show Usagi's crude beginnings and the much different smaller of how he first appeared in Critters.  As a whole the section offers a valuable insight into how Usagi has evolved over time, something which is often missing from art books. 

The book then moves on to show complete colour mangas of Sakai's usual black & white only work, these include a manga completed only in sumptuous watercolours and a manga completed in traditional coloured inks.  Although these colour manga have appeared in print before, their inclusion in this art book is welcome as the high standard of the glossy paper really does these stories justice, the manga completed in watercolours in particular.  A section later in book features another fantastic watercolour as all the covers in glorious colour as well as some exclusive promotional images. 

All of the images featured in The Art Of Usagi Yojimbo are of a high, full-size quality that left me more then a little impressed.  Add onto that yet more concept sketches, exclusive artwork and full descriptions of every image in the book and you have one of the most informative, beautiful and fun art books that you can buy. 


An art gallery is included which features interoperations of the character by several comic legends including Frank Miller, Paul Chadwick and Tim Sale among others.  The results are certainly interesting with many artists focusing on the darker side of the comic to produce some menacing yet incredible images. 

Also included is a small biography of Sakai and an introduction by his consulting editor Diana Schutz.  Both offer a good insight into the artist and show that he lives to his moniker 'the nicest man in comics'. 


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