Title: The Art Of Usagi Yojimbo
Distributor: Dark Horse Books
Artist: Stan Sakai
Suggested Retail Price (SRP): £27.99 (Hardback)
Number of Pages: 202
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
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'.