Review – Usagi Yojimbo: Dragon Bellow Conspiracy
Writer/Artist/Letterer – Stan Sakai
Colourist – Ronda Pattison
Cover Art – David Petersen
Publisher – IDW Publishing
Release Date – 30th June 2021
A sinister plot to overthrow the Shogun percolates and one of Usagi’s friends is captured! The ensuing machinations will draw in not only Usagi, but bounty hunter Gen, and the blind swordspig Zato-Ino!
Our favourite anthropomorphic rabbit Ronin returns for another adventure. Stan Sakai brings us another exciting instalment of feudal Japan and our Samurai hero, Miyamoto Usagi. (Originally published in Usagi Yojimbo Volume 1 issues 13-19).
Stan Sakai drew on many influences for the creation of Usagi Yojimbo and we can see nods to Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Yojimbo’, the movies ‘Zatoichi’ and ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’. We can also see the influence that his time as a letterer on Sergio Aragones’ ‘Groo the Wanderer’ had on the creation of the character. Sakai perfectly depicts the lead character in the Edo period of feudal Japan. And as a result we are treated to an accurate portrayal of that time period served with an enthralling tale. This storyline when first published was one of the first major story arcs for Usagi and is still as enjoyable as it was when we first read it.
Not only is Sakai a master story-teller, he is also artist and letterer on his marvellous creation. The artwork pairs beautifully with the story-telling and captures the look and feel of 16th/17th Century Japan to great effect. And his work on the anthropomorphic characters is really well done and does not feel childish in the way they are drawn. The addition of Ronda Pattison brings subtle colouring which is in keeping with the time period and certainly her influence accentuates Sakai’s book further. But special mention must be made to Cover Artist David Petersen as his portrayal of Usagi Yojimbo gives a fascinating variant look for our Hero.
Stan Sakai is a legend and is deserving of the hero worship he receives. Usagi Yojimbo is his greatest creation and it continues to enthral and entertain in equal measure. So it’s no wonder that Sakai himself was inducted into the Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2020. Thoroughly enjoyable for people just discovering this title for the first time or for returning fans.
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