Monday, October 08, 2007

Book Review: Usagi Yojimbo - Fathers and Sons

(written at Goodreads: Amazon link)
The hero, Usagi, is a ronin (unattached samurai) in a historical Japan after the great wars. As such, he is in the midst of a time of change, which much conflict, but most of it is not in the open. The social order is changing, and Usagi is finding his place in it. Along the way, he is joined by his son, Jotaro. But Jotaro does not realize he is Usagi's son, and knows Usagi as an uncle.

In this volume and volume 18 they travel through Japan to Jotaro's new teacher (who was Usagi's teacher). Along the way they meet many of Usagi's friends, encounter those who are also trying to carve out places for themselves in a new Japanese society (some of them through intimidation and violence), and other fathers, who are also trying to provide for and teach their sons the ways of the world and their place in it. One recurring bit of amusement occurs when Usagi's friends and others that encounter them along the way identify Jotaro as Usagi's son, even as they are introduced to Jotaro as a nephew, as they observe how they interact with each other.

Stan Sakai creates an engaging world with characters that are rich in motivation and backgrounds. Many lessons are taught and learned. Many mistakes are made, and there is even nobility and courage. And when you are done, you wish them well, those that continue their journey, and those that are left behind.

There is a strain of the arts that presents the purpose of the arts is to present the human condition, in its richness, grandeur, and in the mundane. And this is a fine example of this.
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