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Peek at a Proof-of-Concept for an Animated USAGI YOJIMBO!

Writing this at the stage of still-haven't-slept-post-BNAT delirium where I really should be sleeping, but we'll see how far I make it.

Before anyone looks at the clip's posting date and "FIRST!s" with "dude...this has been around a while lol": chill, dude...I know.


If you only know Usagi Yojimbo from the brief crossover with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the cartoon or toys), you have been missing out on 30 years of one of the best comics (creator-owned or otherwise) in existence, written, drawn, and lettered by the great Stan Sakai.

Usagi Yojimbo lives and breathes the influence of samurai cinema, from the major prestige stuff (Yojimbo & Sanjuro by Kurosawa) to the various iterations of stories like Satomi hakkenden (one of the versions of which Sakai saw at age 5). Replace the humans with a bunch of anthropomorphized characters while retaining the stakes of a samurai movie starring Toshiro Mifune, and you have a rough sense of what to expect.

This proof-of-concept short was made by a team of industry veterans who love the source material, and it shows. With a real budget, the below is really promising.

The above clip has been on YouTube for a few months, but my attention only turned to it when the producer/director sent an email to me about sending a batch of the 2009 "25th Anniversary" resin statues (made by his company, RokuToys) for giveaway at BNAT this year. I wish it'd gotten much, much more press upon its original posting. I hope this post gets it and, by extension, all of Stan's work, even more attention than it already has.

I love that they're employing both hand-drawn-style, 2D animation as well as stop-motion.  I'm hearing that their meetings with prospective investors has been going well, and your eyeballs, "Likes", and comments on the above video are a great way for you to help.


The comic series itself is great (one of my favorites for some time), and is readily available in collected form. As of October, Dark Horse started publishing new, 600-page deluxe "Saga" collections. Volume 1 is a very reasonably-priced way to try it out (around $20).

A few weeks later, the sad news arrived in late November that Stan Sakai's wife Sharon had died after a long battle with a brain tumor. When I met the Sakais at my first San Diego Comic-Con, she seemed to be feeling under the weather, but they both kept chugging along, manning their booth and selling books and sketches. No one could have known it would be the last one Sharon would attend. The rest of the public and I wouldn't learn until a couple of years later that she was more ill than she let on. I'm glad I got to meet her.

Sakai is a true craftsman, but beyond that, he's the kind of creative artist everyone should look up to and learn from. Meeting and chatting with him at a few San Diego Comic-Cons over the last few years, I can attest that he lives up to his reputation as among the kindest, most sincere, hardest-working people in comics. In an interview this year, Sergio Aragonés told me "Stan Sakai is a wonderful human being," and it's a sentiment shared by everyone I've spoken with who's worked with or known Stan.

I've spent bits and pieces of the last two years working on an episode of a comics podcast I do with John Gholson. It's an installment that is specifically geared toward introducing people to Usagi Yojimbo, which should post before the end of the year. My favorite bit of information I've learned while interviewing and talking to Stan is the story of how he and Sharon met. He told it to me in a couple of lines:

"Oh, we met at a party over at a friend's house. We got along really well and have kind of just been inseparable ever since."

Sometimes, the most touching stories can be the simplest, the most spare, the most unfettered by flowery adjectives. You know, adjectives like "unfettered".


This semi-rambling, unapologetically sentimental post isn't exclusively a result of sleep deprivation after BNAT, though to be fair, that's part of what formed it. I had intended to write something about how, for me, Usagi Yojimbo is the sort of thing that I find myself talking about before, on breaks, or after the big show. I'll chat with the handful of fellow BNAT-goers who are also into it, or find myself evangelizing it to those who don't know it but whom I know would love it.

It was great to see the looks of delight on existing Usagi fans' faces when I said "hey, guess what we'll have first-come, first-served out in the lobby". It was great to share that the above-embedded short existed to those, like me, who didn't know it was out there.

To be perfectly honest though, what I enjoyed most was overhearing those who didn't know Usagi existed, and were at once delighted to know that they had a bunch of samurai adventures to dig into and absorb. Conversations like those are what make BNAT the experience that many of us look forward to each year.

I'll post about the BNAT movies themselves, too. I had a version of the above drafted, but just erased all of it and re-wrote from scratch. Forgive 

We'll see how long I can stay awake.


Moisés Chiullan / "Monty Cristo"
email - Podcasts About Storytelling

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