It is hard for any story to follow the mammoth epic that preceded this volume. But this handful of stand-alone tales both blend perfectly into Usagi’s journey and appear distinctively different. We have moved from the historical grandeur of nation spanning events to the intimate emotions of individuals.
A new theme that makes its debut here is the murder mystery. Given the rigid rules regarding evidence, social class and examination of the dead, being a detective is almost impossible in this setting. But we are introduced to the new character of Inspector Ishida and his quaint notion of “Justice for All.” Like many previous stories they don’t actually need Usagi as he is very much in the background and it might even have paid to give Inspector Ishida his own comic. But he does fit very well into the world that Sakai has created.
This is also a very educational issue too. We learn all about sword testing, detective work, courtesans, theatre, and more without ever leaving the plot at hand. Another of the themes present is that of children. From individual children and the joy and pain they bring, to whole orphanages. Sakai seems to have an affinity for their mannerisms and speech and they lighten some very dark themes.
Another definite Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 14 – Demon Mask – Stan Sakai