FAQ: Questions about Stan Sakai's other characters

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[Editorial comments in boldface text.]


  1. Usagi's world is fantastic! It's just like 17th century Japan -- except with animals instead of humans! How did they evolve? Why is a horse a horse but a rabbit a person?
  2. Well yes, but a bunny as big as a rhino? And what about the talking cats, dogs and other critters walking around?
  3. Do the characters in Usagi Yojimbo have tails?
  4. Is Lord Hikiji a human?
  5. In UY Book 1 (and Critters #10), Lord Hikiji made Kenichi the magistrate of Usagi's hometown. Does this mean that Kenichi is now a samurai in service to Lord Hikiji?
  6. Who is the most popular character in Usagi Yojimbo?
  7. Is Jotaro really Usagi's son?
  8. Will we be seeing Jotaro again?
  9. Is there any possibility that Usagi has descendants in modern day Japan?
  10. What are those little dinosaur/lizard things that always appear in the backgrounds?
  11. Do the tokagé have any basis in Japanese history, or are they purely a product of the writer's fancy?
  12. Are you ever going to do a story about the lizards?
  13. Why did bands of tokagé attack Gen and Usagi? I thought tokagé were friendly (or at least docile)?
  14. Will the lizards ever get their own mini-series?
  15. Did you get a lot of outrage when Spot died?
  16. Do any character's names (beside Usagi) mean anything in Japanese?
  17. Why are there so many ronin in Usagi's world?
  18. Why are there so few rabbits in Usagi's world?
  19. Okay, why are there so few rhinos?
  20. How do you pick what animal the characters will be?
  21. What about those monkey-characters who keep appearing in the comic? What's the story with them? And are they really humans, or what?
  22. How are some of the archers in Usagi Yojimbo sometimes able to shoot so many arrows in such a short time, (like in UY Vol 3, #5 and UY Book 10)?
  23. Did the name Mifune (Usagi's lord) come from Kurosawa regular actor Toshiro Mifune?
  24. Lord Sakana-no-Ashiyubi's mon (crest) appears to be a gourd, any reason behind that?
  25. Will Usagi meet any Chinese characters someday? Will they be tigers?
  26. Why has Usagi not met with any of the people who arrived in Japan on the "black ships"?
  27. How do you pronounce "Kitsuné" and "Tomoe"?
  28. Is Kitsuné (the performer in Usagi Yojimbo) a person or is she really one of the mythical kitsuné?
  29. Usagi and Tomoe Ame make a great team! Any plans for romance for those two?
  30. All right then, how about Gen and Inazuma?
  31. How about introducing more cat/feline samurai characters in future issues of Usagi Yojimbo?
  32. Will Usagi ever meet another samurai who served under Lord Mifune? If so, would the samurai see Usagi as a failure because Lord Mifune died?
  33. Is it possible that Lord Mifune's son could be alive?
  34. What is the significance of Jei-san's blade being black in color?
  35. Why does Keiko call Jei-san "uncle"?
  36. How did Jei's "black soul" come to take over Inazuma?
  37. Are any of your characters in Usagi Yojimbo based on real people?
  38. What is that object on Katsuichi-sensei's staff?
  39. Is Katsuichi-sensei's eyepatch made from the hand guard of a sword?
  40. Will the two disciples taught by Katsuichi-sensei before Usagi appear in any stories?
  41. Will we be seeing Zato-Ino in a story again?
  42. What species will Zato-Ino's child be?
  43. What does the Shogun in Usagi Yojimbo look like? What type of animal is he?
  44. Usagi has had two Koroshi assassins try to kill him (so far). What does the name "Koroshi" mean?
  45. Since Usagi was inspired by Miyamoto Musashi, are any of the other characters based on Muso Gonnosuke, the only (known) man to best Musashi in a challenge?
  46. Has Usagi met his world's version of Sasaki Kojiro, one of Miyamoto Musashi's most skilled rivals?
  47. That really suprised me when Fumiye (UY Vol 3, #8 and UY Book 10, "A Promise in the Snow") turned out to be a ghost! Is there any chance that Fumiye might become a Yuki-Onna?
  48. Where did you get the inspiration for Priest Sanshobo?
  49. Is General Ikeda from "The Patience of the Spider" (UY Vol 3, #10 and UY Book 11) and "Ikeda" (UY Vol 3, #19-20 and UY Book 12) the same person as "Lord Ikeda" whom Priest Sanshobo once served as a samurai, as mentioned in "The Bonze's Story (UY Vol 3, #3 and UY Book 10)?
  50. Lord Noriyuki seems awfully young to be Lord of the Geishu, even younger than the 15-year age of majority in feudal Japan. How old is he?
  51. Inspector Ishida is one of your best supporting characters! How about giving him his own series?
  52. How can Inspector Ishida think of himself as upholding the law when he knew Usagi had something to do with not one but two murders, and let him go anyway?
  53. Is the name of the Dogora School of Bujutsu (military arts) based on any real place?
  54. Was the old woman, Chiyo, in "The Courtesan" [UY Vol. 3, #28-29 and UY Book 13] based on the title character of the book Memoir of a Geisha?
  55. Are there "real" versions of the animals in Usagi's world, sharing that niche with the tokagé?
  56. Did you choose to set your comic at the turn of the 17th century because that's when Miyamoto Musashi lived?
  57. You've passed yet another milestone with Usagi Yojimbo [Vol. 3] #37! Please tell us about it!

Usagi's world is fantastic! It's just like 17th century Japan -- except with animals instead of humans! How did they evolve? Why is a horse a horse but a rabbit a person?

(UY Vol 2, #2) Gennosuké: "Who're you calling an 'animal'?"

Miyamoto Usagi: "'Evolve'? I don't understand. We are creations of the gods as are all things around us."


Well yes, but a bunny as big as a rhino? And what about the talking cats, dogs and other critters walking around?

(UY Vol 2, #2) Miyamoto Usagi: "I still don't understand! We are all individuals -- different one from another. Do all the people in your world look like yourselves?"


Do the characters in Usagi Yojimbo have tails?

(UY Vol 2, #2) Gennosuké: "Hey, don't get personal!"

(UY Vol 1, #24) I knew it would come up some day, and I've dreaded it since the beginning.

Frankly, I don't know. I don't know if any of my characters have tails. I know they should have tails, but giving them tails would make them somehow a bit too animalistic.

I've avoided answering this question by always keeping my characters clothed.

I guess this is something theologists will debate for years to come, along with creationism vs. evolution.


Is Lord Hikiji a human?

(UY Vol 1, #10) Yes, Lord Hikiji is indeed a human, one of the very few that have appeared in the pages of Usagi.

(WWW Board May 2000) I don't think I'll remove Hikiji's appearance in UY Book 1. I still regret showing him but after 6 or 7 printings it's a bit late to take him out. I originally depicted him as human for the shock value and for a storyline I was working on. I haven't completely abandoned that story but it has changed as Usagi's story has gotten much more complex.

(UY Vol 2, #16) I did show Lord Hikiji as a human in the last panel of "Lone Rabbit and Child" to give the story a dramatic ending and now I regret doing it. I have since envisioned him as a Sauron-like character (from Lord of the Rings) who is never really seen but whose presence is always felt manipulating events from behind the scenes.


In UY Book 1 (and Critters #10), Lord Hikiji made Kenichi the magistrate of Usagi's hometown. Does this mean that Kenichi is now a samurai in service to Lord Hikiji?

(UY Vol 2, #11) Since Hikiji is the lord of the province, Kenichi is in service to him. Remember, though, that it's just a small town and would probably never again be noticed by the lord.


Who is the most popular character in Usagi Yojimbo?

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991 FIXME Broken link) Besides Usagi, it's a toss-up between Gen the bounty hunter and Tomoe, and probably Spot, Usagi's pet lizard -- but Spot's already dead now.


Is Jotaro really Usagi's son?

(UY Vol 1, #31) Jotaro is, indeed, Usagi's son. I've been telegraphing that since Critters #10 with Kenichi's intensified hatred of Usagi, references to that last picnic and, especially, the family resemblance.


Will we be seeing Jotaro again?

(WWW Board Aug 2000) Jotaro will return in the story arc entitled "Duel at Kitanoji", which is the next major arc after Grasscutter II.


Is there any possibility that Usagi has descendants in modern day Japan?

(Dark Horse Maverick Board, November 2000) There have been stories about Usagi's descendants, though some of them unpublished. There were three Space Usagi miniseries, now collected in a tpbk [trade paperback]. I also started, but never finished, a story of a contemporary descendant in a whodunnit type mystery. She is an investigative reporter named Terry Miyamoto. Nothing in WW2, though.

(Comic Culture Vol 2 #2 Interview, Dec 1994 FIXME Broken link) I do have a few other time periods in mind. In fact I've already started a whodunit story, one of those Agatha Christie type mysteries with Usagi's twentieth century descendant [Terry Miyamoto] who's an investigative reporter. I started that over four years ago, I really haven't had time to do it besides a few pages.

(Comics Interview #44 Interview, August 1987 FIXME Broken link) Oh, that's something I didn't think of. Maybe I could do a spin-off, a funny animal modern-day ninja/samurai story. I've just been dealing with Usagi as a character in feudal Japan. Yeah, that's interesting. Maybe I'll do it as a backup to Usagi one day. [Terry Miyamoto, Space Usagi].


What are those little dinosaur/lizard things that always appear in the backgrounds?

(UY Vol 1, #7) What can I say? I love dinosaurs. I love their shapes and I love to draw them. They've appeared somewhere in all my stories except one. I call them "tokagé" which, in Japanese, simply means "lizard." They're omnivorous and are the scavengers of Usagi's world, taking the place of rats and other vermin in ours. They're also cute and cuddly and are enchanting pets.

(Comics Buyer's Guide #1235 Interview, 1997 FIXME Broken link) Fans have actually asked if those dinosaurs existed at that time in Japan! The dinosaurs came about because, well...I like drawing dinosaurs! Also, I needed something to take the place of the pets and scavengers of Usagi's world. Rats, cats, dogs and things are potential people! So I needed something to fill that niche, and the dinosaurs are perfect.

(Comics Interview #44 Interview, August 1987 FIXME Broken link) One question I'm frequently asked is, "What are those dinosaur/lizard creatures that always appear in the stories?" Well, I, like most cartoonists, love dinosaurs, so I drew in a mini-bronotosaurus-type lizard in the first Nilson story and they've appeared in every one of my stories since then, usually in the background. They're omnivorous and act as the scavengers in Usagi's world. They've gotten pretty popular and so I'm planning a story seen entirely through the eyes of one of these lizards

["The Lizard's Tale", UY Vol 2, #6 and UY Book 8]

. In another story, Usagi takes one for a pet

["The Tower", UY Vol 1, #7 and UY Book 3]

.


Do the tokagé have any basis in Japanese history, or are they purely a product of the writer's fancy?

(UY Vol 3, #11) The lizards are just a figment of the writer's imagination, though they do serve a purpose in the ecosystem. With few exceptions, rats, cats, and dogs are "people" in Usagi's world, so the tokagé serve as the system's scavengers and pets.


Are you ever going to do a story about the lizards?

(UY Vol 2, #6) At least part of "The Lizard's Story" may seem familiar to some readers. The first two pages were originally printed in Critters #23 from Fantagraphics way back in 1988 (an issue particularly noteworthy because it contained a flexidisc record of Alan Moore's "March of the Sinister Ducks").

I had long wanted to do a story featuring those darn lizards that are always running around in the backgrounds and that vignette was a good starting point.

It was originally done in pantomime so I thought I'd continue the story as such. That'll show Sergio Aragonés that he's not the only one who can write without words.

[See The Tower and The Lizard's Tale]


Why did bands of tokagé attack Gen and Usagi? I thought tokagé were friendly (or at least docile)?

(UY Vol 3, #11) There was a band of killer tokagé controlled by a trainer in the first part of "Gen's Story" (UY Book 7

[and UY Vol. 1, #34]

). Other than that, they've been pretty passive. The ones that attacked Usagi

[UY Vol 3, #8 and UY Book 10]

were desperate with starvation.


Will the lizards ever get their own mini-series?

(Comic Culture Vol 2 #2 Interview, Dec 1994 FIXME Broken link) Probably not. Actually, there was one lizard called Spot that was Usagi's pet for a while. He got killed in

[UY Vol 1]

issue eighteen or whatever and I got more outraged fan mail from that than from anything else. It was actually released at the San Diego Comic Con that year. I had alluded to him dying in previous issues, but when people saw issue eighteen and still saw Spot around, it's "Oh wow, Spot's not dead, he's alive, terrific." But he dies at the end of the issue. So people came back the next day and said "You bastard, you killed him!" So yeah, we got lots of fan mail when that came out.


Did you get a lot of outrage when Spot died?

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991 FIXME Broken link) The issue in which he died was issue

[UY Vol 1]

#18. I had kind of alluded to his death in

[UY Vol 1]

#17;

[UY Vol 1]

#18 came out at the San Diego Con, and people were coming up to me and saying, "Oh, wow, Spot's still alive! I'm so glad!" And the next day they came back and say, "You bastard, you killed him off!" So yeah, I got a few letters and a few responses at the conventions about Spot, but Spot is dead. He's not coming back. Actually, I created Spot just so that he could die. "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy" ran from issue

[UY Vol 1]

#13 thru #18 and issues

[UY Vol 1]

#7-12 were short stories kind of gearing up for that by introducing and re-introducing characters that would be instrumental in that storyline. Spot was introduced in issue

[UY Vol 1]

#7. Actually I had thought I'd keep him around a while, but then I found Spot to be a liability as far as storytelling was concerned, so I had Spot go off with Zato-Ino the blind swordspig, just because it was difficult to write stories around Usagi with Spot hanging around.


Do any character's names (beside Usagi) mean anything in Japanese?

(WWW Board August 2000) "Oyaneko" means "old cat".

(WWW Board June 2000) Yes. Some are traditional names like Také which means "bamboo" but there are others that are just ridiculous such as Lord Sakana-no-Ashiyubi in Grasscutter. His name translates as "fish toes".

(UY Vol 2, #6) Some names you might consider for

[a]

character are: Hideaki (excellent brightness), Isamu (courageous), Koichi (glistening one), Masao (proper male) or Tadashi (loyal).

(UY Vol 2, #4) The name "Moyashi" literally means "bean sprout".

(UY Vol 1, #38) Incidentally, "Yagi" means "goat" and "Gorogoro" is the sound your stomach makes when it rumbles.

(UY Vol 1, #21) Katsuichi means "win" (Katsu) "one" (ichi), or "One who wins"; Etsuko means "Child who rejoices"; Kazuko means "Peaceful Child"; Tatsutaro means "Great, wise son."

These are all legitimate names. Of course, I've also used such names as:

"Takohana" (Octopus nose), "Okii Ashiyubi" (Big Toes), "Koriko" (Ice Child) and "Atsuko" (Hot Child).

I usually add footnotes or translations for words that are integral to the storyline but most names are either picked at random or because they sound good.


Why are there so many ronin in Usagi's world?

(WWW Board June 2000) After many, many years of warfare, peace came upon the land with the emergence of the Tokugawa Shogunate. As a result, there were a lot of samurai warriors who were suddenly redundant and had to find another way of life than serving a lord who could no longer afford them.


Why are there so few rabbits in Usagi's world?

(UY Vol 3, #37) There have certainly been other rabbits. Kenichi and Mariko come to mind, as well as that bandit chief in "Horse Thief"

[Critters #3 and UY Book 1]

.

(WWW Board June 2000) There are a lot more rabbits than you think. Better to ask why there are so few rhinos.


Okay, why are there so few rhinos?

(WWW Board June 2000) I guess not many of them emigrated so far north.


How do you pick what animal the characters will be?

(WWW Board May 2000) Most animals are chosen by what I feel like drawing at the moment.

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991) I do it both ways

[choose an animal type based on the character, and develop the character based on the animal type]

. I chose a rhino for Gen just because I kind of like the massiveness of the rhino...and he looks great with a five o'clock shadow. It looks so distinctive. Other times I've created a character or design and evolve a persona around that character. Like Jei, the demon possessed spearman. I created a design for him first and thought, "Wow, what a great looking character." So I made a story based on that design. Jei appears again in the four-part "Circles"

[UY Vol 1, #28-31]

storyline that I'm working on currently.

The only time I've ever actually tried to use the animal characteristics for the character is when I created Lord Mifune, Usagi's original Lord, and I wanted someone that was noble and strong, so I used a tiger for him. But I think that is the only time I did that....Oh, another time: Katsuichi, who's a lion. Again, I wanted someone strong and very proud.

Well, a lot of the minor characters I use are generic animal shapes. They aren't animals per se.

[Interviewer: Like Carl Bark's pig/dog creatures.]

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Throw-away secondary characters like village people, miscellaneous bandits, atmosphere people.


What about those monkey-characters who keep appearing in the comic? What's the story with them? And are they really humans, or what?

(Amazing Heroes #187 Interview, January 1991 FIXME Broken link) (Laughs) You mean the woodcutters? Well, that started off as a joke. Whenever I needed woodcutters I always brought them in, and they seem to be popping up all over the place. They've probably appeared in more Usagi stories than anyone else, and they were never, ever part of the stories themselves.

[In the penciled version of the first story]

They were human. Actually, I think I've used humans in the Usagi stories about four times, and, well, humans are animals too. What can I say?


How are some of the archers in Usagi Yojimbo sometimes able to shoot so many arrows in such a short time, (like in UY Vol 3, #5 and UY Book 10)?

(WWW Board June 2000) I've taken a lot of liberties for the sake of story telling and this is one of them.

Speaking of Japanese archery, I've been doing a bit of research and found that the bow is drawn back with the thumb rather than the index and middle fingers of European archery. Also a thumb ring is often worn. This has nothing to do with your question, though. Just an interesting fact.


Did the name Mifune (Usagi's lord) come from Kurosawa regular actor Toshiro Mifune?

(WWW Board June 2000) Usagi's lord was indeed named after Toshiro Mifune. Also, Gen is a homage to the character he portrayed in Yojimbo and Sanjuro. I saw Mifune once and he was a very impressive man.

(UY Vol 1, #28) Gen was modeled after Toshiro Mifune's "Yojimbo/Sanjuro" character but I don't remember why I decided to use that name. It was probably just because it sounded good.


Lord Sakana-no-Ashiyubi's mon (crest) appears to be a gourd, any reason behind that?

(WWW Board May 2000) There's no particular reasoning for the gourd aside from the fact that I needed a mon.


Will Usagi meet any Chinese characters someday? Will they be tigers?

(WWW Board August 2000) The story that has been "in development" for the past few years has Usagi meeting up with a character inspired by the 19th century doctor Wong Fei Hung. He'll be a bear, though.


Why has Usagi not met with any of the people who arrived in Japan on the "black ships"?

(WWW Board August 2000) One of the obstacles I've come across is that foreigners were restricted to certain areas such as the port city of Yokohama and were very regulated. It was treason punishable by death for any unauthorized citizen to have even the slightest contact with a foreigner.

(UY Vol 3, #37) As I mentioned in a previous letters column, foreigners were restricted to designated areas of a trade city, such as Nagasaki. It was an act of treason, punishable by death, for unauthorized persons to have any interaction with a gaijin. The samurai mystery novel, The Way of the Traitor by Laura Joh Rowland, deals with this very issue.

(UY Vol 3, #30) Foreigners were restricted to certain cities such as Nagasaki. They were not allowed outside these areas without armed escorts, and even their movements within the cities were carefully regulated. It was treason for an ordinary Japanese citizen to have any interaction with "barbarians." You can see the difficulty in plotting a story in which Usagi meets a foreigner. However, I do have a couple over the horizon. They will just take a while.


How do you pronounce "Kitsuné" and "Tomoe"?

(WWW Board August 2000) "Kitsuné" has three syllables. Ki-tsu-neh.

Another name I'm frequently asked about is "Tomoe" which also has three syllables: Toe-moe-eh.

In Space Usagi, I changed the traditional spelling of her name to "Tomoeh" to reinforce the pronounciation but got a few complaints so it was changed back in the trade collection.

(UY Vol 2, #8) I found a lot of fans mispronounced Tomoe's name as "Tomo" (with a silent "e"). I added the "h" at the end to emphasize that her name has three syllables: To-mo-eh.


Is Kitsuné (the performer in Usagi Yojimbo) a person or is she really one of the mythical kitsuné?

(UY Vol 3, #5) 1) The kitsuné, or fox, of folklore is a sometimes benevolent, often malevolent, magical animal with the ability to change its appearance, usually into a beautiful woman who may lead an unsuspecting male to his doom. Usagi's friend is named after this creature; however, he did meet a real kitsuné in the third Color Special way back in 1992.


Usagi and Tomoe Ame make a great team! Any plans for romance for those two?

(UY Vol 1, #17) As for a Usagi/Tomoe romance, they now regard themselves as comrades, but who knows the future?


All right then, how about Gen and Inazuma?

(UY Vol 3, #25) I've received, surprisingly, quite a few letters suggesting Gen and Inazuma as a possible pair. It's something to think about.


How about introducing more cat/feline samurai characters in future issues of Usagi Yojimbo?

(UY Vol 2, #16) Nope. Sharon's allergic to cats.


Will Usagi ever meet another samurai who served under Lord Mifune? If so, would the samurai see Usagi as a failure because Lord Mifune died?

(UY Vol 2, #16) There are Mifune loyalists wandering around. Perhaps Usagi will meet up with one or more of them.

(UY Vol 2, #11) If the samurai saw Usagi as a failure wouldn't he, as another ex-vassal, have to consider himself a failure also?

Actually, Usagi ran into Gunichi, a fellow bodyguard to Lord Mifune, way back in Usagi Vol. 1, #1 (reprinted in UY Book Two ). We don't know what Gunichi thought of Usagi since he was killed before he said a word.


Is it possible that Lord Mifune's son could be alive?

(UY Vol 1, #21) No.


What is the significance of Jei-san's blade being black in color?

(WWW Board May 2000) The sword is the soul of the samurai and that is why he's referred to as "Jei and his black soul". There was even a story titled "Black Soul" -- the one in which he meets Keiko

[UY Vol 2, #13 and UY Book 9]

.


Why does Keiko call Jei-san "uncle"?

(UY Vol 3, #20) I should explain the niece/uncle relationship between Keiko and Jei, as they're not really related. In Japanese, she would be calling him "Onii-san," literally "big brother," but it is also used as a term of affection toward an older male. I substituted the more western "uncle" for "big brother" as it conveys the same sort of meaning.

(UY Vol 3, #23)

[Correction:]

So Keiko would actually be calling Jei oji-san (uncle), not to be confused with ojii-san (grandfather), which she would call him if the age difference were greater.


How did Jei's "black soul" come to take over Inazuma?

(UY Vol 3, #25) I don't know how Jei's "black soul" is possessing her as I don't know how Jei, himself, was possessed.


Are any of your characters in Usagi Yojimbo based on real people?

(Sequential Tart Interview, Feb 2001) Tomoe Gozen lived in the 12th century during the Gempei War, Japan's Civil War, and was famed for her martial skill as well as her beauty. She was the consort of Lord Kiso Yoshinaka who conquered Kyoto and set himself up as Shogun. His older half-brother drove Kiso out of the capital and cornered him in Uji Province. Kiso refused to let Tomoe die with him because it would lessen his status as a samurai and a man so she jumped on her horse, attacked the opposing army and cut off the general's head. She went on to become a nun. The visuals of my Tomoe Ame was based on Etsuko Shiomi, a star in the 80's. Incidentally, Tomoe Ame is also the name of a candy I used to eat as a kid (each box came with a toy).

Another historical figure, Date Masamune, became the model for Lord Hikiji who plays an important part in Usagi's wanderings. It was Hikiji who killed Usagi's lord, making him a masterless warrior. Masamune actually lived in the 16-17th century and aspired to become Shogun himself. He was a visionary and sent the first delegation of samurai to Europe.

I have also created characters based on Japanese pop culture. Lone Goat and Kid is, of course, a tip of the hat to Lone Wolf and Cub. Zato-Ino, the blind swordspig is based on Zato-Ichi the blind swordsman, star of twenty-seven movies as well as a TV series.

(Silver Bullet Comics Interview, November 2000) Many of my characters are inspired by actual persons from Japanese history, such as Usagi, and some other were from Japanese pop culture. Another character from Japanese movies was Zato-Ino, from Shintaro Katsu's Zato-Ichi the Blind Swordsman, the star of about 27 movies as well as a TV series. My Zato-Ino ("inoshishi" means "wild pig") was a blind swordspig with a keen sense of smell as pigs often have -- they're used to root out truffles that grow beneath the ground. Anyway, in their first encounter, Usagi cuts off Ino's nose thereby rendering him truly blind. Ino does come back later with a wooden nose. It works just as well but now everything is pine scented.

(Comic Culture Vol 2 #2 Interview, Dec 1994 FIXME Broken link) There's Gen the bounty hunter, who was a direct tribute to Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, played by Toshiro Mifune, with his gnarly, unshaven face and the way he manipulates characters.

There's a blind swordspig, Zato Ino, which is inspired by a movie series in Japan called Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman. Basically it was the adventures of a blind wandering swordsman. Zato's profession was a masseur, he used to massage people, that was an occupation held by a lot of blind people those days and his actual name was Ichi. But with my Zato Ino he's a blind swordspig and he finds through his sense of smell, because pigs have this amazing sense of smell. In Europe they're used to smell truffles underground. Anyway, in their first encounter Usagi cuts off his nose, thereby blinding him. But Ino comes back with a wooden nose, it works just as well but everything's pine scented (laughter).

There's Tomoe, who was inspired by Tomoe Gozen. I think she lived in the fourteenth century during the Japanese civil wars. Tomoe Gozen was renowned for her beauty and also for her skill with the sword, or with a spear actually. My Tomoe was based upon the original Tomoe.

I also did a little tribute to Lone Wolf and Cub called "Lone Goat and Kid".

And Godzilla. The entire story developed because of the pun "Are you a god, Zylla?" That was too good, or rather, too bad a pun not to use, so I had to build a whole story around that. Actually it was kind of cute, I thought.

(UY Vol 1, #24) Many of the characters in Usagi were inspired by people in history or Japanese fiction. Usagi himself was very loosely based on Miyamoto Musashi, a samurai who lived in the turn of 17th century Japan.

There was a samurai woman named Tomoe Gozen who was remarkable for her beauty and courage. She became Tomoe Ame. Tomoe Ame, by the way, is also the name of a Japanese rice candy.

Zato-Ino, the blind swordspig, was inspired by Zato-Ichi, the blind swordsman, the star of 27 movies and a TV series. Zato-Ichi was recently updated and westernized into a move starring Rutger Hauer.


What is that object on Katsuichi-sensei's staff?

(UY Vol 1, #31) That thing on Katsuichi's staff is a hollow gourd used as a water container. I've seen pictures of Japanese hermit-sages carrying them and decided to give one to Usagi's teacher.


Is Katsuichi-sensei's eyepatch made from the hand guard of a sword?

(UY Vol 1, #31) Katsuichi's eye patch is, indeed, a tsuba <hand guard>.


Will the two disciples taught by Katsuichi-sensei before Usagi appear in any stories?

(UY Vol 1, #31) I originally mentioned those disciples to establish Katsuichi's credibility as a teacher. I limited them to just two to show how picky he is about accepting students and to preserve the uniqueness of his style and swordsmanship. There's probably a story in there somewhere.


Will we be seeing Zato-Ino in a story again?

(UY Vol 2, #6) Ino was one of my favorite characters and the most skilled of all the swordsmen of Usagi's world. But he was the most misunderstood. He just wanted a life of peace but people kept getting in the way. He finally found his peace and, as far as I'm concerned, he'll keep it -- unless I happen to think up a good story with his name in it.


What species will Zato-Ino's child be?

(UY Vol 2, #16) I think I'll follow Jim Henson's lead when Kermit and Miss Piggy had kids in A Muppets' Christmas Carol. All the male children were frogs and all the females were pigs. And so all of Ino's boys will be pigs and all the girls will be cats.


What does the Shogun in Usagi Yojimbo look like? What type of animal is he?

(UY Vol 2, #16) I don't know. We've never met.


Usagi has had two Koroshi assassins try to kill him (so far). What does the name "Koroshi" mean?

(UY Vol 3, #7) Koroshi literally means "to kill" or "murder." A good name for assassins.


Since Usagi was inspired by Miyamoto Musashi, are any of the other characters based on Muso Gonnosuke, the only (known) man to best Musashi in a challenge?

(UY Vol 3, #11) Usagi has not met his world's version of Muso. And, while it's true that Musashi conceded defeat, Muso had never claimed victory. In fact, even after Muso had established his own style and reputation, the spearman had always claimed it was Musashi who was the victor.


Has Usagi met his world's version of Sasaki Kojiro, one of Miyamoto Musashi's most skilled rivals?

(WWW Board January 2001) Kojiro has not appeared in Usagi yet. I also like the character. He had a confidence and style about him that Musashi never had.


That really suprised me when Fumiye (UY Vol 3, #8 and UY Book 10, "A Promise in the Snow") turned out to be a ghost! Is there any chance that Fumiye might become a Yuki-Onna?

(UY Vol 3, #12) I left one very subtle clue that Fumiye was a ghost. You might notice that Usagi and his burden left deep tracks in the snow, but she never left a footprint.

I would like to think that Fumiye has found peace and never became Yuki-Onna (literally, "Snow Woman"). Yuki-Onna is a young, beautiful mountain spirit who appears during snowstorms and lulls men to sleep and death.


Where did you get the inspiration for Priest Sanshobo?

(UY Vol 3, #42) Sanshobo was actually named after a Zen Buddhist priest, though I can't remember where I found the reference. He was, after all, first created as a one-shot character, and I did not at the time imagine the impact he would have on Usagi's life.


Is General Ikeda from "The Patience of the Spider" (UY Vol 3, #10 and UY Book 11) and "Ikeda" (UY Vol 3, #19-20 and UY Book 12) the same person as "Lord Ikeda" whom Priest Sanshobo once served as a samurai, as mentioned in "The Bonze's Story (UY Vol 3, #3 and UY Book 10)?

(UY Vol 3, #28) Yes, General Ikeda is the same lord under whom Sanshobo served

[Sanshobo and Ikeda met again after many years in UY Vol 3, #42, during the Grasscutter II saga]

.


Lord Noriyuki seems awfully young to be Lord of the Geishu, even younger than the 15-year age of majority in feudal Japan. How old is he?

(UY Vol 3, #28) I have taken some liberties in Noriyuki. Samurai boys had their hair turned into topknots and officially became men at age 15. There are many cases in which children were declared the lord of a clan, though the true power was held by regents. Noriyuki is 10-12 years old. I chose to make him a very precocious child mainly for story purposes. He rules with the help of many advisors, Tomoe among them.


Inspector Ishida is one of your best supporting characters! How about giving him his own series?

(UY Vol 3, #32) Usagi was to have left the town at the end of "The Courtesan"

[UY Vol 3, #28-29]

, but, at the last minute, I decided to work in one more Inspector Ishida mystery before saying good-bye to him for a while. Like many readers, I've grown quite fond of the good inspector in the short time he has appeared.


How can Inspector Ishida think of himself as upholding the law when he knew Usagi had something to do with not one but two murders, and let him go anyway?

(UY Vol 3, #32) Inspector Ishida prefers to administer justice rather than uphold the law.

Magistrates followed a law that was never published and could be changed without notice. The government believed that the people should not be instructed as to what the law might be, but should be content to do as they were told. I don't believe there were any statutes of limitations. The time and effort involved in bringing a criminal to justice had to do more with the tenacity of the investigating officer.


Is the name of the Dogora School of Bujutsu (military arts) based on any real place?

(WWW Board September 2000) Not really except from Dogora the Space Monster, a giant carbon-eating monster movie that came out in the mid-sixties.


Was the old woman, Chiyo, in "The Courtesan" [UY Vol. 3, #28-29 and UY Book 13] based on the title character of the book Memoir of a Geisha?

(WWW Board November 2000) It was just pure coincidence. I read Memoir of a Geisha after I finished "Courtesan". I had heard Martha Stewart mention it on TV but it was

[Dark Horse Comics]

editor Diana Schutz that pushed me over edge into reading it.


Are there "real" versions of the animals in Usagi's world, sharing that niche with the tokagé?

(WWW Board September 2000) There may be. There is at least one dog (Koro) in Usagi's world even though there are dog-people. I usually keep such inconsistencies to a minimum, though.


Did you choose to set your comic at the turn of the 17th century because that's when Miyamoto Musashi lived?

(Comics Buyer's Guide #1235 Interview, 1997 FIXME Broken link) Musashi and also because there was a lot happening at that time. The Tokugawa Shogunate had just become established, the age of civil wars had just ended. This is a time of turmoil, not only for the country, but for the samurai class itself. Suddenly, because of the peace brought to the land by the shogun, there are a lot of unemployed samurai, or ronin, walking around. Usagi is a wanderer. It was a really interesting time in history for Japan.


You've passed yet another milestone with Usagi Yojimbo [Vol. 3] #37! Please tell us about it!

(UY Vol 3, #42) Incidentally, Usagi Yojimbo #37 was the first story in which the villain gets eaten at the end.

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FAQ: Questions about Stan Sakai's other characters