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Noodles Part 1

Black Soul <-- --> Noodles Part 2

General Info

First Published: April, 1996 by Dark Horse Comics

Comics Which Contain This Story

USAGI YOJIMBO Volume 3, Number 1

USAGI YOJIMBO Book Ten: Brink of Life and Death
(Pages 59-78)

Characters in This Story
Story Notes

Kitsuné, Noodles, Sensu & Police

Foxes, or kitsuné, in Japanese folklore were magical creatures, tricksters who could be benevolent as well as malicious. They are guardians of the rice crops and the messengers of Inari, the god of harvests. When a fox reaches a hundred years, its spirit can possess a person, causing insanity, and at one thousand, it grows nine tails and attains great wisdom. They can also shape-change at will, often taking on the form of a beautiful woman. It was upon these stories that I based my own Kitsuné.

The last time Kitsuné appeared was in Usagi Yojimbo #37 of the Fantagraphics run (Book 7 in the trade paperback collections).

Street peddlers were fairly common in feudal Japan, selling everything from fresh flowers to sandals and brooms to hot foods. Noodles' soba stand is based upon an 1890 photograph found in the Peabody Museum of Salem, E.S. Morse Collection/Photography, published in Japan by Shogakukan Publishing.

There were two types of fans used by Japanese. The rigid fan, which came from China, and the sensu or folding fan.

The sensu appeared as early as the 7th century and was a purely Japanese invention. It assumed various symbolic meanings from the rituals in the imperial court to a prop used by a street juggler. It was a symbol of authority, as in the case of a battle fan used by a commander to order his troops. Even today, the referee at a sumo match carries a fan, his rank denoted by the color of its tassel. The sensu has also been used in theatre and in dance. People attending a tea ceremony must carry a fan tucked in their kimono though it is never used except to pass small cakes. Giant fans are carried in the festival of Amaterasu at Ise and Binbogami, the god of poverty, is depicted holding a fan.

Magistrates in larger towns were equal in status to some daimyo (lords). He was responsible for the policing of the town and for settling civil disputes and issuing travel permits. He did not deal with samurai or priests for whom there were special officials.

Under him were the yoriki. These were traditionally hereditary positions within a samurai family.

The doshin served under the yoriki. Though this was also a hereditary samurai position, they carried only one sword.

Below them were the okappiki, townspeople who patrolled the streets and basically acted as the eyes and ears for the police.

The symbol of authority of the police was the jitte, a forked dirk that could catch and hold a blade in its prong, rendering a sword useless.

Research for the section came from Secrets of the Samurai by Ratti and Westbrook, Everyday Life in Imperial Japan by Charles Dunn, and Shinju by Laura Rowland (a well-researched murder mystery that takes place in 1689 Edo).

Susano-o-no-Mikoto, to whom Kitsuné referred, is the Shinto deity of storms. He is the brother of Amaterasu the sun goddess and was born from the nose of Izanagi who, with the goddess Izanami, created the Japanese archipelago. He slew the eight-headed dragon and found the sword that became Grasscutter, one of the imperial regalia.

Besides the books mentioned earlier, I also relied on Mingei: Japan's Enduring Folk Arts by Amaury Saint-Gilles, Japanese Crafts by John Lowe, and Japanese Mythology by Juliet Piggott. There were also two period manga that inspired the idea of the ladder brigade: Kozure Okami by Koike and Kojima, and Ni Jitte Butsugi.



The first issue of a two-part story, Usagi arrives in a new town, looking for a place to spend the night and maybe some employment. A figure rushes past Usagi, greeting him as she goes by. Hot on her heels are some police, who ask him where she went. Usagi didn't actually see this person, so he's no help to the police. They refuse to believe him and attack him. The yoriki <Police Administrator> arrives to investigate the fracas, and warns Usagi to pass through the town quickly. As the yoriki leaves, he bumps into a soba <Buckwheat Noodles> seller. The soba seller offers Usagi some noodles, and he politely declines. Unexpectedtly, a voice from within the soba stand talks to Usagi!

After chasing the soba seller for about a block, Usagi finally cacthes up to him and confronts him. The door of the storage compartment in the stand opens, and out steps Kitsune!

The next morning, Kitsune is entertaining a crowd on the street with a tale of Susano-o-no-mikoto, using a top and a sensu, or folding fan. Usagi walks on the scene just as she finishes her perormance, and treats him to lunch.

Meanwhile, in the Magistrate's residence: The magistrate is demanding the yoriki that the crime wave be stopped immediately, and that he wants an arrest, or else. The yoriki rides off, heading for the thieves' hideout. When he arrives, he tells them that they have to lie low for a while. They refuse this, and tell him that he can go arrest some scapegoat to appease the magistrate. He decides that Noodles <the soba seller> would be a perfect scapegoat.

While Kitsune and Usagi are eating lunch, Kitsune tells Usagi Noodles' heart-rending story. While this is happening, the police are out to arrest Noodles! Just as Kitsune finishes, someone bursts in and announces Noodles' arrest.

Black Soul <-- --> Noodles Part 2

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Usagi Yojimbo, including all prominent characters featured in the stories and the distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of Stan Sakai and Usagi Studios. Usagi Yojimbo is a registered trademark of Stan Sakai. Names, characters, places, and incidents featured in this publication either are the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events, institutions, or locales, without satiric content, is coincidental.