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Miyamoto Usagi (宮本 兎 (みやもと うさぎ) ) is the fictional titular character in the comic Usagi Yojimbo; inspired by Miyamoto Musashi, he is an anthropomorphic rabbit (Usagi is Japanese for rabbit) and a ronin that walks the path of a musha shugyo, the warrior's journey. He is a highly skilled swordsman and one of the best in the lands.

History

Usagi was born the only son of a village headman in Mutsu. His two childhood playmates were Kenichi, with whom Usagi would have a less-than-friendly rivalry his whole life, and Mariko, one of the reasons for the boys' rivalry.

Eventually the trio went their separate ways when the boys were sent to be trained as samurai in the Dogora school of bujutsu (arts of war). However, on the the way there, the boys witnessed a confrontation when a gang of arrogant Dogora students attacked a lone traveler named Katsuichi, who had left the school years ago, dissatisfied with the poor caliber of the students. In spite of their numerical advantage, the gang was quickly defeated by the sensei's unusual, but definitely effective, technique. Although Kenichi was unimpressed by the display, Usagi pursued the departing sensei to petition him to become his student. Katsuichi initially refused but relented when Usagi stood outside his home day and night through unpleasant weather long enough to convince the teacher of his determination.

For years, Usagi was the exclusive student of Katsuichi-sensei, and although he proved a mischievous pupil who got into various misadventures, he also excelled at his studies to become a formidable warrior. One of those misadventures involved a young Usagi stealing a dying soldier's wakizashi while walking through a battlefield with his teacher. Fraught with guilt over the theft, Usagi began seeing the now dead soldier in numerous situations, at one point having a nightmare that involved Katsuichi morphing into the soldier. Upon his return to the battlefield to return the sword to its rightful owner, Usagi was caught by adult samurai and accused of theft. Instead of summarily executing the young rabbit, they instead began the process of cutting his hand off. Before a blow could be struck, however, Usagi's future lord, Mifune, intervened on his behalf and upon sensing the rabbit's honorable nature, let Usagi go.

At the end of his training, Katsuichi brought Usagi to a fencing tournament hosted by the Dogora school. Usagi won the tournament, his final match being against his old "comrade" Kenichi (now the top student of the Dogora school), and earned his own daisho: the katana named Yagi no Eda ("Willow Branch") and the wakizashi named Aoyagi ("Young Willow"). The region's daimyo, Lord Mifune, was observing the contest and was impressed with Usagi's skill enough to offer him a position as a retainer. Before leaving to enter Mifune's service, Usagi returned to his village for a final farewell, where he found Kenichi had been staying at an inn in drunken despair, having sworn to leave the school due to his failure to win the tournament, but too ashamed to return home. Together they returned to their village to defend it from brigands that were threatening it. Kenichi decided to stay (and would eventually become headman upon Usagi's father's death), which comforted Mariko somewhat against the loss of her other dearest friend. Kenichi and Mariko later married; however, before leaving the village, Usagi and Mariko had a romantic encounter that resulted in a son, Jotaro, whose parentage was hidden from Usagi for years.

In his term of service, Usagi rose to become a trusted personal bodyguard of his Lord and his family. That stable career was destroyed when a villainous rival lord, Lord Hikiji, sent ninja to assassinate the Mifune family. In the assault, Mifune's wife and son were murdered and Lord Mifune waged war on his rival in revenge. That war concluded at the battle of Adachigahara (sometimes referenced as Adachi Plain), where Mifune had the upper hand until Buichi Toda, one of his subordinate commanders, defected to Hikiji's forces. Then Usagi's friend and immediate superior, Gunichi, fled the field upon seeing that the battle was lost.

Lord Mifune was killed by an arrow barrage; Usagi performed his final duty, which was to escape with his lord's head to prevent the enemy from displaying it. As he fought free, he had his (so far) only personal confrontation with Hikiji, which left him with his distinctive arched forehead scar. Usagi escaped into the forest, buried Lord Mifune's head, and eluded pursuit by Hikiji's forces. (By saving Lord Mifune's head from desecration, Usagi felt he had atoned for the disgrace of losing the battle. Otherwise, he would have felt compelled to commit seppuku.) Usagi has since avenged his master's death upon both Toda and Gunichi, although Hikiji remains beyond his reach.

Now a ronin, Usagi traveled the backroads of the region making a living as a bodyguard for hire (yojimbo). In the course of his "warrior pilgrimage", he made deep friendships with many including the young Lord Noriyuki of the Geishu Clan and his valiant bodyguard, Tomoe Ame, the cynical rhino bounty hunter Murakami Gennosuke, the brilliantly astute Inspector Ishida, the cat kunoichi (female ninja) Chizu, and the sly street entertainer/petty thief, Kitsune.

Relationships

Father

Usagi's relationship with his father hasn't been fully explored, but it's been made clear that he loved and respected his father. The elder Usagi was a taciturn man who first taught Usagi that the sword was the soul of the warrior class. Their family had been loyal to the Mifune clan for generations, and Usagi's father taught him to carry on that loyalty. Usagi's love and respect for his father was so great that he traveled many leagues to get back home just to pay respects at his father's grave.

Mariko

Mariko was Usagi's first love. They grew up as playmates together in the village and would often spend time together. When Usagi learned that Mariko had married Kenichi, he was so heartbroken that he was prepared to abandon his service to Lord Mifune, but his compatriot Gunichi talked him out of it. Years after Lord Mifune was killed at the battle of Adachi Plains, Usagi went back to his village with the intent to stay, but Mariko asked him to leave. Before Usagi left to serve Lord Mifune, the two shared a romantic tryst together, which resulted in Jotaro, actually Usagi's son. At the time Jotaro was born, Usagi was in Lord Mifune's service, and when she heard that Lord Mifune was killed in battle, she assumed Usagi died with him. That's why she married Kenichi, and why Jotaro knows him as his father. Mariko didn't want to ruin Jotaro and Kenichi's relationship and begged Usagi to leave. For the sake Mariko and her family, Usagi left, despite how much it hurt him. Even after all these years, Usagi still has a token of Mariko's affection: a lock of her hair, which he keeps in the band that knots his ears together.

Kenichi

Kenichi is Usagi former childhood friend turned rival. Their rivalry originally stemmed from their competition for Mariko's affection and carried on when the two of them went on to train as samurai. Even well into their adulthood, their relationship is strained an embittered. On every occasion where Usagi found himself back home, Kenichi made it a point to make him feel unwelcome. It seemed that every time Usagi came home, trouble came back with him. However, despite their differences, Usagi still respects Kenichi, both as Mariko's husband and as the man who is raising Jotaro, and knows him to be a good man and capable magistrate.

Jotaro

Jotaro is Usagi's son. Even before Usagi knew Jotaro was his son, he cared greatly for the boy, but when he learned that Mariko's child was his, thing changed for Usagi. Usagi loves his son very much, and during their travels together, they became very close. During that time, Usagi tried to impart as much fatherly wisdom as possible without revealing the truth to him. Usagi has stated that he wants to tell Jotaro the truth, to not hide the fact he's his father, but he doesn't want to ruin the relationship Jotaro has with Kenichi, his lawful father. When the time came for the two of them to depart, Usagi was clearly sad to depart from his son, and missed him very much once he was gone. Unknown to him, Jotaro already knows that Usagi is his father and acknowledges him as such.

Katsuichi

Katsuichi is Usagi's sensei. Usagi witnessed Katsuichi's skill as a child and became determined to be his student. During his years of training, Usagi was often frustrated with Katsuichi's unusual methods of training, but always found out that there was a purpose behind everything Katsuichi taught him. Aside from his intense martial training, the most important lesson Katsuichi taught Usagi was when not to draw his sword. As an adult, Usagi demonstrates many of the lessons his sensei taught him as a child; compassion, patience, humility and respect, the virtues a true samurai must know. As time went on his respect for the old mountain hermit grew and he came to see Katsuichi as a second father.

Lord Mifune

Usagi's loyalty to his master embodied the very essence of what it meant to be a samurai. It was Lord Mifune himself that presented Usagi the swords that he's used his whole life as a warrior. Usagi served his master faithfully and loyally as his personal retainer and became close to Mifune and his family. At the Battle of Adachigahara, Usagi proved himself the most loyal of Lord Mifune's samurai: his general, Buichi Toda, turned traitor, and his other personal retainer, Gunichi, fled the battlefield to save himself. When Mifune fell in battle, Usagi's last duty as his retainer was to cut of his lord's head and bury it in secret to keep Hikiji from displaying it. Usagi's loyalty to Mifune is so great, that even after so many years he refused to seek another lord's service, even Lord Noriyuki, and went to his secret grave to ask to be released from his vow of loyalty. In turn, Mifune's loyalty to his retainer was so great, that after the Battle of Adachigahara, when Usagi fell victim to an obake-onna (demon woman), Lord Mifune's ghost saved his retainer's life.

Gen

At first, Usagi couldn't stand Gen. The boorish, uncouth, miserly and swindling bounty hunter only ever tested the limits of Usagi's patience. Over time, as the two kept running into each other and having adventures side by side, Usagi not only got used to Gen but even started to enjoy his company. The two are complete foils to one another; Usagi is polite, patient, more refined and tries to maintain the code of Bushido, whereas Gen is loud, rude, materialistic and has a more pragmatic view of the world. Despite their differences, they seem to always get along and find common ground. Mostly in the fact that they are both wandering swordsman just trying to get by in the world. One of the things Usagi dislikes about Gen are his shortcuts, which often turn out to not only be much longer, but also much more dangerous.

Kitsune

Usagi considers Kitsune a friend but often gets annoyed at her thieving ways because of how much trouble he seems to stumble in whenever she's around. Usagi is often frustrated by Kitsune, not only by her antics but also because of how much she likes to tease him. While Usagi may not approve of her thieving ways, he knows Kitsune is not malicious and is only doing what she needs to survive. Many times, Usagi has had to save Kitsune from whatever trouble she's landed herself in because he considers her a friend. Sadly, every time they meet, she ends up picking his pocket.

Chizu

Usagi first met Chizu after the "Dragon Bellows Conspiracy" when she and her fellow neko ninja tried kidnapping the wizard Kakera. Since then, their paths have crossed on numerous occasions, both as allies and adversaries. When Chizu became a fugitive ninja, Usagi has often given her aid. Usagi respects Chizu for her honorable and compassionate nature, despite being a ninja. Often times the two have helped one another in thwarting Hikiji's schemes. During every encounter Chizu's had with Usagi, she always departs by leaving him a kiss. Any romantic feelings she might have for Usagi haven't been revealed.

Lord Noriyuki Geishu

Noriyuki is the young lord of the Geishu clan. Usagi first met him when he and his retainer, Tomoe Ame, were being chased by samurai serving a traitorous lord, and Usagi saved them. Since then, Lord Noriyuki has considered Usagi not only to be an ally of the Geishu clan, but a personal friend as well. Many times, Usagi has aided or saved the Geishu lord, and Noriyuki actually wants to have Usagi officially become a samurai in his service. However, Usagi has stated that he wants to continue his warrior's pilgrimage, and Noriyuki respects his path.

Inspector Ishida

Usagi has great respect and admiration for Inspector Ishida and considers him a good friend. He first met Ishida during a murder case, and the two bonded over a game of Go. Ishida was impressed with Usagi's powers of observation and insightfulness, and the two became fast friends. Usagi also brought Ishida the orphaned son of Lady Maple, and Ishida happily adopted the young infant. Since then, Usagi and Ishida have been very good friends, with Usagi often aiding the inspector on his cases whenever he can.

Sasuke the Demon-Queller

Usagi's encounters with the demon exorcist known as Sasuke are never welcomed ones. Usually, Usagi wants to keep as much distance between himself and Sasuke as possible. Usagi has a healthy fear and disdain for magic, and every time he encounters Sasuke, he gets caught up fighting against some kind of horror, haunt or demon that needs to be slain. However, that isn't to say Usagi doesn't respect Sasuke as a samurai and owes him his life several times over for saving him when his swords couldn't. Sasuke also seems to have a habit of reading Usagi's mind.

Head Priest Sanshobo

Usagi first encountered Sanshobo after slaying a Tanuki demon that was cursing a princess. Sanshobo was integral to Usagi's quest to recovering and maintaining the safety of the Kusanagi-No-Tsurugi, the fabled sword of the gods, and has often gone to Sanshobo's temple for sanctuary. Usagi respects Sanshobo as a former samurai and counts him among his friends.

Tomoe Ame

When Usagi and Tomoe first met, they respected each other as fellow warriors. As time has gone on, and through the adventures they've shared together, they've both fallen in love with one another, but both have yet to admit their feelings to each other. Several times when Tomoe has asked Usagi to join the Geishu clan it was hinted that she wanted him to stay for her. These feelings were confirmed after the Mother of Mountains story when Tomoe performed the tea ceremony for Usagi; Tomoe was left melancholic when Usagi left, and when Usagi reached the boundaries of the Geishu province, his last words there were "Good-bye, Tomoe".

Their romance was further expanded in the "Senso" story arc. In this timeline, Tomoe was married to another samurai named Kubo, and while she respected him, she didn't love him. And it was clear that Usagi regretted never telling Tomoe how he felt when he had the chance. When Usagi and Tomoe were trapped beneath a collapsed building, Tomoe admitted that she'd be content to die there in Usagi's arms and lamented that they never married, and that Jotaro should have been their son. Only towards the end when Usagi was mortally wounded did he finally tell Tomoe that he loved her.

Yamamoto Yukichi

Yukichi is Usagi's paternal cousin, though neither one of them knew the other existed for most of their lives. The first time they met, Yukichi brushed off Usagi, and their second encounter was by pure chance. It was only by traveling together that they learned of their blood relation. Since then, the two have taken on an almost brotherly relationship with Usagi trying to look after Yukichi and show him what life on the open road is like.

Jei

The demonic being known as Jei is Usagi's nemesis. Usagi's has encountered Jei's evil on numerous occasions, and every time he fought the demonic spearman, he's never stayed dead. Usagi is very well aware of Jei's evil nature and how dangerous he is. Jei sees Usagi as an evil that the gods have sent him to slay so that he become one of them, so he's made it his mission in life to slay the long eared ronin. Jei will never stop his pursuit of Usagi, even if he's killed, the blade of the gods always returns.

Fighting Style

Usagi was trained in the art of bujutsu (the art of war) by the nonconformist martial artist Katsuichi and uses an unorthodox style of swordsmanship that defies the conventional techniques of the more mainstream kenjutsu dojos. Shortly before he entered Lord Mifune's service, Usagi was also trained in the ways of the Tengu, who are legendary for their sword skills, by Sojobo the Dai-Tengu. Usagi is also a veteran of the Age of Wars and has actual battle experience outside of fighting in formal duels. Because of his training and unconventional sword style, Usagi often staggers his opponents with his techniques that they've never encountered in their dojos. Usagi's style exploits the rigidity of the traditional schools by being unpredictable and attacking with whatever technique will work in a fight rather than what's restricted by a certain style with certain methods.

Usagi's skill is so great that on many occasions, because of his non-aggressive nature, he has often defeated many opponents without even drawing his sword from its scabbard, even when his enemies had. On the rare occasion where Usagi found himself without his swords, he's been able to defeat his enemies using unconventional weapons, such as a seaweed pole, a stick, or even fish.

The techniques that Usagi uses in his fighting style include

  • Battojutsu: The art of attacking from the draw. A skill that has been the deciding factor in many of Usagi's duels.
  • Nitojutsu: The art of using both the long and short swords. This was an uncommon technique in most schools that Usagi often uses against multiple opponents.
  • Nage Ken: The art of blade-throwing. On many occasions, Usagi's has had to dexterously throw his katana or wakizashi to slay an enemy.
  • Dairokkan: The Sixth Sense. Usagi's awareness is so sharp that he can acutely sense danger, even when an assassin once tried to kill him in his sleep.

Despite the intensity of Usagi's training and his high level of skill, like many sword styles, he is at a disadvantage when it comes to fighting spears. This weakness has often put him on the defensive against his mortal enemy Jei, and it's probably thanks to Usagi's unorthodox style that he's managed to adapt to fighting against Jei and survive where other sword experts have perished.

Other Skills

Throughout the entire series, and even as the focus of certain chapters, Usagi has been shown to be well-learned in the arts of calligraphy, haiku poetry, flower arranging and the tea ceremony. As a samurai, Usagi was not only expected to be highly skilled in martial arts but to be deeply cultured in the refined arts of Japanese society. During his journies, Usagi has also learned other art forms and cultural aspects of his homeland, such a pottery, drum making, sushi, soy sauce brewing, music and painting.

Other appearances

Usagi has had several crossovers with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in both the comics and the two TMNT animated series. However, in the first animated series, Usagi made two appearances and was misnamed "Usagi Yojimbo" who came to Earth when a portal accidentally opened. He was voiced by Townsend Coleman.

The second identified him correctly as "Miyamoto Usagi" where he was one of the competitors for the Battle Nexus. Both incarnations showed deep respect for Leonardo due to his skills with swords. He has also shown respect for Splinter, and helped save him when he was attacked by assassins sent by an evil warrior named Drako. He has appeared in several episodes on the series: first in the Battle Nexus arc, where he helps the Turtles fight Drako and the Ultimate Ninja; the second episode is when he comes to the Turtle lair on Christmas; the third episode is when Leonardo, banished across time and space by Ultimate Drako, arrives in his world; and most recently, in "Samurai Tourist", when he and Gen came to visit the Turtles at Splinter's request. In this last visit, Splinter hoped that Usagi would help Leonardo overcome his anger problems following a defeat at the hands of the Shredder. However, despite Usagi's confessions of suffering similar emotions following the death of his own master (it's unknown if he meant Katsuichi or Mifune), it was ineffective, though the two did work together to defeat an assassin from Usagi's world. In that series, he was voiced by Jason Anthony Griffith.

Usagi appeared as a major character in Season 5 of the 2012 CGI animated series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, episodes 7-9. In this incarnation, Usagi is tasked with escorting and protecting Kintaro the Golden Boy to a sacred mountain temple. Jei, who apparently knows sorcery, summons the Ninja Turtles to this world to attack Usagi and Kintaro, but manage to break free of his control. Usagi and the Turtles then team up to escort Kintaro to the temple and find a way to get them back to New York. In this series, Usagi was voiced by Yuki Matsuzaki.

Usagi has also appeared in the 2022 animated series Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles but has only ever been shown in flashbacks. In the series, Usagi is remembered as a villain who assassinated the Shogun of his time and is so reviled that people put his picture on dart boards. Throughout the series, his descendant, Yuichi Usagi, works to clear his ancestor's name. Just like in the 2012 Teenage Ninja Turtle series, Usagi was voice by Yuki Matsuzaki.

Trivia

  • The 1980's TMNT cartoon and action figure incorrectly refer to him as Usagi Yojimbo, the name of the comic.
  • Usagi's former rank as a samurai was "Hatamoto" or "bannerman", a high-ranking retainer that served directly under their lord.
  • Another similarity that Usagi shares with his historical namesake, Miyamoto Musashi, is his unorthodox style of swordsmanship which has often thrown his opponents off balance and made him unpredictable in a duel. Also, like Miyamoto Musashi, there's been many occasions where Usagi has used both his swords to fight, which was an unconventional technique to the mainstream styles of swordsmanship at that time. Miyamoto Musashi's style was callled "Hyoho Niten Ichi-Ryu". Usagi's style has yet to be given a name.
  • In Issue 28 of the IDW Publication (Series Issue #269), there was a typo where Usagi incorrectly stated that he received his swords from Lord Hikiji, when he actually received them from Lord Mifune.

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