USAGI YOJIMBO: THE HIDDEN #2 is a satisfying mystery (Review)
Usagi and Inspector Ishida look into the murder of a Krishidan, only to discover that their case may have great implications than they could have possibly imagined.
Comic Review: Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #2
(w/a) Stan Sakai
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Usagi Yojimbo is Stan Sakai’s ability to simultaneously educate and entertain readers. He does so in a manner that is not overbearing, or preachy. Rather, he drops little nuggets of information as fun little factoids that don’t disrupt an issue’s narrative flow. It may just be one thing in an issue, but by the end of a multi-issue arc the reader has gained several pieces of information about Japanese history and culture.
These “info-drops” by Sakai can also take the form of an actual plot point. Such is the case in Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #2. With the discovery of a murdered Krishidan at the end of the opening chapter, Miyamoto Usagi and Inspector Ishida begin their investigation. When they encounter pushback or resistance, Ishida flashes his jutte (or jitte), noting that this gives him authority as a direct representative of the Shogun. In another instance, a man expresses that there are too many ronin wandering the country during this peacetime, and he assumes Usagi is just another ronin troublemaker. These are the little things implanted within the script that makes reading Usagi Yojimbo a rewarding experience.
When it comes to the story itself, Sakai’s script is relatively straightforward – as is the case for almost all Usagi stories. But there is an elegance to the seemingly simplistic approach Sakai takes to his storytelling that a lesser writer would overlook. As Usagi and Ishida are conducting an investigation, naturally they seek out witnesses and question suspects. However, Sakai does not simply drop readers into a setting with a new character that is clearly the bad guy. Rather, he takes as little as one panel for our protagonists to rationalize their course of action. Who should they question? Why does it make sense? Sakai provides these answers upfront, so that when a suspect or witness is introduced, we feel like we already have a relationship with them.
Readers may find fault in lies the issue’s cliffhanger, which introduces a clearly evil, mustache-twirling character. But even here, Sakai takes the opportunity to do something different. Not only does the sequence set up the next issue, but it also parodies serialized storytelling; it presents this cliffhanger in an over-the-top, campy fashion that the reader cannot help but smirk or even chuckle. It are these little elements that month after month, year after year, make Usagi Yojimbo one of the best series to ever be created.