[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/uy5.jpg]]
This comic book series by Stan Sakai chronicles the adventures of Miyamoto Usagi, once a loyal retainer of lord Mifune who, after his whole clan was vanquished in battle, [[WalkingTheEarth walks the earth]] as a {{Ronin}}, meeting interesting people, facing mythological monsters and solving the odd murder mystery too.

Also, he's an anthropomorphic rabbit in an alternative dimension HollywoodMedievalJapan. And the historical background and strong sense of cultural nuances work ''so'' well. As does the addition of tiny dinosaurs.

One of the longest-running comics of all time to be drawn and written by a single person, Usagi Yojimbo has been running (under various publishers) since 1984. It's been noted for its meticulously researched and accurate portrayal of feudal Japan (talking animals notwithstanding) as well as its ability to take readers by surprise by messing with tropes; a seemingly lighthearted story may turn out to be a heartrending tragedy, or vice-versa.

Usagi is often associated with the Franchise/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles, thanks in part to several crossovers between different incarnations of the properties, and the friendship between Sakai and the Turtles creators. This has permitted Usagi to appear on the screen in both ''TMNT'' cartoons as a recurring character, culminating in an episode set in Usagi's world--the closest thing yet to an ''Usagi'' animated series. ''Usagi Yojimbo'' was also published by Eastman and Laird's Mirage Studios for a time, before moving on to Creator/DarkHorseComics.

A video game for the {{Commodore 64}} based on the comics was released in 1988.
----
!!''Usagi Yojimbo'' contains examples of:

* AccidentalMisnaming: Whenever Usagi appears with the [[Franchise/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles Ninja Turtles]], "Usagi Yojimbo" is incorrectly used as his actual name.
** For the 2003 series, he's misnamed, but in the actual series, he's properly referred to as "Miyamoto Usagi".
* ActionGirl: [[DarkActionGirl Chizu, Inazuma]], Tomoe Ame. The occasional one-shot story may feature an ActionGirl [[spoiler:who inevitably dies or is [[strike:written out of the series]]married off]].
* AllJustADream: When a younger Usagi attacks a sleeping Katsuchi, and smashes his head (really just his clothes set aside with a pumpkin under it), he falls unconscious and dreams of a monstrous Katsuchi trying to kill him.
** The book "A Town Called Hell" has one where Usagi stays with a peasant family. When they go to sleep, a monster comes in and eats the husband and wife, and kills Usagi. It was all just a dream of the little boy who had eaten too much candy, and Usagi says good-bye to them the next day. [[spoiler: That night Jei comes to the door and asks if he can stay the night.]]
** Usagi has a terrifying dream where he's possessed by Jei and kills all of his friends (apparently based on a possible KillEmAll ending for the series).
** Inazuma has a dream where she's in hell and has to fight an army to get out [[spoiler: where she meets Jei, who later possesses her]].
* AlternateContinuity: Usagi's cartoon incarnations. Also, some stories have had changes made between the comic and graphic novel collections -- such as Usagi [[strike:kissing]] hugging Kinuko after [[http://www.usagiyojimbo.com/casl/letters/volume3/uyletter_16.html a reader pointed out]] that kissing was a courtesan's trick imported by foreigners.
** The story referred to was an earlier one than the Kinuko story, namely Chizu's first instance of kissing Usagi and his utterly baffled response. This has been left as is, as it still fits both their characters.
* ArchEnemy: At first, Lord Hikiji filled the role. Later, Jei [[spoiler: (or the demon which possessed first Jei and then others)]] took up the role.
* ArtEvolution: Early installments featured characters with more animal-like appearances, especially in-profile. As the series wore on, however, some species characters gained more stylized, human-like appearances, while still keeping their key visual animal traits. Other species (such as the Komori ninja or Gen) actually got their muzzles and other animal traits emphasized, drawn in a slightly less cartoony manner.
* AsYouKnow: Characters will sometimes explain things well-known to their listener.
* AuthorAvatar: Stan Sakai shows up as a character named Masa in the 141st issue of the Dark Horse run (and number 200 overall) as an artisan who dreamed that creating 200 small statues of a god will save his village from bandits that have taken over. With Usagi's help, the 200th being used upside the leader's head and a mudslide, the dream comes true. His character then states that he'll continue his work after reaching the milestone until he's unable to hold the tools of his trade.
* BackdoorPilot: Usagi's guest shot on the original Ninja Turtles cartoon was supposed to be a set up for his own cartoon show, but the show was never made due to CreativeDifferences between Stan Sakai and Creator/PlaymatesToys. His appearance on the 2000's TMNT show carried no such aspirations; it was just a treat for the fans.
** On that note, a ''Space Usagi'' pilot was made (they even released an action figure into the TMNT toy line in the likeness of the proposed protagonist), but the project was canned after the failure of ''ComicBook/BuckyOHareAndTheToadWars'' [[DuelingShows projected its demise]].
* {{Badass}}: Miyamoto Usagi.
** But then, being a comic about samurai, there are almost more {{Badass}} characters than there are 'normal' ones.
* BadassPreacher: Sanshobo, who was a samurai until he took his vows. Priest Jizonobu was also a samurai and still an excellent fighter [[spoiler: before he became Jei]].
* BeastMan / WildMan / RunningOnAllFours / PrimalStance / WildHair: Two primitive-looking characters have appeared as "familiars" to sorcerers, most notably in "Grasscutter".
* BerserkButton: Don't mess with Usagi's swords. No, seriously, just don't.
** Or his teacher, Katsuichi sensei.
** Genosuké could arguably be labelled a walking berserk button. His questionable character traits tend to set off more Usagi temper tantrums than anything else.
** Several samurai are shown to be very touchy about lower-class people touching their scabbards even accidentally, which contain the swords that contain their souls.
* BetterToDieThanBeKilled: A lot of people who commit seppuku.
** inverted: A lot of warriors would rather die in battle than live in misery, rely on lower-classes (see Watanabe Ken, who would rather die than get aid from his merchant son-in-law) or die of illness.
* BewareTheNiceOnes / BewareTheSillyOnes: Usagi's very nice but if you're a bad guy he won't hesitate to cut you down.
** Keiko is a friendly CheerfulChild who also hangs around insane serial killer Jei [[spoiler: and anyone possessed by him/it]]. Jei considers ''Usagi'' to be "evil" so when he declares that Keiko is "innocent" it kind of makes you wonder what's really up with her.
** Tamago is a friendly, [[PintsizedPowerhouse tiny]], tea-loving elderly wandering priest whose over-sized head is shaped like an egg complete with a crack scar/birthmark [[spoiler: he's also a senior member of Koroshi, the assassins guild, has done a YouHaveFailedMe at least once, and is yet another person who has it out for Usagi (nothing personal, it's just that he's really good at screwing up their plans)]].
* BigNo: Usually before a dramatic death scene.
* BigOlEyebrows: Ishida, Koji.
* BittersweetEnding:
** Gen's story ends with [[spoiler: Gen discovering that the swords he stole from Oda house's were his father's swords, Gen explain that the only way Oda could have obtained them were killing Gen's father]]
** Lady Kiku's story ends with [[spoiler: her and Usagi alive but forced to separate, and Usagi not learning that she still cares about him years later]]
** Lady Maple's story ends with [[spoiler: her and her lord's son being raised safely and anonymously by Inspector Ikeda and his wife, but she's dead because she didn't know Usagi brought a doll in place of her son]].
** "Travels With Jotaro" ends with [[spoiler: Usagi and Jotaro being unable to compromise the others happiness by revealing they're father and son, even though they both really want to.]]
** "Sparrows" ends with [[spoiler: Inazuma being forgiven by her family for running off and dying as herself.]]
* BloodlessCarnage: Although blood is present, it is lesser quantities than one would realistically expect.
** Mostly, it seems to be used in sequences where it has the maximum dramatic effect, such as the story arc where Usagi [[spoiler: was poisoned and began to [[FeverDreamEpisode hallucinate]] that he had become Jei's new incarnation, fighting Tomoe]]. The sudden, shocking appearance of so ''much'' blood drove home just how traumatic an experience this was for the protagonist.
** In most cases where blood is spilled, but Sakai wanted to keep gore down, he instead drew characters exhaling a cloud with a cartoonish skull (in some cases wit the haircut of the dying character) to symbolize death. The trick (possibly inspired by Stan's work with Creator/SergioAragones on Comicbook/GrooTheWanderer) is an iconic part of the series these days.
** Early ''Usagi Yojimbo'' stories also featured a number of on-panel decapitations (many of them committed by Usagi himself), but they were never graphic in appearance, with no blood to be shown and the beheaded characters often having their tongues comically sticking out to lessen the impact of the scene.
* BlueAndOrangeMorality: Jei. He's a demon who claims to do the work of the gods, and kills several evil people. He also kills innocent people whom he deems to be evil. He does spare at least two people whom he deems to be innocent.
** Jei's first meeting with Usagi is actually non-violent, initially. Both meet in an abandoned peasants house and agree to spend the night. Usagi is creeped out by Jei, but neither attempt to harm the other and Jei even explains his philosophy. When Jei is asleep, he seems to get a vision from the gods telling him that Usagi is evil, which started their animosity.
* BodyDouble: For Lords [[spoiler: Noriyuki and Hikiji]]. Dolls are used for another lord and [[spoiler: Lady Maple's son]].
* BodySurf: [[spoiler: Jei-san: First Priest Jizonobu, then Inazuma, and currently Priest Hama, the only survivor of Jei's original rampage on Jizonobu's temple.]]
* BountyHunter: Gennosuke, Inukai, countless extras, and -- occasionally -- Usagi.
* BrokenPedestal: Mainly in ''Space Usagi''.
* BrokenAesop: Played for laughs by Katsuichi and Usagi, just before Usagi's very first tournament.
--> '''Katsuichi''': Do you remember what I taught you?\\
'''Usagi''': Yes, sensei. I am here to test my skills, not necessarily to win.\\
'''Katsuichi''': And?\\
'''Usagi''': "Spirit and inner strength are essential. Winning is unimportant!"\\
'''Katsuichi''': And if you don't win?\\
'''Usagi''': You'll beat me to a pulp!\\
'''Katsuichi''': Hah! You've learned well.
* CainAndAbel: [[spoiler: Noriko and Tomoe, although it's Noriko who gets killed, probably.]]
* CallToAgriculture: General Ikeda in "The Patience of the Spider".
* CaptainObvious: "Follow me, Spot! Our life of peace depends on us staying alive!"
** In "Blade of the Gods", Jei pins Usagi's sleeve to the wall. Usagi's response? "He's pinned my sleeve!" Take note that he says this out loud. This has happened so many times over the years that it's an apparent personality quirk. [[note]]Usagi, awakening to find spiders crawling on his face, brushes them off quickly: "Gah! Spider on my face!"[[/note]]
* CatchPhrase: Sasuke will frequently call someone by name without having been properly introduced to them. When they ask how he knew their name, he'll say something like, "You must have mentioned it earlier." [[RuleOfThree The third time]] (I think) this happens Usagi says "No I haven't."
** Not quite a "phrase", but everyone has a different [[{{Kiai}} yelling style]]; for instance, Usagi's '''''"RYAAAAAH!"'''''
* CavalryBetrayal: Happens to Lord Mifune and Lord Noriyuki's dad.
* CloseCallHaircut: To Katsuichi from Koji during their duel, though no one comments on it.
** At least Noriko has a FreudianExcuse...
* ConservationOfNinjitsu: {{Ninja}} mooks abound; the really lethal ones are the named characters.
* {{Cool Sword}}s: Less explicate than other examples, but Usagi's pair of swords are truly awesome. He first earns them as a prize for winning a tournament and they're even [[NamedWeapons named Young Willow and Willow Branch.]] The swords are practically invincible considering they haven't been shown to have so much as a chip after all the things he's sliced with them, and in a few panels they're even shown to have cut into opponents swords during a BladeLock! Once he even sliced an ogre's club clean in half with some effort. In a series where it's stated over and over how a Samurai's swords are his soul, Usagi's never disappoints. The story ''Daisho'' shows the swords forging three centuries before Usagi's birth, making clear just how they have such admirable qualities and just what is at stake, should he ever lose them. Precious indeed.
** They're ''very'' durable: Usagi's descendant wields them in ''Space Usagi'' and only "arcane katanas" can be modified with AppliedPhlebotinum into AbsurdlySharpBlade[=s=]. The swords even used to bring Usagi into the future just long enough for the two Usagis to say hi and [[spoiler: give him a few goodies to take back so he won't get killed by ninjas]]
* CreepyChild: Keiko, after Jei designates her as his "innocent" (acting like a witch's familiar). Although she's quite [[CheerfulChild cheerful]] about it, which, as Keiko cheerfully bids a polite farewell to the men Jei has just murdered, makes it all the eerier.
* CrossOver: The comic featured several early appearances by the Comicbook/{{Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles|Mirage}}, and Usagi is a RecurringCharacter in the [[{{TMNT1987}} TMNT]] [[{{TMNT2003}} cartoons]].
* CunningLikeAFox: Kitsune, [[MeaningfulName literally]], Inspector Ishida, and Usagi. Jei's original body is an aversion, as he is literally a fox but is not so much "cunning" as he is "pants-shittingly terrifying"
* DarkerAndEdgier: ''Space Usagi'' has this up the wazoo. To name a couple of examples, [[spoiler:Usagi's main love interest is killed shortly after her introduction, and his sensei is revealed to be a traitor.]]
* DealWithTheDevil, complete with GiftOfTheMagiPlot: A mediocre artist called Katsushige sold his soul for the ability to create "art the like of which had never been seen before". [[spoiler:The dark gods turned him into an ink set. Anything that was drawn with it became real, but still... he's an ''ink set''.]]
** [[spoiler:Then we have the unfortunate Priest Jizonobu, whose well-meant DealWithTheDevil had even worse consequences.]]
* DefrostingIceQueen: Princess Kiku.
* DeliberateValuesDissonance: Invoked by the author in order to accurately portray the era and culture of the characters. Certain things considered right and honorable would be deemed harsh and cruel by modern standards. [[spoiler: A good example is found in Sanshobo's origin story: Sanshobo (in his prior, samurai life) failed to save the son of his lord from an accidental death, so Sanshobo's adult son committed suicide to make amends.]]
* DidTheResearch: One of the things Stan tends to receive praise for is his careful research into the period the comic is set in. Each collection tends to have a page of historical notes and, sometimes, sources. When he does introduce an anachronism to provide a better story, he tends to note it.
* DisabilitySuperPower: Zato Ino, "The Blind Swordspig", who can "see" things thanks to his sense of smell -- a common trait of the blind being the heightening of their other senses.
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: In the 2003 TMNT series, Chizu leading the Neko Ninja is made to resemble Karai leading the Foot Ninja.
* TheDrifter: Usagi, Gen, Stray Dog, assorted extras.
* DueToTheDead: In the story "Broken Ritual" (plot by Creator/SergioAragones), a village is haunted by the ghost of a general whose ''{{Seppuku}}'' attempt is interrupted by a squad of enemy soldiers. The ghost is exorcised when Usagi waits for its next appearance and helps complete the ritual.
* DyingAsYourself: [[spoiler: Inazuma. She even gets to make peace with her family.]]
** [[spoiler: Also Usagi in a dream sequence of himself as Jei.]]
* EarsAsHair: Usagi most often has his ears pulled into a ponytail, or possibly a top-knot. When he puts on a hat or a helmet, they disappear completely.
* EternalEnglish: This phenomenon occurs when he appears in crossovers with the Ninja Turtles, and was even [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]] in the 1987 cartoon; he comes from an AlternateReality, from a world with a culture that mirrors FeudalJapan, "So, naturally, he speaks English," says Raphael. (In the 2003 cartoon the Battle Nexus and in the actual comic there is some slight, very slight attention paid to explaining the lack of language issues.)
* EvenBadMenLoveTheirMamas: Subverted/inverted in "A Mother's Love". [[spoiler:Even moms love their bad sons, but sometimes they're just ''too'' bad... and ''must be stopped''.]]
* EvenEvilHasStandards: Quite a few of the villains have ''some'' standards of honor.
** At one point, Inazuma realizes that the operator of a lonely roadside restaurant has slipped poison into her tea so he can collect her bounty. She intimidates the man into drinking the tea, watches him die in agony, and then [[ActuallyPrettyFunny pays for her meal]] before she departs.
* EvilCounterpart: Keiko is this to Kiyoko since they're both young girls with no family who become sidekicks of older characters. Keiko's companion is Jei while Kiyoko's is Kitsune. However, they (all) have never met.
* EvilIsDeathlyCold: The air around Jei-san becomes noticeably chilly.
* {{Expy}}: A TMNT crossover in the comics had a rat sage named Kakera with a suspicious resemblance to Splinter who summons the Turtles through magic. [[BilingualBonus "Kakera" is Japanese for "splinter" or "fragment".]]
* EyePatchOfPower: After losing his eye in the battle that makes Usagi think he's dead, Katsuichi Sensei covers it with a sword guard.
* FaceFramedInShadow: Lord Hikiji [[spoiler: and Jesus on the crucifix]].
* TheFaceless: Lord Hikiji, for the most part.
* FacingTheBulletsOneLiner: Chizu's brother had one [[spoiler: before [[TakingYouWithMe he blew up himself together with the boss of the Dragon Bellows Conspiracy.]]]] She thus replaced him as the head of the Neko Ninja. Invoked many times since by Chizu herself as their BadassCreed.
-->"A ninja's duty in life... is death!"
* FamilyUnfriendlyDeath: The cruel capture and murder of poor, innocent Noodles. His only friends are kept back by corrupt lawmen while the terrified GentleGiant is tortured, then graphically run through with spears.
* FantasticFoxes / {{Kitsune}}: Kitsune, although she's just really skilled. ''Actually magical'' kitsune have appeared only briefly, and never as named characters.
** There ''was'' [[ShoutOut Kuzunoha]] in one story, a traditionally [[FemmeFatale evil and seductive]] kitsune.
* TheFarmerAndTheViper: Jei-san actually ''tells'' this story to a fisherman who saved his life... in order to explain why he's going to kill the poor man.
* FightingFromTheInside: [[spoiler: Inazuma.]]
* FightMagnet[=/=]WeirdnessMagnet: Usagi has an amazing tendency to attract all the weird and dangerous things in any area he is passing through. He will accidentally bump into an ancient, mystic sword and get himself in the middle of an anti-shogun conspiracy or become number one on a local psychopath’s “to kill” list. No matter how much he tries to avoid it, he always ends up in a fight. If it's not {{Youkai}} he has to kill, then a village needs to be saved from a {{Yakuza}}. Most of his friends are not ordinary people, either. This happy bunch includes: a bounty hunter, a powerful daimyo, said daimyo’s ActionGirl bodyguard, the former head of a ninja clan who would love to get rid of Usagi, a BadassGrandpa OldMaster, a ClassyCatBurglar, and a professional demon hunter.
** Although many of Usagi's less honorable friends have pointed out that he gets into a lot of scrapes because [[ChronicHeroSyndrome he can't stay uninvolved]] when he witnesses people being attacked, bullied, repressed, and the like, so this is at least partially his own fault.
* ForgottenChildhoodFriend: Well, forgotten childhood encounter. Usagi and Tomoe met once as children and although they didn't get each other's names the did think [[ShipTease the other was kinda cute]].
* FourIsDeath: The quartet of assassins known as "Shi".
* FurryConfusion: The world is populated with {{Funny Animal}}s of most species. Horses, lizards (tokage), birds, fish, and insects are excepted to minimize potential {{Squick}} value. {{Lampshade}}d by Donatello of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, since he's from another canon and this is all new to him.
--> '''Donatello:''' Like... do you guys have tails?\\
'''Gen''' ''(offended):'' Hey! Don't get personal!
* FurryComic: A BadassGrandpa that has inspired some of the later fandom.
* GenreBusting
* GentlemanThief: Kitsune, her sidekick Kiyoko, and Nezumi.
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: In one story, Zato-Ino is bathing in a hot spring and two women come to join him. He reassures him that he is blind, so they won't have any concerns about modesty. However, by their pleasant smiles at that meeting and the very good moods the women have later, it's hinted that they all had a merrier time in the spring than just some back scrubbing.
** In Gen's origin story, he claims that he has no idea what depths his poor mother lowered herself to in order to ensure the family had food. This is accompanied by a memory flash of his mother humbly chatting to a man leering at her in a lascivious, suggestive manner, implying Gen was all too aware of what she did out of love and desperation.
* GiveHimANormalLife: Usagi does this for [[spoiler: the son of a lord and his courtesan, Lady Maple, when he gives the child to Inspector Ishida]]. He also did this unknowingly for [[spoiler: his son Jotaro, and decided not to tell him for pretty much this reason]].
* GoodScarsEvilScars: Usagi gets a cut over his eyebrow during the battle of Adachigahara. Not a "scar" per se, but Gen had his horn chopped off.
* {{Geisha}}: In one story, Usagi comes to the rescue of a woman working for a famous Geisha and that Geisha invites him to bunk at her compound on the house. Given the cheap inn he's staying at, he doesn't take that much persuading
* GratuitousEnglish: The French translation had absolutely no way of getting the "Are you a god, Zilla?" pun across, so they have Usagi say "Oh my god!" in English, translate that in a footnote, and then have him say "Are you a god, Zilla?" in French.
* HeroOfAnotherStory: Katsuichi briefly becomes this as he travels the countryside for a time. His exploits are not seen for the most part, but when he encounters Usagi, the recollections of his student indicate that his adventures were at the very least as exciting as Usagi's own.
* HeroicSacrifice: [[spoiler: [[{{Ninja}} Saru]] and [[RetiredBadass Ikeda]] both do this in ''Journey to Atsuta Shrine'', but for different reasons]]
** [[spoiler: Lord Noriyuki has a body double -- or rather he ''had'' one. He never speaks even after being wounded because his voice is different, and a remorseful Tomoe promises he'll get an honorable burial.]]
** [[spoiler: Lady Maple throws herself in front of a scheming lord's sword to save her son; unfortunately she didn't know Usagi had brought a doll in his place. For double irony points Usagi had already dealt with a doll-double and hated people sacrificing themselves for it.]]
** [[spoiler: The secret Christians are willing to put their lives on the line to get one crucifix to their followers; if any of them were caught they would've been crucified themselves.]]
* HeWhoMustNotBeSeen: Hikiji as the sole human, something Sakai later regretted doing. [[spoiler: Jesus on the crucifix -- lion, lamb, human, or something else entirely?]] Also, foreigners -- either the unseen {{Ruritania}}ns are some family other than mammalian, or ethnicity and nationality just depends on your WigDressAccent.
** Sakai has said Hikiji is mostly kept off panel because he feels the character works better as a Sauron-like figure, manipulating things unseen. As far as the Europeans go, his Nilson Groundthumper strips take place in that part of the UY Earth. The characters there seem to be of a wide variety of species. It should be noted the Nilson stories predate the Ninja Turtles by a few years, despite the latter often being given credit for at least partially inspiring UY.
* HighPressureBlood: In the beginning, and notably in Tomoe and Noriyuki's debut episode. But keeping in the ''Usagi Yojimbo'' style, the blood spurts are quite brief and rather cartoonish in appearance.
* HitMeDammit
* HoistByHisOwnPetard: the Snitch in "Snitch" spends the story cheating Gen and Usagi, Stray Dog, and a fugitive thief out of their money to either reveal or hide the location of the thief. At the end of the story, [[spoiler: the thief, who has discovered the Snitch had been cheating him out of his money and was attempting to sell him out, catches up to the Snitch, and beats him (possibly to death) to make him give over his now-fattened coinpurse of ill-gotten gains, saying "Robbing honest people is one thing, but stealing from a thief and a liar is another!"]]
* HonestAxe: [[SubvertedTrope Subverted]]. The woodcutter in the story [[spoiler: freezes to death because a golden axe is useless to cut firewood]]
* HonorBeforeReason: Reconstructed. Usagi has no problem using trickery, usually to help the underdog. Characters who mistake honor for weakness frequently come off the worse for it. Also played straight, averted, and subverted, depending on the character and occasion. For instance, if a character takes a stand in this series and says, "I am adamant!," you will know that ''nothing'', especially death threats, is going to make them change their mind.
** As in RealLife, most samurai would prefer to die in an assassination attempt on their lord's murderer, rather than live and let the murderer get away with it.
** [[ShoutOut Watanabe Ken]] would sooner die from fighting the police than live comfortably with his daughter after she married into the merchant class.
** ''An entire fortress of samurai kill themselves'' to protest the Shogun's orders to give the fortress to their enemy.
* HumansAreTheRealMonsters: The main villain, the shadowy Lord Hikiji, is a human in a world otherwise populated by anthropomorphic animals; the only ''other'' human-looking character with a speaking part [[spoiler:is really a flesh-eating monster]]. However, none of the main characters (and few of the minor characters) have seen Hikiji's true face, nor has his species -- something that Sakai later regretted showing -- been pinpointed as the reason for his evil.
* TheHunter: Sasuke the Demon Queller
* IdiosyncraticEpisodeNaming: Only for stories that take up whole books:
** ''The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy'': [[BattleInTheRain "The Clouds Gather" "The Winds Howl" "Downpour" "Thunder and Lightning" "The Heart of the Storm" "Storm Clouds Part"]]
** ''Grasscutter'': All titles are just the names of whoever's the focus ("Jei" "Inazuma" "Ikeda")
** ''Grasscutter II: Journey to Atsuta Shrine'': [[SuperSenses "A Whisper of Wings" "Scent of the Pines" "The Hunger for Death" "Visions in the Shadows" "The Feel of Salt" "In The Realm Of The Senses"]] (if I recall correctly they also get a TitleDrop)
* ImplacableMan: Jei-san, Inazuma, and [[spoiler:Inazuma after she gets possessed by Jei -- presumably also Jei as Hama]].
** After being (seriously) wounded in one fight, Inazuma reassures [[MoralityPet Keiko]] that it's [[Film/MontyPythonAndTheHolyGrail "merely a]] [[OnlyAFleshWound flesh wound"]].
*** [[spoiler:The possessed Inazuma isn't quite as implacable as original!Jei, though - she doesn't get better when you make large holes in her.]]
** Usagi does a brilliant job of this with General Fujii, to boot (with appropriate NightmareSequence), but as TheHero, this is {{Determinator}}.
* ImplausibleFencingPowers: Usagi provokes a bandit into demanding that Katsuichi-sensei perform a near impossible feat of cutting a seed of Usagi's nose. Katsuichi calmly replies that this is near impossible, and asks the bandit to release Usagi. The bandit refuses. Katsuichi kills the bandit. When Usagi comments that Katsuichi couldn't/didn't cut the seed, he does so to teach Usagi not to shoot his mouth off.
** Also, any time a character strikes an arrow or shuriken out of the air with a sword. Which is apparently only a middling-difficult technique. Usagi's been known to block three at a time.
* ImprobableAimingSkills:
-->'''Kinuko''': "I just aimed at everything '''except''' the target!"
* IncurableCoughOfDeath: Mainly due to "the foreigners and their black ships" and a major cause of [[BetterToDieThanBeKilled "better to be killed than to die"]]. General Oyaneko suffers from this [[spoiler: and dies of it after Usagi refuses to duel him]], as does a bounty hunter/ronin searching for the "Demon Mask" killer [[spoiler: he's killed by the killer, who hates ronin for killing his son]], and an old lord who [[spoiler: tricked Usagi into bringing his enemy's son so he could avenge his real son's death and get the honorable Usagi to kill him as a bonus (he doesn't)]].
* InexplicablyTailless: Possibly. This is a ShrugOfGod area. One convention exclusive ashcan story has Usagi encounter an evil skunk who used his tail as a weapon, but the canon-status of the adventure is undetermined.
* InstantExpert: Inazuma had an "instant affinity" with swords after she was forced to become a performer and soon surpassed her samurai husband's skill.
* JerkAssFacade: Gen, Stray Dog.
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold: Gen, which Usagi amusedly calls him out on.
** Also Inukai, who [[spoiler: regularly donates large part of his earned money to an orphanage and seems to genuinely enjoy it.]]
* KatanasAreJustBetter: Downplayed. While Usagi obviously favors his personal daisho for fighting, he is the first to concede that it is not suited to weapons with superior reach, like spears. That is part of what makes Jei so dangerous considering he is a master of that weapon.
* KickThemWhileTheyAreDown: Noriko to Tomoe (twice), Noriko to the laborers.
* KidSamurai: Usagi during the flashbacks, Jotaro, Gorogoro, [[spoiler:Motokazu]].
* KillerRabbit: HAW! (though, only when necessary)
* KnightErrant: Usagi travels the ''musha shugyo'' -- the warrior's path.
* LackOfEmpathy: Kiyoko, Kitsune's apprentice, seems to have become a [[Series/{{Leverage}} Parker]] expy (it's also possible she's just screwing with Usagi).
--->'''Kiyoko''': I overheard a plot to kill Merchant Motooka.\\
'''Usagi: ''WHAT?!'''''\\
'''Kiyoko:''' I bet we can sell this information to him.\\
'''Usagi:''' A person's life is in peril. We can't make a profit from that!\\
'''Kiyoko:''' Why not?
* LawyerFriendlyCameo: Creator/SergioAragones' ComicBook/GrooTheWanderer and characters from Mark Crilley's ''Akiko'' have appeared as background characters from time to time-- the former may in fact count as a YuppieCouple. Also [[ComicBook/TheSandman Morpheus]] shows up in line for noodles in the short story 'Noodles.' (As do Jei and Keiko.)
* ALessonInDefeat: A young Usagi is given a lesson by his master. He's ordered grow some carrots from some seeds. Usagi cannot make them grow at all, and considers stealing some carrots from a neighboring farmer, but his honesty gets the better of him and he reports his failure, expecting to be thrown out. His master was [[SecretTestOfCharacter testing Usagi's honesty]]; the seeds had been boiled and would never have sprouted.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: Oh, boy. Easily into the hundreds of characters just from the ones who are ''named''.
* LoveTriangle: Usagi, Mariko, and Keniichi.
** Katsuichi, the rival dojo's sensei's daughter, and the rival dojo's second-in-command.
* LukeYouAreMyFather Averted [[spoiler: Jotaro shouts this to Usagi, but he's too far away to hear]]
** [[spoiler: And they both know of Jotaro's true paternity, but they don't know that the other knows.]]
* MagicKnight: Sasuke (not [[Manga/{{Naruto}} that one]]) the Demon Queller.
* MatureAnimalStory
* MauveShirt: Kimi is the only named Neko ninja who isn't a leader or dead. She was part of the band of ninja attempting to retrieve the Grasscutter sword, most were killed, but she survived with a broken arm. [[spoiler: She's also one of the very few, if only ninja still loyal to Chizu, she discovered a poisoned Chizu, and prevented the other ninja from finding her.]]
* MeaningfulEcho: For a while, Usagi has a pet tokage he calls "Spot". Later, Jotaro befriends a tokage and names it "Spot", without prior knowledge of Usagi's. In the ''SpaceUsagi'' spin-off, Kiyoshi also names a tokage "Spot".
* MeaningfulName: Usagi means "rabbit" in Japanese. Kitsune, of course, is "fox", even if hers is a nickname given by her mentor in the art of thieving.
-->'''Kitsune''': 'Kitsune'? The trickster fox? I like it!
** Several examples of this trope. For example Inushiro's name means "White Dog."
* MilkyWhiteEyes / UhOhEyes: Jei-san [[spoiler: and anyone he/it possesses]], and ''technically'' all other supernatural beings since it's a black & white comic.
** Except the Mirage issues and Color Specials.
* MiyamotoMusashi: The inspiration for Usagi.
* MoodWhiplash: Not only does the story itself do this, but the art style is very suited to quick, seamless transitions from detailed dramatic images to humorous cartoonish ones.
* MultitaskedConversation: When Inspector Ishida meets Kitsune, he realizes that there's a lot more to this simple street performer. Since he has no evidence of wrongdoing, he can't do anything about it; and they're out in public, so he doesn't want to make a spectacle. When he talks to her, he compliments her on her talents and asks if she's staying long, but to Kitsune the message is very clear: "I know you're a thief, now get out of my town!"
* MurderInc: The Koroshi (assassin's guild), as well as the Komori and Neko (ninja clans).
* MyMasterRightOrWrong: Captain Torame from "The Dragon Bellows Conspiracy." It's upheld as a tenet of 'righteous' samurai.
** And to some extent, Kenichi. After Hikiji killed the old village headman (Usagi's father), he appointed Kenichi in his place. Initially taking the assignment out of fear, Kenichi now serves out of duty (though Hikiji probably doesn't pay much attention to the town). Usagi sometimes feels guilt that Kenichi has shouldered burdens Usagi felt honor-bound to walk away from.
* NeverFoundTheBody: Jei's first and second appearances [[spoiler: in his last appearance no one actually saw him disintegrate, and he's a spirit anyway]]; teased for the ex-Neko Ninja ''chunin'' [[spoiler: unfortunately the giant explosion from the gunpowder he was sitting on probably rules this out. Tomoe has a nightmare that Noriko escaped the explosion/cave-in at the end of "Mother of Mountains", but Usagi assures her that even if they don't find a body she probably didn't survive.]]
* {{Ninja}}: The Neko, Komori, and Mogura clans of ninja. Chizu of the Neko clan is an important secondary character.
* {{Obake}}: Many Japanese creatures appear in ''UY'', from kappas to obakenekos, nues, onis and so on.
* ObliviouslyEvil:
-->'''Jei''': It is a nigh impossible task... to eradicate sin.
** Somewhat explained in the backstory for Jei: [[spoiler: the priest to the 'dark gods' points out to Buddhist priest Jizonobu that while they both work to fight "evil," their respective definitions for evil are not necessarily the same. The evil and sin that Jei is fighting is defined for him by the demonic gods he serves]]
* OldMaster: Katsuichi-sensei.
* OperationJealousy: [[spoiler: Kitsune tells Tomoe that she and Usagi have "shared so many adventures and... other things" but she's just trying to get rid of the heroes while she's running a con.]]
* OutOfFocus: Lord Hikiji, Kenichi, and Mariko were prominent in the early years, but rarely enter the story anymore.
* PaintingTheMedium: Odd speech balloons and/or text usually mark a supernatural being. Jei and certain haunts/monsters have jagged word balloons and mixed upper- and lower-case font. Ryoko, the witch from the ''Grasscutter'' arc, spoke in italics.
* PetTheDog: Jei-san and Keiko, Gen and Stray Dog's acts of kindness.
* PragmaticAdaptation: Since Gen's taste for sake couldn't be adapted to the second TMNT cartoon, he was made a gambler instead.
* PublicDomainArtifact: Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, the Grass-Cutting Sword, one of Japan's imperial regalia (which is nearly as important to Japanese legend as Excalibur is in England), is the center of a whole story arc.
* PunnyName: Some throwaway secondary characters have names that are somewhat funny when translated from Japanese.
* PutOnABus: Ino, once he succeeded in his IJustWantToBeNormal quest.
* RecurringExtra: The omnipresent woodcutters. Groo, on occasion.
* RecycledINSPACE: ''Space Usagi'' features descendants of the main characters and puts them in a SpaceOpera setting.
* RedOniBlueOni: Gen and Usagi; Noriko and Tomoe.
* TheReliableOne: Mariko chooses Kenichi over Usagi because while Usagi was off serving lords, becoming a ronin, and having wild adventures, Kenichi was raising Jotaro.
* ReptilesAreAbhorrent: Lord Hebi is a giant snake; Orochimaru appears in the "Grasscutter" prologue; ''tokage'' may fill the role of dogs and cats but if they're hungry enough they won't hesitate to eat people (they're also eaten but only as a last resort).
* TheResenter: Kenichi.
* {{Ronin}}: Usagi and many secondary characters.
* {{Samurai}}: Usagi, Tomoe, and ''so many extras besides''.
* ScareEmStraight: Usagi, either first or second hand, to several young people who think the life a wanderer is glamorous.
* ScarsAreForever: Usagi is consistently drawn with his scar from the battle at Adatachi Plain (even if other such scarring he acquires eventually heals). Katsuichi loses his eye and wears an eyepatch ([[RuleOfCool made from a sword guard]]) from that point on.
* ScoobyDooHoax: "The Inn on Moon Shadow Hill".
* SecretTestOfCharacter: Katsuichi-sensei is prone to do this.
* {{Seppuku}}: Appears periodically, usually when a character needs to atone for an earlier shame.
* ShamuFu: At one point, Usagi defends a fish merchant from a armed gang attempting a protection racket with nothing more than that day's catch.
* SheathStrike: Part of Gen's style of swordsmanship. Gen usually carries his sword over his shoulder, rather than in his belt, and holds the scabbard in his left hand when fighting. Usagi uses the style after meeting Gen, usually when heavily outnumbered or not willing to kill his opponent. Zato-ino holds his scabbard while fighting, because it's also his cane, but never uses it.
* ShipTease: Until the ''Mother of Mountains'' arc, this was the only thing Stan did with the romantic tension between Tomoe and Usagi.
* ShootTheShaggyDog: "The Outlaw". Hilariously [[spoiler: the "shot" is done by Stray Dog]].
* ShortCutsMakeLongDelays: Gen is prone to offer this to Usagi when they're travelling together, and Usagi follows. They end up in a predicament. Every single time, Usagi yells at Gen during or afterwards: "You and your shortcuts!"
* ShoutOut:
** Many characters are [[ShoutOut shout outs]] to [[JidaiGeki Chanbara]] heroes -- the Lone Goat and Kid is a nod to the LoneWolfAndCub, Zato-Ino the blind masseur pig is a thinly-veiled version of Zatoichi, Lord Mifune references the actor ToshiroMifune, and so on.
** Jei's name is a shout out to the ''Franchise/FridayThe13th'' film series ("Jei-san")
** In addition to a ton of ''Franchise/StarWars'' shout-outs in ''Space Usagi'', the Bugg Planet is a shout-out to ''Manga/NausicaaOfTheValleyOfTheWind''.
** Not to mention that one swordfight of Usagi is an almost exact adaptation of the first-bokken-then-swords duel from ''Film/SevenSamurai''.
** Tomoe Ame is named after a brand of candy. This is why her name is kept in Western order, surname last, while everyone else's names are in Japanese order, surname first.
** "Are you a [[Franchise/{{Godzilla}} god, Zilla]]?" Usagi later creates a fully-grown "Zilla" to battle some his {{kaiju}} enemies created by a cursed ink set for [[MilestoneCelebration the real "Zilla's" 50th anniversary]].
** At one point Usagi gets doused in [[BuckyOHare green dye]] (there's a roguish rabbit in the ''StarWars'' expanded universe and I'm pretty sure he was also green); Gen thought he was dead and tells Usagi to get out of the dye vat and "stop grinning like some [[TheJoker joker]]".
** "Wings of Blood" -- "Holy flying furballs, it's ''[[{{Batman}} bats, man]]''!"
** [[Film/TheTreasureOfTheSierraMadre "The Treasure of the Mother of Mountains"]] (though the plot is more similar to a previous story, "Slavers").
** The last chapter of the "Grasscutter II" arc is called "InTheRealmOfTheSenses" because the rest of the chapters have a five senses theme, there's no [[spoiler: sex, strangling, and penis chopping]] here.
** Inazuma, possessed by Jei, assures Keiko that her injury is [[MontyPythonAndTheHolyGrail "just a flesh wound"]] (it actually isn't, she's not as durable as Jei).
** Senzo is a WholePlotReference and prequel to WarOfTheWorlds.
* ShownTheirWork: Stan Sakai may research some aspect of ancient Japanese life, from pottery to seaweed farming or geishas, and render it lovingly on the page or describe it in detail in the afterwords. In fact, Sakai's research and presentation of this stuff is so on the money that he won a Parent's Choice Award for the comic's educational value.
* SingleStrokeBattle
* TheSoCalledCoward: Usagi is polite and does not seek fights needlessly, so this trope comes across him often.
* SpaceWhale: [[InSPACE Giant space]] turtles! (in ''Space Usagi'')
** Whose corpses get turned into [[CoolShip giant space ships!]]
* SpeechBubbles: There is a speech bubble for ''death'', with a skull in it.
* StarCrossedLovers / AnchoredShip: Usagi has rotten luck with women.
** Usagi and Mariko: They're both separated by duty and honor - she to her husband, he first to his lord and later to the warrior's road.
** Usagi and Kiku: She was about to enter an ArrangedMarriage, plus they're different social classes.
** Usagi and Tomoe: He'll never serve another lord, even one as nice as Tomoe's; she's been marked for an Arranged Marriage to an older lord -- in the tea ceremony chapter there's even a stone marker that means "path forbidden". (Though Sakai has advised concerned readers that a bad or tragic ending is not a ForegoneConclusion)
*** In Senzo, [[spoiler: she's married, and not to Usagi.]]
** Usagi and Chizu: Originally, it wouldn't work out because she was working for Hikiji. Now there's a different problem - she's a ''nukenin,'' almost every other Neko ninja is out to kill her, and ''she'' would endanger ''Usagi'' if they had a relationship. This is an IronicEcho of the problem Usagi has with his other potential love interests.
** ''Space Usagi'' and Tomoe (who's a rabbit like Mariko and a samurai like Tomoe) do hook up [[spoiler: unfortunately she's killed in the next story arc]].
** Katsuichi and his girlfriend whose father was a rival dojo's sensei, and the rival dojo's heir who [[spoiler: lied to his sensei that Katsuichi only wanted to marry his daughter to take over the dojo and later tried to ambush Katsuichi at night. Unfortunately he accidentally killed the girlfriend (and promptly blamed Katsuichi because if she hadn't in love with him she wouldn't have been there), and then Katsuichi killed him]].
* StoryWithinAStory: Usagi's told two: "My Lord's Daughter" where he battles an army of ''oni'' to rescue his lord's daughter [[spoiler: his Lord Mifune didn't have a daughter]] and [[Literature/{{Momotaro}} "Momo-Usagi-taro"]] with himself as the legendary hero and ([[FurryConfusion interestingly]]) PartiallyCivilizedAnimal sidekicks, not anthropomorphic ones like himself (maybe because one of them's a pheasant and there aren't any bird-people).
* SuicideByCop: Watanabe Ken, a destitute ronin who'd rather die in battle then live with his merchant son-in-law.
* SwipeYourBladeOff: After every blood-drawing battle. Usagi is regularly depicted as cleaning his swords, however, so perhaps it's to minimize how much he has to clean later.
* ThatManIsDead: Inversion:
** In "Vendetta" a young samurai is looking for [[YouKilledMyFather his father's killers]] and has official permission to [[PrepareToDie execute them]]. Three of them became bandits and were caught in the first part while the [[FourIsDeath fourth]] [[spoiler: was genuinely sorry for what he did, chopped off his topknot and became a monk. He accepts that all the good he's done as a monk won't wipe out the past but Usagi convinces the vengeful samurai to accept the topknot in place of his head]].
** Orphan-maker, Noriko's brutal enforcer, [[spoiler: is blinded by Usagi. A few stories later he meets Usagi again (though if I recall correctly he doesn't recognize him) and tells him that getting blinded made him a better person and he's grateful for it.]]
* ToBeLawfulOrGood: The story "The Death of Lord Hikiji", where Usagi runs into a couple of other former vassals of Lord Mifune. They are planning to kill Lord Hikiji to avenge Mifune's death, and Usagi has to decide whether or not he wants to join them.
* TrickDialogue: In trying to get out of the rain, Usagi came across the swordswoman Inazuma telling her life's story to some of her friends. By the time she is finished, the rain has let up, so Inazuma bids them farewell and heads out. Usagi makes an aside about the story to one of the "friends"... only to discover that all four of them are dead -- bounty hunters who had been trying unsuccessfully to kill Inazuma.
** Usagi goes to return a small trinket to a fellow member of Lord Mifune's army. [[spoiler:The trinket was a good-luck charm; Usagi tells the man he is sorry he was unable to return it previously, then leaves it on the top of the man's gravestone and walks away.]]
* UnexplainedRecovery: Jei-san somehow recovers after being vaporized by lightning (he was originally a one-off character) and being impaled by his own spear and chucked off a cliff. [[spoiler: Getting run through by Kusanagi destroyed his body for good, unfortunately he's a disembodied spirit. He doesn't recover as well in Inazuma's body, maybe his current one will be tougher]].
** The second time he meets Usagi, Usagi actually comments on his survival. Jei claims he actually did die but the gods sent him back because his work wasn't finished.
* TheUnfavorite / BastardBastard: [[spoiler: Noriko. She's shunted to her aunt's after her mom dies because her uncle is actually her biological father (mom and aunt are sisters). Aunty doesn't like her very much and then bio-dad straight-up tells her he'll never accept her as his daughter, so she kills him and poisons her "step" father for being weak. She reveals all of this to her The Favorite cousin Tomoe while beating her to the ground (on top of having worked a day in Noriko's mine). For Noriko, it's a ''very satisfying'' beating.]]
* TheVoiceless: [[spoiler: Noriyuki's body double. He couldn't imitate his voice so he didn't speak, even after being fatally wounded.]]
* VoiceOfTheLegion: Jei-san [[spoiler: and anyone possessed by him/it]].
* WalkingTheEarth: Gen, and several others. Usagi falls more into KnightErrant: Chizu into FlyingDutchman.
* TheWatson: Inspector Nii serves as one to Ishida, respecting him, and not being as corrupt as his superiors.
* WaxOnWaxOff: Usagi's old master Katusuichi, pretended to be a MoochingMaster, making Usagi do all manner of chores for over a year before he even let Usagi touch a bokken. Turns out he was actually testing Usagi's patience and resolve to become a swordsman.
* WhamLine: '''Gen''': [[spoiler: (Sakura) doesn't have a brother.]]
* WhipItGood: Sakura.
* WorthyOpponent: Captain Torame in "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy". He's so [[MyMasterRightOrWrong loyal]], he'll stay with his lord even though he knows his plans are evil.
---> '''Torame''', trading ''Bushido'' sayings with Usagi: "Is there ever a circumstance when ''rebellion'' against one's lord can be justified?"\\
'''Usagi''': '''''"Never!"'''''\\
'''Torame''': Ah, but it can be justified, ''if the rebellion '''succeeds'''!''
* {{Yakuza}}: Many antagonists.
* {{Youkai}}: Usagi regularly encounters spirits, ghosts, and demons.
* YouKilledMyFather: A samurai gets permission to kill the four bad guys who killed his father; Usagi in ''Space Usagi'' for both his lord and himself.
* YouMonster: Usagi calls Fujii a monster.
* YouSaidYouWouldLetThemGo: Normally played straight, but subverted at least once, where the bounty hunter slashes his hostage, but only cuts her bonds, and allows her to go free. He does kill her when she attacks him later on.