Follow TV Tropes


Comic Book / Usagi Yojimbo

Go To

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, 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 Hollywood Medieval Japan. 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 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, thanks in part to several crossovers between different incarnations of the properties, and the friendship between Sakai and the Turtles creators. Besides TMNT comics, Usagi has appeared in two episodes of the 1987 cartoon (and even had a figure in the toy line), eight of the 2003 show, and three on the 2012 show (with one being written by Sakai himself). The latter two shows have also done episodes set in Usagi's world—the closest things yet to an Usagi animated series.

As one of the more famous and successful examples of creator-owned comics, Usagi Yojimbo has had a number of different publishers. Starting out in the anthology Albedo Anthropomorphics, it later moved to Fantagraphics Books where it started its ongoing title. It was then published by Eastman and Laird's Mirage Studios for a time, before moving on to Dark Horse Comics. Collected editions are available, with the first seven books published by Fantagraphics and the rest by Dark Horse. note  In March of 2018, the series moved to a series of miniseries, with both the total numbering and the Dark Horse numbering listed in the indices. And most recently, in 2019, the series moved to IDW Publishing, renumbered yet again and being published in colour.


Gold Rush Games published Usagi Yojimbo Roleplaying Game using the Instant Fuzion game system and later Sanguine Games published Usagi Yojimbo: Role-Playing Game using a variant of the Cardinal system used in Ironclaw with the second edition using the Powered by the Apocalypse system.

A Chibi version of Usagi, Gen and Kitsune was added as an expansion to CMON's Arcadia Quest in 2020.

A video game for the Commodore 64 called Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo was released in 1988. A mobile game for iOS and Android was also released, Usagi Yojimbo: Way Of The Ronin.

On February 6, 2018, a full animated series was officially announced as being in development and in July 2020 it was announced as Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles on Netflix. Rather than an adaptation of the comic, it will be a future-set series about a descendant of Usagi, much like the once-proposed Space Usagi series. Everything old is new again. Hopefully, the Turtles can make an appearance.

Usagi Yojimbo contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: When Usagi appears with in the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, "Usagi Yojimbo" is incorrectly used as his actual name. In the 2003 series he's properly referred to as "Miyamoto Usagi".
  • Action Girl: Chizu, Inazuma, Tomoe Ame. The occasional one-shot story may feature an Action Girl who inevitably dies or is written out of the series married off.
  • Actually, I Am Him: The Red Scorpion gang kidnaps a magistrate's son and holds him for ransom, with the head of a fencing school accompanying him to deliver the ransom money. The magistrate knows the swordmaster's behind the kidnapping... because he's the Red Scorpion.
  • All Just a Dream: When a younger Usagi attacks a sleeping Katsuichi, and smashes his head (really just his clothes set aside with a pumpkin under it), he falls unconscious and dreams of a monstrous Katsuichi 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. 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 Kill 'Em All ending for the series).
    • Inazuma has a dream where she's in hell and has to fight an army to get out where she meets Jei, who later possesses her.
    • Tomoe has a dream where Noriko, her evil half-sister, struggles to find her way out of a cave in order to get revenge on Tomoe and Usagi. After Tomoe wakes up Usagi assures her that despite not finding the body it would be impossible for Noriko to have survived.
  • Alternate Continuity:
    • Usagi's cartoon incarnations, because they're technically linked up by the whole Turtles multiverse. Usagi meets both the Mirage and IDW Turtles, and the former have met both the '03 and '12 animated Turtles, who've met both their "own" '03 and '12 animated Usagis and the '87 Turtles, who've met the animated '87 Usagi. Whew.
    • The Senso miniseries, which is set after a Time Skip and is a riff on The War of the Worlds, has been described as this, though it has the feel of a Grand Finale. The very end shows it may have an Unreliable Narrator, namely Space Usagi. Sakai has said that when it gets published as one volume, the book will not be numbered unlike the other Usagi books since it's outside normal continuity.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The Lord of Owls. Like Jei, he operates on Blue-and-Orange Morality, unlike Jei, he has no quarrel with Usagi, and most of his victims attacked him first. However in one instance he laid waste to a group of Samurai... who were jokingly asking if he wanted to drink with them, even trying to de-escalate the situation when the Lord of Owls drew his sword and declared his intention to kill them. The Lord of Owls presents himself as a sort of Grim Reaper like figure who kills those whose time is up, like those samurai and the other bandits he's fought.
  • Anyone Can Die: If you aren't Usagi or one of his closest companions, there is about a 50/50 chance whether you see the end of a story.
    • Taken further in Space Usagi, where unless your name is Usagi, you have a good chance of biting it. This includes Tomoe, Usagi's love interest, who is still alive and kicking in Yojimbo.
    • At it's zenith in Senso, which is fitting since it serves as a possible conclusion to Usagi Yojimbo. By the end, Hikiji, Hebi, Gen, the remaining Neko ninjas, and finally Usagi himself all die.
  • Arch-Enemy: At first, Lord Hikiji filled the role. Later, Jei (or the demon which possessed first Jei and then others) took up the role.
  • Art Evolution: Early installments featured characters with more animal-like appearances, especially in-profile, and squat, dumpy figures. As the series wore on, however, characters gained more human proportions and 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.
  • Artistic License – History: The one big deviation history-wise is that guns and gunpowder seem to be unknown to this version of Japan until European contact, despite that they were already known centuries earlier due to proximity with China.
  • As You Know: Characters will sometimes explain things well-known to their listener.
  • Author Avatar: 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.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: One of Sakai's favorite tropes. Thanks to his Chronic Hero Syndrome, Usagi will go back-to-back to help almost any honorable warrior (and Gen, too.) He's guarded the backs of Tomoe, Ikeda, Nakamura Koji, Chizu... well, just about everybody!
  • Backdoor Pilot: 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 Creative Differences between Stan Sakai and Playmates Toys. His appearance on the 2003 TMNT show carried no such aspirations; it was just a treat for the fans.
  • Badass Preacher: Sanshobo, who was a samurai until he took his vows. Priest Jizonobu was also a samurai and still an excellent fighter before he became Jei.
  • Bad is Good and Good is Bad: Jei behaves this way, attacking as "evil" characters who are the most moral by the rest of the world's standards. Though actually, he seems to consider someone evil if they understand what evil means. Only a sociopath is safe.
  • Barehanded Blade Block: Usagi regularly does this with no explanation. A ninja is seen doing a singlehanded version, but we can see a metal bar protecting his palm.
  • Beast Man / Wild Man / Running on All Fours / Primal Stance / Wild Hair: Two primitive-looking characters have appeared as "familiars" to sorcerers, most notably in "Grasscutter".
  • Berserk Button: Genosuké is a walking berserk button. His questionable character traits tend to set off more Usagi temper tantrums than anything else.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: A lot of people who commit seppuku.
    • Also inverted: A lot of warriors would rather die in battle than live in misery, or die of illness.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Usagi's very nice but if you're a bad guy he won't hesitate to cut you down.
    • Keiko is a friendly Cheerful Child who also hangs around insane serial killer Jei 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, tiny, tea-loving elderly wandering priest whose over-sized head is shaped like an egg complete with a crack scar/birthmark he's also a senior member of Koroshi, the assassins guild, has done a You Have Failed Me 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).
  • Big "NO!": Usually before a dramatic death scene.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Ishida, Koji.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Gen's story ends with 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 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 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 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 Inazuma being forgiven by her family for running off and dying as herself.
    • Senso (which is not in the main canon) serves double duty for the story itself and for Space Usagi. After piloting a robot and destroying the last alien walker, Usagi gets stabbed by the last remaining alien. Before he dies, he and Jotaro both learn that the other knew about their relationship as father and son, and he confesses his love to Tomoe. Then we see that the whole story was told by Usagi from Space Usagi to children, showing that he survived the events of his story and found another love in that canon's version of Mariko, who is pregnant.
  • Black Blood: In the colored version of the first standalone issue, released by IDW in 2020, the blood from the first duel that Usagi cleans off of his sword is colored black.
  • Bloodless Carnage: 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 was poisoned and began to 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 Sergio Aragonés on Groo the Wanderer) is an iconic part of the series these days.
    • In one extreme case, a young Usagi comments on all the blood after killing a gang... which is nowhere to be seen.
    • 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.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: 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.
  • Body Double: For Lords Noriyuki and Hikiji. Dolls are used for another lord and Lady Maple's son.
  • Body Surf: Jei-san: First Priest Jizonobu, then Inazuma, and currently Priest Hama, the only survivor of Jei's original rampage on Jizonobu's temple.
  • Bounty Hunter: Gennosuke, Inukai, countless extras, and — occasionally — Usagi.
  • Break the Haughty: After losing his eyes during "The Mother of Mountains", the Orphanmaker reappears sometime later and Usagi discovers that he's become a wandering monk. When asked, he reveals that after becoming blind, he spent a lot of time angry and miserable, but eventually learned to accept help and charity from others. He also began to understand what it felt like when the strong bully the weak, and realized he had been just as bad. Eventually, he became a monk to atone for his past misdeeds.
  • Broken Pedestal: Mainly in Space Usagi.
  • Broken Aesop: Done In-Universe and 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.
  • Cain and Abel: Noriko and Tomoe, although it's Noriko who gets killed, probably.
  • Call-Back: In the second issue, Usagi meets a tiny fire-breathing lizard who Pokemon Speaks "Zylla!". More than a hundred issues later, he fights a sorcerer whose ink drawings come to life, so Usagi draws him "all grown up".
  • Call to Agriculture: Zig-zagged by General Ikeda in "The Patience of the Spider". Originally, Ikeda settled in the farming village just to hide his identity and bide his time until he could get revenge. However, in the meantime, he managed to become elected as village headman, led the construction of a new irrigation system, married and had a child, and just became the mask so thoroughly he realized the remnants of his old life no longer called to him.
  • Captain Obvious: "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 
  • 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." The third time this happens Usagi says "No I haven't."
    • Not quite a "phrase", but everyone has a different yelling style; for instance, Usagi's "RYAAAAAH!"
    • Kitsune's motto: "A girl has to do what she can to get by, ne?"
    • Often, after narrowly escaping a horrifying situation with their skins intact, Usagi will regard Gen with a death glare before shouting, "You and your stupid short-cuts!"
  • Cats Are Mean: While there are numerous characters that avert this, such as Tomoe Ame, the Neko Ninja clan serves the Big Bad Lork Hikiji, Usagi, Gen, and Tomoe fight an Obakeneko in one chapter, and a few minor villains are cats, such as Arimura, Ryoko, and Rodriguez. And while Inazuma isn't a villain, she isn't exactly friendly either. The characters living up to this trope the most, however, are Noriko, Evil Counterpart to Tomoe Ame, and her cousin, who is a complete and utter Sadist, and Kagemaru, who betrayed Chizu and turned the entire Neko Ninja clan against her.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: Happens to Lord Mifune and Lord Noriyuki's dad.
  • Close-Call Haircut: To Katsuichi from Koji during their duel, though no one comments on it.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Ninja mooks abound; the really lethal ones are the named characters.
  • Cool Swords: 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 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 Blade Lock! 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 Applied Phlebotinum into Absurdly Sharp Blades. The swords even used to bring Usagi into the future just long enough for the two Usagis to say hi and give him a few goodies to take back so he won't get killed by ninjas
    • There's also Public Domain Artifact Grasscutter, which is at the very least an extremely well-made mundane sword, having laid at the bottom of the ocean for 500 years without losing it's edge or getting the least bit rusty. There's also some indication that it's divine heritage might be true, such as Jei being unable to corrupt it like he does with his other weapons.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of Vol. 28 shows a Red Scorpion Gang member with a tattoo; the real gang members don't have any identifying markings.
  • Creepy Child: Keiko, after Jei designates her as his "innocent" (acting like a witch's familiar). Although she's quite cheerful about it, which, as Keiko cheerfully bids a polite farewell to the men Jei has just murdered, makes it all the eerier. She hasnt changed much personality-wise from when Jei first found her, but the way she never acknowledges the swathe of horror Jei is carving across their travels is very unsettling.
  • Crossover: The comic featured several early appearances by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Usagi is a Recurring Character in the TMNT cartoons.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: The Teru Teru Bozu story has Usagi staying at a family's house where he makes friend with their young son and teaches him how to make the titular Teru Teru Bozu which one can place outside the house to ask the gods for better weather. That night, the house is attacked by a big monster that eats the boy's parents before killing Usagi and attacking the boy. This turns out to just be a nightmare the kid had due to eating too many sweets Usagi gave him the previous night. Usagi makes him some stilts and they play together for a little while longer before Usagi goes on his way. A mostly light hearted and low stakes story. Except, that night it is storming and someone knocks on their door. The child runs to the door, thinking Usagi came back to get out of the rain. However, he opens it to find Jei standing at the door.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Kitsune, 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."
  • Darker and Edgier: Space Usagi has this up the wazoo. To name a couple of examples, Usagi's main love interest is killed shortly after her introduction, and his sensei is revealed to be a traitor.
    • Senso is also this while somehow being Denser and Wackier. On the one hand, goofy-looking aliens invade Earth during the heroes' final showdown with Hikiji. On the other hand, they start slaughtering everyone. On the one hand, they build a giant Usagi mech that looks straight out of Gundam. On the other hand, many of the main characters, including ultimately Usagi himself, die.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: The husband of an author, envious for her fame eclipsing his own, murders her - only to find this trope in full effect.
  • Deal with the Devil, complete with "Gift of the Magi" Plot: During the Heian period, a mediocre artist called Katsushige sold his soul for the ability to create "art the like of which had never been seen before". The dark gods turned him into an ink set. Anything that was drawn with it became real, but still... he's an ink set.
    • Then we have the unfortunate Priest Jizonobu, whose well-meant Deal with the Devil had even worse consequences.
  • Defiant to the End: Usagi is never one to do anything else when facing an enemy who seems to have the drop on him.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Princess Kiku.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • 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. 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.
    • The series often plays up how devotion to your lord is supposed to take precedence above all else. In one notable instance, the villain has Usagi captured while Tomoe escapes. The villain plans to torture and mutilate Usagi unless Tomoe comes back for him. She does come back for him, but since she is immediately captured for it when she could have reported the entire operation back to her lord, she states multiple times that she should have left him for dead to let her lord know what the villain was doing. Usagi, for his part, doesn't seem too hurt whenever she says it (and even expected her to leave him to die initially.)
    • Characters who would rather die than be dishonored make decisions that can seem strange to the reader. Similarly, characters who renounce that honor and start a new life as monks are making a tremendous personal sacrifice that, to modern eyes, doesn't seem all that significant.
    • As tolerant as Usagi can be, he's still amazed in "The Hidden" upon learning that the Christians worship an executed criminal (albeit an innocent one).
      • It leads to a Harsher in Hindsight moment when it's revealed that the man he's talking to is a Christian himself.
    • Similarly, he doesn't like "foreigners" in general. Given that most of his experiences with them involve guns, tuberculosis, and an entitled Spanish "Ass" in Ambassador who demanded to see a harmless tea master commit seppuku simply for his own entertainment, you can't really blame him.
    • The treatment of the lower classes is bad to modern eyes and rather extreme even by the standards of the rest of the world in the 16th century.
    • Usagi is only relatively sympathetic to the plight of the Japanese Christians in hiding. When he and Inspector Ishida find one, Usagi thinks that he should be arrested since Christianity is outlawed, and continues to think so even after Ishida reminds him that the man would most likely be executed if brought in. Ishida on the other hand is very sympathetic to the Christians' plight, which makes sense considering he is one.
  • Demon Slaying: Sasuke the Demon Queller. Usagi does his share of youkai slaying as well.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The Teru Teru Bozu story. Usagi stays with a family for the night, and teaches their child about the Teru Teru Bozu, a doll that you hang up to herald good weather. That night, he has a nightmare about a monster who kills his parents and Usagi before eating him. But it was just a nightmare and Usagi plays with him some more before going on his way. And all in all it seems like a rather light hearted story. But then that evening, there is a knock on their door and when the child opens it, thinking Usagi had returned, in the doorway stands Jei.
    • In regards to Senso, the "potential" finale to Usagi Yojimbo overall, Usagi goes to battle with the last alien warmech in a giant robot of his own. He manages to destroy it but gets buried in rubble. Tomoe and Jotaro pull him from the wreckage and everything seems to be happy. But then one last surviving alien impales Usagi with a shard of wood. Usagi dies shortly after, having just enough time for him and Jotaro to acknowledge their relationship as father and son finally and Usagi nearly being able to profess his love to Tomoe before expiring.
  • Disability Super Power: 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.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In the 2003 TMNT series, Chizu leading the Neko Ninja is made to resemble Karai leading the Foot Ninja.
  • Downer Ending: Many of the stories end on depressing notes. The one-off villains rarely get away with their schemes, but good characters often suffer greatly in the process.
    • Tatami, a two-issue story arc in the IDW run, ends with the premium titular mats destroyed by ninja hired by Hikiji, but there's no concrete proof of this. The guards of the mats plan to commit ritual suicide in an attempt to allow their daimyo to save face for the visiting Shogun, as the mats had been planned for a tea ceremony in a state visit.
  • Dramatic Irony: Usagi knows that Jotaro is really his son. Jotaro learns from his mother that Usagi is really his father. Neither thinks the other knows (though the audience knows that both know), and both struggle with whether to tell the other the truth, as they both believe that doing so will destroy the other's happiness (Usagi doesn't want to destroy Jotaro's relationship with his step-father Kenichi, who his mother Mariko married. Jotaro doesn't want to make Usagi feel like he needs to settle down to raise Jotaro, as he knows Usagi feels that his place in life is on the road.)
  • The Drifter: As a consequence of the setting's backstory (the Shogun's Peace forcing all the great lords to disband most of their military forces), a lot of samurai are traveling 'the warrior pilgrimage'. This includes Usagi, Gen, Stray Dog and a number of others.
  • Due to the Dead: In the story "Broken Ritual" (plot by Sergio Aragonés), 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.
  • Dying as Yourself:
    • Inazuma. She even gets to make peace with her family.
    • Also Usagi in a dream sequence of himself as Jei.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: In "The Dragon Bellows Conspiracy," Usagi, Gen, Zato-Ino, and a bunch of Neko ninjas led by Shingen attack the castle of Lord Tamakuro, who has been stockpiling black powder weapons. They do some damage, and rescue Tomoe, but the attack fails and they begin to retreat. But then Shingen, dying of gunshot wounds, uses the last of his strength to set fire to the back powder, annihilating himself and Tamakuro and ending the potential rebellion.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: There's a few things in the initial stories that stick out as odd. The art style especially is much more stylized with characters given more squat chibi proportions. There's also a wider variety of Funny Animal people, including horse, reptile and frog people, which Sakai eventually phased out in favour of only using mammalian characters and Dogfaces. Lord Noriyuki owns an actual dog in his earliest appearance. Hikiji's second-in-command, Lord Hebi, is a snake, making him The Artifact in newer stories where characters are exclusively humanoid. Hikiji himself was given a face reveal as a human which was supposed to be set up for a plot involving humans and their gradual presence in Japan and potential conflict with the animals which the author ended up scrapping. Since then Hikiji's gone back to being The Faceless, but the author's never retconned that reveal.
  • Ears as Hair: Usagi most often has his ears tied into a ponytail, or rather a samurai topknot, (and the author credits the idea of a rabbit samurai to a doodle showing just that). When he puts on a hat or a helmet, they disappear completely.
  • Eternal English: This phenomenon occurs when he appears in crossovers with the Ninja Turtles, and was even lampshaded in the 1987 cartoon; he comes from an Alternate Universe, from a world with a culture that mirrors Feudal Japan, "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.)
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Subverted/inverted in "A Mother's Love". Even moms love their bad sons, but sometimes they're just too bad... and must be stopped.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jei cares for Keiko and leaves mid-fight when he sees she's in danger; the leader of the vicious Red Scorpion Gang actually a local lord has loved ones.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: 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 terrifies the man into drinking the tea, watches him die in agony, and then pays for her meal before she departs. After all, she's not a thief.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The omnipresent tokage (Japanese for lizard) are basically cat-sized diplodocuses. They're often seen kept as pets, watching Usagi walk by, or scavenging dead bodies.
  • Evil Counterpart: 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, neither of the pairs have met.
    • Arguably Jei is one to Usagi himself, and Noriko is definetely one to Tomoe,
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The air around Jei-san becomes noticeably chilly.
  • Evil Old Folk: The Assassin's Guild and the Neko Ninja clan both employ the elderly as assassins, to pretty good effect when Usagi isn't involved.
  • 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. "Kakera" is Japanese for "splinter" or "fragment".
  • Eye Scream: In "The Mother Of Mountains", the mercenary known as The Orphanmaker loses both his eyes over the course of the story, Usagi pokes one out with his bare fingers when the Orphanmaker is grappling with him, and during the climax cuts the other one out with his sword, leaving him blind. He's such a Jerkass it's hard to feel sorry for hi, but ironically, it leads to Break the Haughty, as seen above.
  • Eye Patch Of Power: After losing his eye in the battle that makes Usagi think he's dead, Katsuichi Sensei covers it with a sword guard.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Lord Hikiji and Jesus on the crucifix.
  • The Faceless: Lord Hikiji, for the most part. He was actually revealed to be a human in his first appearance, but has gone back to being masked ever since.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • As a samurai, Usagi is prepared to do so. During "Grasscutter", when Jei appeared to have Usagi on the ropes and stated his intention to kill him, the latter simply replied, "Such is karma."
    • The Neko Ninjas motto is "a ninja's duty in life is death", and none of them have ever begged for mercy no matter how vile the ninja in question might be.
    • In general, you can tell the quality of the antagonists by whether or not they fulfill this trope. Weak and cowardly villains will beg and snivel for their miserable lives, while the brave will be Defiant to the End.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Chizu's brother had one before 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 Badass Creed.
    "A ninja's duty in life... is death!"
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Don't let the lack of blood or the style of the art fool you. The body fount of this comic is frankly astonishing, and most of the deaths are extremely graphic. Of particular note is the cruel capture and murder of poor, innocent Noodles. His only friends are kept back by corrupt lawmen while he is tortured, then graphically run through with spears.
  • Kitsune: The character named Kitsune is just a 'person' who appears foxlike. A couple of kitsune in the Japanese myth sense have appeared, with the ability to switch from non-anthropomorphic fox forms into fox-humanoids, but they are generally (though not invariably) villains.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: 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.
    Jei (still quoting the viper in the story): You knew what I was when you rescued me.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Inazuma.
  • Forgotten Childhood Friend: Well, forgotten childhood encounter. Usagi and Tomoe met once as children and although they didn't get each other's names they did think the other was kinda cute.
  • Four Is Death: The quartet of assassins known as "Shi".
  • Friend to All Children: Whenever he interacts with children, Usagi tends to get along well with them. Notably in one story, he meets with a group of orphan children (oddly, the same ones whom Inukai helps out although their paths don't cross in this story) and entertains them by telling them the story of Momotarō, recasting himself in the lead role.
  • Freudian Excuse: Tomoe's cousin is a total psychopath who casually kills peasants and enjoys inflicting suffering on others. However, she had a pretty unfair childhood. Her mother had her through an affair with her husband's brother, aka Tomoe's father, making her Tomoe's half sister. Her legal father couldn't stand the sight of her knowing where she really came from and sent her off to live with her blood father, who refused to acknowledge her as his daughter due to the scandal it would make. She was always jealous of Tomoe who was well loved and well treated. Though, Noriko was still a psychopath even during her childhood, so it may have contributed to why she was hated by her own family. It's not fully explained.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: Senso ends up being one to Space Usagi. At the end, it turns out the whole story was one that Space Usagi was telling to some children, showing that he survived the events of his canon and ultimately found a second love in this continuity's version of Mariko.
  • Furry Confusion: The world is populated with Funny Animals of most species. Horses, lizards (tokage), birds, fish, and insects are excepted to minimize potential Squick value. Lampshaded 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!
  • Furry Comic: A badass that has inspired some of the later fandom.
  • Future Badass: Pretty much everyone has taken a level or two in Senso: Jotaro is entrusted with a large part of the army, Gennosuke is a general, Noriyuki is a capable military leader, even Keiko managed to pick up a scar. The only exception is Jei of all people, who gets fried by a Martian death ray at random and then has no more relevance to the story only appearing as a cameo implying that he finally possessed Keiko.
  • Genre-Busting: Usagi Yojimbo is a funny animal period piece action drama. With jokes. And dinosaurs. Little ones.
  • Gentleman Thief: Kitsune, her sidekick Kiyoko, and Nezumi.
  • George Lucas Altered Version:
    • Some stories have had changes made between the comic and graphic novel collections — such as Usagi kissing hugging Kinuko after 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.)
    • Also in "Tomoe's Story," Tomoe's is made more clearly expressive in the framing story and in the original story, she comes out of the climactic fight that got her appointed Noriyuki's personnel much more scuffed up than in the original version.
  • Give Him a Normal Life: Usagi does this for the son of a lord and his courtesan, Lady Maple, when he gives the child to Inspector Ishida. He also did this unknowingly for his son Jotaro, and decided not to tell him for pretty much this reason.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars:
    • Usagi gets a cut over his eyebrow during the Battle of Adachigahara, courtesy of Lord Hikiji.
    • 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
  • Gratuitous English: 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.
  • Hastily Hidden MacGuffin: In the "A Potter's Tale" issue, a thief slips into a pottery workshop while on the run and hides a valuable gem in the wet clay of one of the bowls. So he knows which one contains the gem, he pinches the rim to make it stand out. Unfortunately for the thief, the potter sees the difference, likes the addition and does the same to all his bowls. The thief desperately buys all the bowls and smashes them to find the gem but the potter had already unknowingly given the bowl containing the gem back to the man that the thief stole it from as part of a business deal. Then thief's partners come looking for their share of the loot...
  • He Didn't Make It: At the end of the Dragon Bellow's Conspiracy, Gen tells Usagi and Tomoe that Zato-Ino was shot and fell during the battle. However, as he mentally notes, Zato-Ino didn't actually die from the bullet. It was Gen's way of paying Zato-Ino back for saving his life during the fight.
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • 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.
    • Usagi himself can be considered this whenever he appears as a Special Guest in Ninja Turtles continuity.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Saru and Ikeda both do this in Journey to Atsuta Shrine, but for different reasons
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Hikiji as the sole human, something Sakai later regretted doing. Jesus on the crucifix — lion, lamb, human, or something else entirely? Also, foreigners, until issue #150 of the Dark Horse run, which introduces a Spanish feline named Rodriguez. Unfortunately, he fulfills pretty much all the racist beliefs the Japanese hold towards foreigners in the setting, as he's both violent and sadistic.
    • 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.
  • Heir Club for Men: Tomoe is more skilled than her brother but didn't inherit the family dojo because she's a woman. Her father does acknowledge that she is by far the superior swordsman, but has no interest in wrecking the dojo's reputation in a futile attempt at singlehandedly changing everyone elses sexist attitudes.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: In the acclaimed "Grasscutter" storyline, Usagi discovers the fabled lost sword whose owner can lay claim to being Emperor. Knowing that the fight for the sword could instigate a civil war, Usagi decides to take it to a temple where an exact replica of Grasscutter is on display for visitors. By switching the real sword for the fake, Usagi will have it kept safe while totally in the public eye.
  • High-Pressure Blood: 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.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: In Space Usagi when Usagi is pretty much beating himself to death after the death of Tomoe
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: 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, 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!"
  • Honest Axe: Subverted. The woodcutter in the story freezes to death because a golden axe is useless to cut firewood.
  • Honor Before Reason: 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.
    • Played with in regards to the various schools of sword fighting that Usagi comes across. Many will do very dishonorable things to protect the "honor" of their school if they are worried that a travelling sword student could defeat their master such as attempting to ambush them on their way to the school.
    • As in Real Life, 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.
    • 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.
  • Horrifying the Horror: Ryoko is a witch who can mind-control others in huge quantities, even at vast ranges. Then she runs into Jei while remote-piloting her servant, and is appropriately horrified.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: 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 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.
  • Hyper-Awareness:
    • Katsuichi made sure to drill that into his student to be constantly alert for danger; a skill any warrior has to have to survive. As a result, Usagi is very difficult to bushwhack.
    • Other characters feel it too, it's common for ambushes to start with one character saying another's name and get "I sensed him/them too" in reply.
  • Hypocrite: Usagi understands perfectly well that one must have total devotion to their lord. His devotion to his dead lord is why he refuses to serve under Noriyuki, as much as Usagi likes and respects the young lord. However in the quasi-canon Senso, he is extremely bitter that Tomoe ultimately went through with her arranged marriage. The fact that Noriyuki arranged it and that she is a woman made it all but impossible to refuse it to be with Usagi. To Usagi's credit, he is quick to apologize when she calls him out on it.
    • Usagi's first love Mariko demanded that Usagi stay away from their home town and never tell Jotaro that Usagi is his real father, as Mariko didn't want to ruin the relationship between Jotaro and his step-father Kenichi, who Jotaro thinks is his real father. However, Mariko went on to tell Jotaro the truth anyway, which led to both Usagi and Jotaro struggling with whether to reveal their blood relationship to the other, both scared that the learning the truth would destroy the other's happiness.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Only for stories that take up whole books:
  • Idiot Ball: The usually alert Usagi gets it in "Those Who Tread On The Scorpion's Tail" when he fails to see anything suspicious about a group of sword students suddenly showing up at his room, swords drawn after beating everyone but their Sensei who he allowed to win out of respect and they're talking like this:
    Usagi: What did you do — sneak out to an inn?
    Student: Uh— Yeah. We had a... uh, few drinks to... uh... celebrate Sensei's victory.
    Usagi: Ha! I also did such things that Katsuichi-sensei never knew about.
  • I'll Take Two Beers Too: Gen "invites" Usagi to an inn, orders enough sake to make two men blind... and then asks Usagi what he's having.
  • Implacable Man: Jei-san, Inazuma, and Inazuma after she gets possessed by Jei — presumably also Jei as Hama.
    • After being (seriously) wounded in one fight, Inazuma reassures Keiko that it's "merely a flesh wound".
      • 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 Nightmare Sequence), but as The Hero, this is Determinator.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: Usagi provokes a bandit into demanding that Katsuichi-sensei perform a near impossible feat of cutting a seed off 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.
    • In a short story, Usagi tells Jotaro about it, and Jotaro decides to try it himself. Usagi finds a pumpkin and sticks the seed on it, Jotaro strikes... pulverizing the pumpkin.
    • 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.
    • When Inazuma was first introduced she sliced up some ruffian's clothes for hitting on her, and it took four panels to show the damage.
    • In one early story a bunch of filthy ruffians surrounded by a cloud of flies are getting rowdy and insulting Usagi, who draws his sword and slashes repeatedly. The ruffians look appropriately scared, then their confidence comes back, only to run for the hills as one of them notices Usagi cut the flies.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills:
    Kinuko: "I just aimed at everything except the target!"
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Mainly due to "the foreigners and their black ships" and a major cause of "better to be killed than to die". General Oyaneko suffers from this and dies of it after Usagi refuses to duel him, as does a bounty hunter/ronin searching for the "Demon Mask" killer he's killed by the killer, who hates ronin for killing his son, and an old lord who 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).
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Every blade picked up by Jei becomes black... except the Kusanagi.
  • Inexplicably Tailless: Possibly. This is a Shrug of God 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.
  • Instant Expert: Inazuma had an "instant affinity" with swords after she was forced to become a performer and soon surpassed her samurai husband's skill.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Usagi meeting the Ninja Turtles in comics (as opposed to the cartoons, since he has yet to have his own). Most recently, he's set for a crossover with the IDW Turtles, where they don't know him but he remembers their original Mirage Studios versions.
  • Japanese Christian: There is a multi-issue storyline involving a group of Japanese Christians trying to smuggle a bible while being chased by the Shogunate as being a Christian is a crime punishable by death at this point in Japan. The story ends with the reveal that Usagi's friend Ishida, the Inspector, is a Christian himself who managed to stop the bible from being destroyed.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Gen, which Usagi amusedly calls him out on.
    • Inukai, who regularly donates large part of his earned money to an orphanage and seems to genuinely enjoy it.
  • Karmic Death: In The Fiend, after murdering his author wife for being more famous than him (and blaming it on bandits), her husband's daimyo congratulates him on the success of his late wife's final book, and notes that her name will likely live on long after either of them are forgotten. He commits ritual suicide minutes later.
    • Rodriguez, the European ambassador who had the daimyo he was in the court of force a tea ceremony master to commit seppeku for a minor slight, duels Usagi later in the issue. Usagi kills him with a wakishazi slash to the belly.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: 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.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Noriko to Tomoe (twice), Noriko to the laborers.
  • Kid Samurai: Usagi during the flashbacks, Jotaro, Gorogoro, Motokazu.
  • Killer Rabbit: HAW! (though, only when necessary)
  • Knight Errant: Usagi travels the musha shugyo — the warrior's path.
  • Lack of Empathy: Kiyoko, Kitsune's apprentice, seems to have become a 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?
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Sergio Aragonés' Groo the Wanderer and characters from Mark Crilley's Akiko have appeared as background characters from time to time— the former may in fact count as a Yuppie Couple. Also Morpheus shows up in line for noodles in the short story 'Noodles.' (As do Jei and Keiko.)
  • A Lesson in Defeat: A young Usagi is given a lesson by his master. He's ordered to 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 testing Usagi's honesty; the seeds had been boiled and would never have sprouted.
  • Let Them Die Happy: A fellow samurai under Lord Mifune has been biding his time to kill Lord Hikiji. Usagi has some doubts at first, but eventually joins him and his second in an ambush. However, the samurai attacks too soon and is mortally wounded. Usagi tells him he avenged Mifune rather than let him know that he only killed a Body Double.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Averted in "Shades of Green"; Usagi and Gen joined with an old wizard to fight off an army of ninjas. The wizard reasoned that they need ninjas of their own, so he conjured four ninjas to aid them. Specifically, Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael. Finding themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, they thought this was a trap set by Shredder and were set to attack Gen and Usagi, until Leonardo (who had met Usagi before) recognized him. The two exchanged pleasantries and Leo's brothers decided that if Leo trusted Usagi, they would trust him as well.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Oh, boy. Easily into the hundreds of characters just from the ones who are named.
  • Love Triangle: Usagi, Mariko, and Keniichi.
    • Katsuichi, the rival dojo's sensei's daughter, and the rival dojo's second-in-command.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Averted Jotaro shouts this to Usagi, but he's too far away to hear
    • And they both know of Jotaro's true paternity, but they don't know that the other knows.
  • Low Fantasy: For the most part, the series presents itself as a fairly down-to-earth pseudo-Historical Fantasy setting, once you get past the fact it's populated by Funny Animals instead of humans. However, the setting also has Yōkai as a reality of the setting, not just myths, with Usagi repeatedly encountering and often slaying ghosts and monsters across his various stories.
    • Usagi's very first story, "The Goblin of Adachigahara", involves him battling a horrific man-eating goblin. Although possibly subverted in that it turns out to be General Buichi Toda, a traitor from the Battle of Adachigahara who was banished and had gone insane. It's only possibly subverted since it's not clear if the "goblin", who is said to have gradually lost his humanity and never returned home one night, was in fact undead or had just gone mad. The 35th anniversary issue remade the story and since the comic is now in color instead of black-and-white, the "goblin" has sickly greenish skin, which may lean toward the former.
    • In "Village of Fear", Usagi fights a real bakeneko — a shapeshifting, man-eating cat-demon.
    • "The Bridge" revolves around Usagi battling a bridge-haunting Hannya, an oni-like she-demon.
    • "Yurei" is an odd one, in that Usagi himself thinks his encounter with the vengeful ghost of the innkeeper's murdered wife is All a Dream throughout the short story.
    • "Broken Ritual" involves the ghost of a general who served Usagi's former lord, who was slain in the middle of his attempt to committ Seppuku by a nameless soldier, and would recreate the botched ritual every night when the moon is full. Usagi set things right by confronting the general's ghost, introducing himself, and acts as the spirit's second, finishing the ritual and restoring the general's honor, allowing his spirit to be at peace.
    • "The Wrath of the Tangled Skein", one of several stories revolving around the genuinely haunted forest known as the Tangled Skein, sees Usagi battle and slay both a Nue, a sort of Japanese chimera, and a malevolent tanuki-bozo, a tanuki disguised as a priest.
    • "The Obakeneko of the Geishu Clan" has Usagi, Tomoe and Gen battle an obakeneko.
    • "Kumo" revolves around Usagi battling a spider-goblin and her army of spiders. This is the story that introduces Usagi's ally Sasuké the Demon Queller, a ronin and sorcerer who specialises in tracking down and dispatching obakemono, to the series.
    • "The Ghost Warriors" features a subversion, where Usagi fakes the haunting of a forest where the cruel lord Tobu led a platoon of samurai to a fatal ambush years ago, when he himself was a humble ashigaru, in order to make Tobu change his way. Then, ironically, it turns out the forest really was haunted when Tobu strays inside and is turned into a tree by the ghosts.
    • "Nocturnal" is a Sanshobo-centric story where Usagi doesn't even appear. It revolves around the stoic priest doing battle with a Hannya to protect one of his acolytes, the she-demon being the acolyte's former fiancee whom he abandoned to take up the priesthood.
    • In "The Doors", whilst serving as bodyguards for Lord Noriyuki, Usagi and Tomoe must rescue their lord when a gift of triptych-painted doors depicting the legendary scene of Minamoto no Yorimitsu and his four lieutenants battling the tsuchigumo turns out to be enchanted, with the tsuchigumo springing to life each night and trying to assassinate Lord Noriyuiki. This story itself uses a magical ink set first featured in Book 18, Travels With Jotaro.
    • "Kitsunegari" revolves around Usagi and Gen taking a shortcut through a wood populated by kitsune. Unfortunately for Gen, it turns out that they had encountered two kitsune on the way there, and he had offended them both with his arrogance and miserly nature, leading to them seperating him from Usagi and terrorizing him as punishment.
    • "Nukekubi" is an odd little tale where, after meeting a chatterbox of an old woman whose garden is infested with tokage, Usagi travels into the mountains and nearly falls afoul of a starving male nukekubi — a yokai whose head detaches freely from its body. Feeling merciful, Usagi brings the nukekubi back to the old woman, ending its need to prey on travelers by giving it an endless supply of lizard meat to feed upon and allowing both to end their loneliness.
    • "Teru Teru Bozu" features a boy and his family, alongside Usagi, being attacked in the night by a monster that kills the boy's parents and Usagi. It turns out to be All Just a Dream, a nightmare that the boy had from gorging on sweets after dinner. But then, in the final page, Jei ends up coming to the family's hut...
    • Perhaps the weirdest case of this so far is the (admittedly non-canon) "Senso" storyline, where Japan is invaded by aliens.
  • Magic Knight: Sasuke the Demon Queller.
  • MacGuffin: "The Green Persimmon". A veritable army of mooks try to kill Usagi when he is handed a porcelain sculpture of a persimmon, which was supposed to be a gift to Lord Hikiji. While he recovers in Lord Noriyuki's castle, Noriyuki explains that the persimmon would somehow lead Lord Hikiji to a cache of matchlock rifles that he could use to overthrow the shogun. Looking at the persimmon once more, Usagi realizes that the seemingly slipshod design of the ceramic glaze is actually a map of a nearby coastline, and a small blemish on one side represents the upcoming full moon. By heading for that part of the coast on the night of the full moon, Noriyuki's men are able to intercept the delivery of the rifles, and keep them out of Hikiji's hands.
  • Mature Animal Story: Deftly splits the difference between this and the more kid-friendly side of the Funny Animal genre.
  • Mauve Shirt: 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. 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.
  • Meaningful Echo: 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 Space Usagi spin-off, Kiyoshi also names a tokage "Spot".
  • Meaningful Name: 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."
  • Milky White Eyes / "Uh-Oh" Eyes: Jei-san 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.
  • Mood Whiplash: 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.
  • Morality Pet: Subverted with Keiko, Jei's "innocent". He protects her whenever she's in danger but does nothing to stop him slaughtering people (her Cheerful Child personality appears unaffected by what she's seen).
  • Multitasked Conversation: 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!"
  • Murder, Inc.: The Koroshi (assassin's guild), as well as the Komori and Neko (ninja clans).
  • My Master, Right or Wrong:
    • 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.
  • Never Found the Body:
    • Jei's first and second appearances in his last appearance no one actually saw him disintegrate, and he's a spirit anyway; teased for the ex-Neko Ninja chunin unfortunately the giant explosion from the gunpowder he was sitting on probably rules this out.
    • Tomoe has a nightmare where 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.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: In the story "Kaiso", Usagi befriends a kaiso (seaweed) farmer who suspects a farmer from a neighboring village of poaching his seaweed and selling it to a kaiso-broker, while the other farmer accused the first farmer of poaching his seaweed. In the end, Usagi uncovers the truth; the broker was poaching seaweed from both farmers, in order to sow mistrust between the two villages. He feared that if the two farmers formed a partnership they could sell their seaweed without his assistance and drive him out of business. By the end of the story, the two farmers decide to form a partnership, and even make a point of thanking the broker for giving them the idea in the first place.
  • Ninja: The Neko (cat), Komori (bat), and Mogura (mole) clans of ninja. Chizu of the Neko clan is an important secondary character.
  • Noodle Incident: "Usagi and the Tengu" provides two back to back. The titular tengu of the story has only one hand, and seeks revenge towards Katsuichi-sensei for some past transgression that is never elaborated on - when Usagi asks about the missing hand, Katsuichi feigns ignorance. At the very end as he finishes telling this story to Jotaro, Usagi hints that he faced the tengu a second time in the future, but refuses to elaborate.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough: Usagi is on the verge of rescuing Lady Maple when she rushes to rescue her son and gets fatally slashed from behind. Usagi is too late to warn her that her "son" is actually a doll and was elsewhere the whole time.
  • Obake: Many Japanese creatures appear in UY, from kappas to obakenekos, nues, onis and so on.
  • Obliviously Evil:
    Jei: It is a nigh impossible task... to eradicate sin.
    • Somewhat explained in the backstory for Jei: 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
  • Offing the Offspring: A mother kills her evil money-lender son; an artist's father sends assassins after his own son when he returns with foreign techniques that he fears will "infect" the traditional way of life.
  • Oh, Crap!: Gen has this reaction when he's fighting Zato-Ino and Zato-Ino cuts off his horn. He realizes that Zato-Ino may actually be better than him, but is prepared to fight to the death anyway.
  • Old Master: Katsuichi-sensei.
  • Older Than They Look: The Lord of Owls kills a man 40 years after killing his companions, a remarkable feat in an era when a 40-year-old person would probably be past his prime or dead even without being a wandering swordsman.
  • Open Secret: Just about everyone seems to know that Jotaro is Usagi's son, and yet Usagi still tries to keep it a secret. Ironically Jotaro knows the truth as well but doesn't think Usagi knows. They both refuse to tell the other because they believe it'll ruin their happiness.
  • Operation: Jealousy: 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.
  • Outside-Context Problem: In the possible future of Senso - who could have foreseen an alien invasion?
  • Out of Focus: Lord Hikiji, Kenichi, and Mariko were prominent in the early years, but rarely enter the story anymore (in the latter two's case, they asked Usagi to leave).
  • Painting the Medium: 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.
  • Pet the Dog: Jei-san and Keiko, Gen and Stray Dog's acts of kindness.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Since Gen's taste for sake couldn't be adapted to the second TMNT cartoon, he was made a gambler instead.
  • Precision F-Strike: The comic rarely uses swears, aside from the occasional "damn" or "hell," but when a peasant girl who romanticizes Usagi's Ronin lifestyle gets very enamored with him, she gets in a shouting match with her disapproving fiancé who ends up calling her a slut.
    • Also, a fox demon calls Tomoe a bitch after taking a hit from her. In the Dark Horse reprinting in Volume 22: Tomoe's Story, it was changed so that she snarls at her instead.
    • And the word "bastard" was used in the first chapter of Space Usagi
  • Public Domain Artifact: 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.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: There are multiple instances where Usagi will be fighting bounty hunters or mercenaries over a person or object, only for said person or object to be killed/destroyed. At this point, the fighting will stop and his opponents will simply go on their way. After all, there's no point risking your life when there is no chance of getting paid.
  • Punny Name: Some throwaway secondary characters have names that are somewhat funny when translated from Japanese.
  • Put on a Bus: Ino, once he succeeded in his I Just Want to Be Normal quest.
    • After the Chanoyu chapter, pretty much the entire Geishu clan, including Tomoe Ame was put on a bus as well. In Senso, The Bus Came Back, but in the main series, it still has yet to.
    • Mariko, Kenichi and Usagi's birth village wound up as this after Circles, but The Bus Came Back in issue 11, "The Return", of the IDW run, when Usagi, lying in a boat injured and unconscious, winds up back in his birth village where he is found by none other than Mariko.
  • Recurring Extra: The omnipresent woodcutters. Groo, on occasion.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Space Usagi features descendants of the main characters and puts them in a Space Opera setting.
  • Red Herring: In the Sparrows storyline, there is a subplot about a temple of monks that was the temple where Jei's first host lived. Run now by Hama, an at the time junior monk who was wounded and nearly killed by Jei all those years ago, it hosts the wandering monk Sanshobo and his fellow monk Senzo. Senzo was recently attacked by Jei and is having frequent nightmares of becoming Jei. When another ill guest at the temple is murdered in the night, everyone at the temple assumes Senzo must have gone crazy and done it. Senzo himself isn't even sure he didn't do it with all the nightmares of Jei he has been having. It turns out it was Hama, who has had the seed of Jei inside him all those years since he was nearly killed by the entity. And since Jei's current host has been mortally wounded and is slowly bleeding out, he has been switching between her and Hama as she fades in and out of consciousness before completely possessing Hama and killing Senzo.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Gen and Usagi; Noriko and Tomoe.
  • The Reliable One: Mariko chooses Kenichi over Usagi because while Usagi was off serving lords, becoming a ronin, and having wild adventures, Kenichi was raising Jotaro.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: 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).
  • The Resenter: Kenichi.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: In the very first Usagi story in Albedo #2, Usagi tells of the death of Lord Mifune. He was battling Hikiji's forces and winning until he was betrayed by General Toda. The woman Usagi is telling this to then reveals that she is Toda's widow, and that the rewards from Hikiji they expected never came. Hikiji had Toda beaten and banished instead.
  • Ronin: Usagi and many secondary characters.
  • Samurai: Usagi, Tomoe, and so many extras besides.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Usagi, either first or second hand, to several young people who think the life a wanderer is glamorous.
  • Scars Are Forever: 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 (made from a sword guard) from that point on.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: "The Inn on Moon Shadow Hill".
  • Secret Test of Character: Katsuichi-sensei is prone to do this.
  • Seppuku: Appears periodically, usually when a character needs to atone for an earlier shame.
    • A unique case is Usagi coming across a village haunted by the ghost of a general who was killed before he could complete the ceremony. Waiting for the ghost to appear, Usagi respectfully says the two served the same lord and "I would be honored to be your second." As the general makes the cuts, Usagi uses his sword (blessed in holy water) to make the final cut and let the general's spirit be at peace.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Usagi's picnic with Mariko goes in an unexpectedly sexy direction with very little warning. It seems ambiguous until it's revealed that Jotaro was conceived at that moment.
  • Shamu Fu: At one point, Usagi defends a fish merchant from a armed gang attempting a protection racket with nothing more than that day's catch.
  • Sheath Strike:
    • 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. It gets him into trouble in one story because it means he doesn't have one hand free.
    • 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.
  • Ship Tease: Until the Mother of Mountains arc, this was the only thing Stan did with the romantic tension between Tomoe and Usagi.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: "The Outlaw". Hilariously the "shot" is done by Stray Dog.
  • Short Cuts Make Long Delays: 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!"
  • Shout-Out:
    • Usagi is likely named after Miyamoto Musashi.
    • Many characters are shout outs to Chanbara heroes — the Lone Goat and Kid is a nod to the Lone Wolf and Cub, Zato-Ino the blind masseur pig is a thinly-veiled version of Zatoichi, Lord Mifune references the actor Toshiro Mifune, and so on.
    • Jei's name is a shout out to the Friday the 13th film series ("Jei-san")
    • In addition to a ton of Star Wars shout-outs in Space Usagi, the Bugg Planet is a shout-out to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
    • Not to mention that one swordfight of Usagi is an almost exact adaptation of the first-bokken-then-swords duel from Seven Samurai.
    • 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 god, Zilla?" Usagi later creates a fully-grown "Zilla" to battle some his kaiju enemies created by a cursed ink set for the real "Zilla's" 50th anniversary.
    • At one point Usagi gets doused in green dye; Gen thought he was dead and tells Usagi to get out of the dye vat and "stop grinning like some joker".
    • "Wings of Blood" — "Holy flying furballs, it's bats, man!"
      • That story also has a character make a point of saying what a "dark night" it is.
    • "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 "In the Realm of the Senses" because the rest of the chapters have a five senses theme, not because of any sex, strangling, and penis chopping.
    • Inazuma, possessed by Jei, assures Keiko that her injury is "just a flesh wound" (it actually isn't, she's not as durable as Jei).
    • Kitsune's three accomplices in "Toad Oil" are modeled after The Three Stooges (as pointed out in the authors' notes); they prove their foolishness when they don't realize you never do the same gag twice — especially not the next day and in front of the same people you just ripped-off.
    • Senso is a Whole Plot Reference and prequel to (believe us, this one's worth spoiler-protecting...) The War of the Worlds.
    • Another Space Usagi shout out has Usagi apologizing to a ship captain, "I am sorry, I thought it was some sort of ninja trick." To which the captain responds "Silly Rabbit, tricks are for kids!"
  • Shown Their Work: 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.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Gen falls for Kitsune hard, leaving Usagi to roll his eyes and feel like puking on seeing his "best friend" so lovey-dovey.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: In general, any sort of duel between characters of different skill levels is going to be resolved in one stroke, with the loser taking around three panels to collapse.
  • Small Taxonomy Pools: Only major/recurring characters get to have distinct species. Pretty much everyone else is just a cat or dog.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: One of Kitsune's cons involves selling jars of toad oil (the Japanese equivalent to snake oil) as a miraculous balm. Her three accomplices (who pretend to disbelieve her and get violent, requiring a "demonstration" of the oil's properties) decide they want more than their share.
  • The So-Called Coward: Usagi is polite and does not seek fights needlessly, so this trope comes across him often.
  • Space Whale: Giant space turtles! (in Space Usagi)
  • Species Surname: Well, clan name, but close enough for jazz. The Neko, Komori and Mogura ninja clans are portrayed as cats, bats and moles, respectively. "Neko", "komori" and "mogura" mean "cat", "bat" and "mole".
  • Speech Bubbles: There is a speech bubble for death, with a skull in it.
  • Spot the Imposter: While fleeing from a Kitsune, Gen runs into Usagi, but a second Usagi shows up, each claiming to be the real deal. He quickly figures out there's two kitsune.
  • Stab The Storm: Jei's Blade on a Stick proves to be a bad weapon to use in a thunderstorm, as he ends up a pile of cinders. The demon possessing him, however, just needs a new host.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers / Anchored Ship: 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 Arranged Marriage, 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 Foregone Conclusion.)
      • In Senso, Tomoe was forced into an arranged marriage, but her husband dies during the war. Usagi broaches the idea of a relationship in the future and Tomoe leaves it open. Usagi's death saving Edo puts paid to them getting together, though. In Usagi's final moments, he asks only to hold her hand one last time, telling her he loves her.
    • 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 Ironic Echo of the problem Usagi has with his other potential love interests.
    • Space Usagi and Tomoeh (who's a rabbit like Mariko and a samurai like Tomoe) do hook up unfortunately she's killed in the next story arc. By the coda of Senso, we get to see he does eventually find love again, married, and is about to become a father, though whether that story will ever be told is unrevealed.
    • Katsuichi and his girlfriend whose father was a rival dojo's sensei, and the rival dojo's heir who 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.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: Even years after the downfall of Lord Mifune, Usagi continues to wear the Mifune mon on his kimono, as he did while in his lord's service.
  • Story Within a Story: Usagi's told two: "My Lord's Daughter" where he battles an army of oni to rescue his lord's daughter his Lord Mifune didn't have a daughter and "Momo-Usagi-taro" with himself as the legendary hero and (interestingly) Partially Civilized Animal sidekicks, not anthropomorphic ones like himself (maybe because one of them's a pheasant and there aren't any bird-people). The Senso stand-alone also turned out to be one.
  • Suicide by Cop:
    • Watanabe Ken, a destitute ronin who'd rather die in battle then live with his merchant son-in-law.
    • Magistrate Oyaneko is living a good life running a town, but he has cancer and feels this is a dishonorable way for a samurai to die. He challenges Usagi to a duel; Usagi assumes he intends to die, but Oyaneko insists he intends to really fight, and if Usagi dies instead of him, so be it. They charge each other, but Usagi stops his attack at the last moment... and Oyaneko does the same. He really had intended to die, but Usagi convinces him that the honorable thing to do is continue to serve the people of his town for as long as he can. Oyaneko dies several months later, just after completing a new irrigation system that will allow the town to grow more food.
  • Swipe Your Blade Off: 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.
  • Teru-Teru Bōzu: In the "Teru Teru Bozu" issue, Usagi shelters from a storm with a family of charcoal gatherers and makes one for their son.
  • That Man Is Dead:
    • In "Vendetta" a young samurai is looking for his father's killers and has official permission to execute them. Three of them became bandits and lost duels to him in the first part while the fourth was genuinely sorry for what he did, renounced his samurai status, and became an altruistic monk. When he's confronted by the son of the man he murdered, he acknowledges that his accuser has the right to kill him, and he will not resist. Usagi persuades the young samurai to accept the former samurai's topknot instead of his head..
    • Orphan-maker, Noriko's brutal enforcer, is blinded by Usagi. A few stories later he meets Usagi again (though he doesn't recognize his voice) and tells him that getting blinded made him a better person and he's grateful for it.
    • General Ikeda originally took the guise of a farmer purely to bide his time until he could launch a bloody revolution, but sacrificed so much in order to succeed as a farmer that, when the time came for a potentially successful rebellion, he turns his back on his old life. When his wife asks what his former co-conspirator wanted, he says, "He was looking for someone no longer alive."
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: The Assassin's Guild, professional killers who prefer operating incognito disguised as monks, performers, beggars and other such "invisible" people. Ironically, this makes them by far more like the actual historical ninja than the Ninja Clans of the comic. They have begun to consider Usagi an active threat as he has inadvertently interfered with a few of their missions, with him being none the wiser since the assassins don't identify themselves.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: The comic focuses on honor and morality a lot, so there have been many examples.
    • "A Mother's Love" deals with an old woman whom Usagi befriends. He learns later that her son is a ruthless crime boss, and she is grief-stricken that her child not only neglects and disrespects her, but extorts her neighbors and regularly murders people. She begs Usagi to kill her son, and when the horrified ronin protests, she poisons her son. Then she confesses her crime to Usagi, and begs for a Mercy Kill. Grieving, he complies.
    • In "The Death of Lord Hikiji", Usagi comes across a plot by some former comrades to kill Lord Hikiji and has to decide between his duty to his lord and the undeniable fact that his comrades will die in the attempt. He agrees to join them, but at the last instant discovers that the opportunity his companions were exploiting was, in fact, a trap.
    • In "The Treasure of the Mother of Mountains", Tomoe has to decide between leaving Usagi to be tortured and killed to report to her master a scheme against the Shogunate that the villain is carrying out or saving Usagi but letting herself be captured in the process. She ultimately does the latter, but multiple times voices that she should have left Usagi to his fate, especially as the details of the villain's plot become clearer. She later states that if she manages to escape, she plans to leave the other prisoners to die to report back to her master, but once freed she ultimately works with Usagi to stop the plan and save the prisoners.
    • In "Senso" we find out that Tomoe was married off to another clan in order to seal an alliance. Neither she nor Usagi contested it, but it's obvious it poisoned both of their lives (and her husband was aware of the fact, since before his Heroic Sacrifice he regrets that he was unable to make Tomoe happy).
  • Treacherous Advisor:
    • Usagi's teacher and his lord's uncle in "Space Usagi". His disappearance was actually his leaving to make allies to support his coup d'état.
    • Subverted with Horikawa, one of Noriyuki's advisors. He opposes Tomoe on gender-based grounds, but he still serves Noriyuki faithfully in the future of "Senso".
  • Trick Dialogue: 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. 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.
  • Tsuchigumo and Jorogumo: Two stories deal with such Yokai: one, titled "Gumo", has a village besieged by monstrous giant spiders lead by a Kumo Onna, forcing Usagi and Sasuke to join forces. Another one quotes the famous story of Minamoto-no-Yoritomo and has lord Noriyuki threatened by a Tsuchigumo living in a screendoor animated by a cursed ink set.
  • Unexplained Recovery: 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. 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.
  • The Unfavorite / Bastard Bastard: 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.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Averted in "Ice Runners." During a bet Lord Ito has a few of his loyalists retrieve ice from the mountains to present to Lord Hikiji and a rival lord tries to have those servants killed. Usagi manages to intervene, save one and deliver the ice before it melts. In-spite of the petty nature of the challenge and Ito being allied with the Big Bad, he shows nothing but gratitude to Usagi and his servants for accomplishing such a difficult task. In the Shogunate-era when Lordships rise and fall based on their allies, Ito being able to impress a powerful Lord like Hikiji was important in the game of politics even if the action itself seemed silly. As such, Ito was proud of the faith he could place in his servants and the aid of kind strangers.
  • Unknown Rival: Usagi has somewhat become this to the Koroshi, the league of assassins. They are perfectly aware of who he is and have hired killers to assassinate him. But he never meant to become a thorn in their side. He just always happens to be at the right place at the right time and unwilling to let someone be murdered.
  • The Unseen: The Shogun is talked about a lot in stories involving Lord Hikiji and the Geishu, but he never actually appears onscreen.
    • Outside of his early appearances and his appearance in Senso, Hikiji never appears onscreen, with Hebi generally serving as his right-hand man and voice. A large part of this no doubt is the fact that Stan Sakai regretted making Hikiji the only human in the setting (that we see at least) early on.
  • Updated Re-release: The first color special was this when it came time to print it in a trade paperback. As the originals didn't exist anymore, Sakai redrew the entire story.
    • Volume 4, #6 is an expanded, redrawn and colored version of "The Goblin of Adachigahara", the very first published Usagi story. This was done to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the comic. Remarkably, it's also the first outright Retcon in the storyline, in the sense that the current story supersedes the first one as an account of the same event.
    • Early in 2020, IDW started releasing Color Classics, which have colored in the original black and white Fantagraphics issues, and add some behind the scenes material. Surprisingly, the coloring is NOT done by long-time colorist Tom Luth, likely due to him being on the now-color main title.
  • Upperclass Twit: One appears in "Murder at the Inn"; he insults everyone then dares to compare his very poor poetry to a master's (amazingly he's not the one who's murdered).
  • Virtue Is Weakness: "What fools, who mistake honor for weakness." Usagi usually gets called a coward when he refuses to fight.
  • The Voiceless: Noriyuki's body double. He couldn't imitate his voice so he didn't speak, even after being fatally wounded.
  • Voice of the Legion: Jei-san and anyone possessed by him/it.
  • Walking the Earth: Gen, and several others. Usagi falls more into Knight Errant: Chizu into Flying Dutchman.
  • The Watson: Inspector Nii serves as one to Ishida, respecting him, and not being as corrupt as his superiors.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: Usagi's old master Katsuichi, pretended to be a Mooching Master, 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.
    • Katsuichi also started hitting Usagi with a bamboo stick at random times, day and night. Although the rabbit kitten feared his teacher had gone mad, he only later noticed that it helped develop the lifesaving habit of being constantly alert for danger.
  • Weirdness Magnet: 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 Action Girl bodyguard, the former head of a ninja clan who would love to get rid of Usagi, a Old Master, a Classy Cat-Burglar, 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 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.
    • This leads to him being made an enemy of a guild of assassins, who think that Usagi is trying to take them down- he isn't, he just happens to be in an area where they're trying to kill someone, and stops them. It's just that, well, this keeps happening, and they're not chalking it up to coincidence.
  • Wham Episode: The biggest is still probably Usagi's return to his home village in Book 6, seeking an end to his wanderings. Mariko tearfully explains that he cannot stay: his mere presence would break up her family.
  • Wham Line: Gen: (Sakura) doesn't have a brother.
  • Wham Shot: At the end of The Hidden: Inspector Ishida enters a room with several other people and reveals that the Bible wasn't destroyed as the Shogun's men thought, and that he is also a secret Christian convert.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In Space Usagi, Ch'yoko just sort of disappears from the plot after serving a purpose for the villains, but there's nothing to suggest she was killed. It's possible she was captured by the good guys after the battle.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Both Usagi and his friend Gunichi are faced with this during a crucial moment in the Battle of Adachigahara, after General Toda has betrayed Lord Mifune. As Mifune's army has been caught in a pincer by Hikiji and Toda's forces, the two bodyguards are temporarily separated from their lord, and have a chance to break through the enemy lines and escape. Usagi refuses to abandon his lord and remains at his side to the end, while Gunichi reveals his cowardice and flees.
  • Whip It Good: Sakura.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Senso is basically "What If? War of the Worlds happened in 16th-century Japan?" The Japanese build a Humongous Mecha to fight them, obviously.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: After many, many bloody battles, a single warlord - presumably Tokugawa Ieyasu, as in real life - cements his authority over the others as shogun, allowing Japan to finally experience peace after over a century of warfare. Unfortunately, this means that most samurai are now out-of-work, masterless ronin, providing an inexhaustible supply of bandits and yakuza.
  • World of Funny Animals: One of the most famous and popular examples this side of Carl Barks.
  • Worthy Opponent: Captain Torame in "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy". He's so 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.
  • You Killed My Father: A samurai gets permission to kill the four bad guys who killed his father the last one had repented and become a priest, so the samurai takes his Samurai Topknot as a trophy instead; Usagi in Space Usagi for both his lord and himself.
    • I Killed Your Father: Noriko killed Tomoe's father, who was also her biological father, and her own "adoptive" father besides.
  • You Monster!: Usagi calls Fujii a monster. Fujii agrees.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: 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.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: