4 out of 5
Yes please, a whole series of these graphic novel one-shots starring chibi-ized Usagi – named, duh, Chibi Usagi, and joined by Chibi Tomoe and Chibi Gen – as an outlet for Stan and Julie Sakai to extend the gag-strip formula they’ve used in some Usagi backups to longer length, sillier stories. We already saw the strength of this approach (having more room for plot and jokes than just a punchline) with the excellent FCBD Chibi tale – which happens to be reprinted here – and it’s great fun to push that even more, to 100+ pages that allows for a great mix of character, comedy, and action.
Of course, Usagi already translates well to young audiences, so the light morality found within the series can be found here as well, although death skulls have been swapped out for a googly face with swirly eyeballs, and our chibis use bokken, exclusively.
The ‘Heebie Cheebies’ are a group of bullies who’ve taken over the secret home of the Dogus – little clay (and yet animated) figurines. When Usagi, Tomoe, and Gen come across one such dogu, who has escaped to seek help, they surely pledge theirs – with Gen also being lured in by the promise of some riches to be found on the Dogu land.
There’s a pretty great central joke here about how all of the Dogus look the same to Usagi and the gang, and how all of the chibis – despite very clearly, to our eyes, being different animals – looking the same to the Dogus and Heebie Cheebies, and there’s plenty of puns and slapstick and bantery-humor besides. Stan and Julie go back to the well one too many times with a structural gag in which one character says something, and then the other character echoes it – e.g. “They’ve taken us by surprise!” / “We’ve taken them by surprise!” – but the story itself is more clever than many young readers adventures, and also finds a way to toss in some chibi-sized stakes, as well.
Emi Fuji’s amazing colors really seal the deal; the book is super bright in its printing, but Fuji – despite using every color under the rainbow – adds in some textures and shading and good gradients that make every page pop, but not be overwhelming.
And just like a Usagi book, we get some story notes, explaining dogus and the like.