Usagi Yojimbo Book 15 TPB: Grasscutter II – Journey to Atsuta Shrine (Dark Horse, vol. 3, #39 – 45; UY #98 – 104, Dark Horse, 2002 edition) – Stan Sakai

5 out of 5

Boiling down the somewhat confuzzled various plottings of the first Grasscutter throwdown into a non-stop chase, Stan Sakai also mingles all of the characters from that storyline – Chizu, Ikeda, and more – in a way that feels wholly organic and rewarding. The focus is as the title suggests – Sanshobo, Gen, and Usagi are now setting out to bring Grasscutter to the shrine – and while it’s all hands on as it was before, instead of separate crews going their own ways on this journey, every issue features explosions of said intersecting crews – Kumoris, the secretive Kagemaru’s sect of Nekos – in intense battles (Stan maintaining the confident, varying-thickness line of the previous volume), smartly spaced out by rest-stop conversations along the way. There’s just enough comedy added in with the curmudgeonly Gen – counterpointed by his undeniable heroism at points – and then the usual, subtle brilliance of Stan’s characterizations as we learn more about Sanshobo and Ikeda, as well as getting some brief Chizu / Usagi interactions, which make for some fun will they / won’t they type responses from Usagi’s companions. The nearly non-stop ongoings are then wrapped up incredibly satisfyingly, yet still leaving promising threads to pick up on in future issues.

The collected edition again includes story notes which helps to further ground the sense of history that churns in the background of all of Usagi.