Usagi Yojimbo: Taiko (#132 – 133, UY #191 – 192) – Stan Sakai

3 out of 5

Even though the template of this Usagi tale isn’t necessarily overly familiar – Usagi steps in to protect an item (a giant taiko drum) to which he has no real attachment, but can’t stand the little-guy creators from being infringed upon by the pay-us-or-else thugs – it’s actually its structural rarity that makes it feel familiar, to a previous tale in which Usagi did something similar for a kooky inventor type; that is: Stan can get away with a whole bunch of variations on certain themes because we’re used to that, but when one particular tale is similar to one other particular tale, it stands out more. So there’s that hanging over Taiko – that we’ve been here before – and then there’s also a lacking emotional throughline: Usagi seems somewhat distant at first, even when the threatening baddies start getting violent, but becomes surprisingly vicious when protecting the drum; the concluding sequence also doesn’t push the drum’s beat as a visual element too much, which seems like a lost opportunity.

…This seems much more of a problem of my expectations versus the reality of the issue, I suppose, but I’m used to Stan carrying me through that without me being much aware of it.

The art is Taiko is very strong, however – especially the ending, my notion about the drumbeat aside – and my criticisms above belie that these are entertaining issues, with interesting notes on the drum construction, they just fall in to the “average” range of UY.