Usagi Yojimbo: What the Little Thief Heard (#120, UY #179) – Stan Sakai

3 out of 5

If you’re a viewer of any given procedural type of TV show, you’re undoubtedly familiar with that particular show’s structural formula. Some series rely on this more often than others, and it doesn’t preclude an entertaining episode, but regardless, you can sniff it out right from the start: X event happens; Y person gets involved; Z “twist” occurs; and plug in whatever adjectives make sense for that procedural.

‘What the Little Thief Heard’ is the Stan Sakai version of formula for Usagi Yojimbo, and it’s firstly surprising how rarely he’s actually used that across decades of the comic, but secondly, these are still pretty entertaining tales, even if wholly predictable.

Kyoko overhears a murder plot; she tells Usagi – who’s overseeing Kitsune’s recovery from recent events – and he tries to do the right thing and alert the proper parties, only to be disbelieved and have to get fisticuffily-involved by tale’s end. The wrinkle is that Kyoko has solely heard and not seen the plotters – Stan even does the ol’ “hide the bad guy in the shadows” bit for this portion – but the reader will be able to pluck them out of the crowd as soon as they show up. There’s an odd, offhand inclusion of the League of Assassins, perhaps hints of things to come, but this is otherwise a by-the-books fillerish issue, though as solidly crafted as any given UY tale.