Miyamoto Usagi is the fictional titular character in the comic Usagi Yojimbo; inspired by Miyamoto Musashi, he is an anthropomorphic rabbit (Usagi is Japanese for rabbit) and a ronin now walking the musha shugyo, the warrior's journey. He is a highly skilled swordsman and one of the best in the land.
Usagi was born the only son of a village headman. His two childhood playmates were Kenichi (with whom Usagi would have a less-than-friendly rivalry his whole life) and Mariko (one of the reasons for the boys' rivalry).
Eventually the trio went their separate ways when the boys were sent to be trained as samurai in the Dogora school of bujitsu (arts of war). However, on the trip there, the boys witnessed a confrontation where a gang of arrogant Dogora students attacked a lone traveler named Katsuichi, who had left the school years ago, dissatisfied with the poor calibre of the students. In spite of their numerical advantage, the gang was quickly defeated by the sensei's unusual, but definitely effective, technique. Although Kenichi was unimpressed by the display, Usagi pursued the departing sensei to petition him to become his student. Katsuichi initially refused, but relented when Usagi stood outside his home day and night through unpleasant weather long enough to convince the teacher of his determination.
For years, Usagi was the exclusive student of Katsuichi-sensei, and although he proved a mischievous pupil who got into various misadventures, he also excelled at his studies to become a formidable warrior. One of those misadventures involved a young Usagi stealing a dying soldier's wakizashi while walking through a battlefield with his teacher. Fraught with guilt over the theft, Usagi began seeing the now dead soldier in numerous situations, at one point having a nightmare that involved Katsuichi morphed into the soldier. Upon his return to the battlefield to return the sword to its rightful owner, Usagi was caught by adult samurai and accused of theft. Instead of summarily executing the young rabbit, they instead began the process of cutting his hand off. Before a blow could be struck, however, Usagi's future lord, Mifune, intervened on his behalf and upon sensing the rabbit's honorable nature, let Usagi go.
At the end of his training, Katsuichi brought Usagi to a fencing tournament hosted by the Dogora school. Usagi won the tournament, his final match being against his old "comrade" Kenichi (now the top student of the Dogora school), and earned his own daisho: the katana named Yagi no Eda ("Willow Branch") and the wakizashi named Aoyagi ("Young Willow"). The region's daimyo, Lord Mifune, was observing the contest and was impressed with Usagi's skill enough to offer him a position as a retainer. Before leaving to enter Mifune's service, Usagi returned to his village for a final farewell, where he found Kenichi had been staying at an inn in drunken despair, having sworn to leave the school due to his failure to win the tournament, but too ashamed to return home. Together they returned to their village to free it from brigands that were threatening it. Kenichi decided to stay (and would eventually become headman upon Usagi's father's death), which comforted Mariko somewhat against the loss of her other dearest friend. Kenichi and Mariko later married; however, before leaving the village, Usagi and Mariko had a romantic encounter that resulted in a son, Jotaro, whose parentage was hidden from Usagi for years. In his term of service, Usagi rose to become a trusted personal bodyguard of his Lord and his family. That stable career was destroyed when a villainous rival lord, Lord Hikiji, sent ninja to assassinate the Mifune family. In the assault, Mifune's wife and son were murdered and Lord Mifune waged war on his rival in revenge. That war concluded at the battle of Adachigahara (sometimes referenced as Adachi Plain), where Mifune had the upper hand until Buichi Toda, one of his subordinate commanders, betrayed him and joined with Hikiji. Then Usagi's friend and immediate superior, Gunichi, fled the field upon seeing that the battle was lost.
Lord Mifune was killed by an arrow barrage; Usagi performed his final duty, which was to escape with his lord's head to prevent the enemy from displaying it. As he fought free, he had his (so far) only personal confrontation with Hikiji, which left him with his distinctive arched forehead scar. Usagi escaped into the forest, buried Lord Mifune's head, and eluded pursuit by Hikiji's forces. (By saving Lord Mifune's head from desecration, Usagi felt he had atoned for the disgrace of losing the battle. Otherwise, he would have felt compelled to commit seppuku.) Usagi has since avenged his master's death upon both Toda and Gunichi, although Hikiji remains beyond his reach.
Now a ronin, Usagi traveled the backroads of the region making a living as a bodyguard for hire (yojimbo). In the course of his "warrior pilgrimage", he made deep friendships with many including the young Lord Noriyuki of the Geishu Clan and his valiant bodyguard, Ame Tomoe, the cynical rhino bounty hunter Murakami Gennosuke, the brilliantly astute Inspector Ishida, the cat kunoichi (female ninja) Chizu, and the sly street entertainer/petty thief, Kitsune.
Stories where he has appearedEdit
Since he is the main character in the comic, Usagi has appeared in almost every story; some exceptions include Kitsune's Tale which features Kitsune and Gen; and Dreams and Nightmares with Inazuma, Jei and Keiko.
In other media and with Ninja TurtlesEdit
- Usagi has had several crossovers with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in both the comics and the two TMNT animated series. He is shown as being particularly close to Leonardo since both are highly skilled swordsmen. He has also shown respect for Splinter, and helped save him when he was attacked by assassins sent by an evil warrior named Drako.
- In the first animated series, Usagi made only two appearances and was misnamed "Usagi Yojimbo". He came to Earth when a portal opened accidentally into his world. At the Turtles' suggestion, he moved in with the Japanese owner of a museum dedicated to ancient Japanese civilisation based in New York. He was voiced by Townsend Coleman.
- The second series identified him correctly as "Miyamoto Usagi" where he was one of the competitors for the Battle Nexus. Although he gets on well with the Turtles, he dislikes Ninja methods which involve a lot of secrecy, sneaking around and other things that as a Samurai he finds dishonorable but is forced to adopt anyway. He has appeared in several episodes of the series, voiced by Jason Griffith:
- the Battle Nexus arc, where he helps the Turtles fight Drako and the Ultimate Ninja;
- The Christmas Aliens in which he comes to the Turtle lair for Christmas;
- the Real World arc in which Leonardo, banished across time and space by Ultimate Drako, arrives in Usagi's world and helps him protect Lord Noriyuki, an anthropomorphic little panda boy under threat by Lord Hebi, a huge serpent-like creature. Ame Tomoe also appears. Usagi then takes Leonardo to the Battle Nexus to rescue Splinter and the other Turtles and settle their scores with Drako;
- in Samurai Tourist Usagi and Gen come to visit the Turtles at Splinter's request. In this last visit, Splinter hoped that Usagi would help Leonardo overcome his anger problems following a defeat at the hands of the Shredder. However, despite Usagi's confessions of suffering similar emotions following the death of his own master (its unknown if he meant Katsuichi or Mifune), it was ineffective, though the two did work together to defeat an assassin from Usagi's world.
- A decendent of Usagi, named Space Usagi, was rumored to appear in the unused second season of Fast Forward. Usagi is rumored to appear in the show's seventh season. He has also made a quick appearance in season 4's opening.
- While the 2003 animated series correctly identifies him as "Miyamoto Usagi," the 1980's cartoon and action figures incorrectly refer to him as Usagi Yojimbo, the name of the comic.
- Usagi is also featured as a combatant in the Battle Nexus mode of the console version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus game.