Monday, June 27, 2011
Introducción a Usagi Yojimbo, Book 4 (The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy)
When Unamuno, the famous Spanish philosopher and professor of English literature, was on his deathbed, he asked his friends, "Has the time come?" "Yes," they told him. "Are you certain that I am about to die?" "Alas, yes!" "In that case," said Unamuno, "I am going to utter my final words, which will double as a confession: I never could stand Shakespeare!" And with that, he expired.
When I am on the verge of passing into the next world, I think I may confess, with much the same vigor as the late philosopher: "I never could stand Walt Disney!"
And that is the simple truth. Even as a little boy of six or seven, I used to take fiendish delight in incinerating any Mickey Mouse comic that happened to fall into my hands. This hatred later expanded to encompass all anthropomorphic cartoon creations: I could never countenance comic books in which innocent animals had been compelled to adopt the loathsome trappings of Man.
Yet every rule has its exception. One day, in a small Parisian bookstore, my son Adam, eight years old at the time, asked me to buy him the English-language edition of Book One of The Adventures of Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai. I did so only with great reluctance; but when the boy later asked me to translate the volume into French for him, I was so taken by the intrepid rabbit that I became a devout admirer. And now Adam and I spend week after week awaiting, with the impatience of junkies, the arrival of each precious new issue; when it comes, we lock ourselves away to read and discuss it.
As far as I'm concerned, Stan Sakai, despite his youth, is a master. Page by page, he is reviving a noble tradition that has gradually been vanishing from contemporary Japan. His drawing style is simple - not artless, but unadorned. He uses the fewest lines with the most efficiency: there is no trickery here, no straining for effect. When he develops and resolves a scene in two or three panels, he displays a director's awareness of cinematic technique. His delineation of costumes and backgrounds is impeccable, and his stories - ah, his stories! - are like a breath of fresh air. Many is the time they've helped me cope with the bitter and arduous task of surviving this modern age.
The passage of years has changed me, both physically and spiritually. But the child I one was remains within me, luminous and unaltered, peering through my moribund adult eyes. That is how I see Stan: as someone who remains loyal to his own marvelous childhood; loyal to the code of the Bushido; loyal to the fanatical energy of those soulless creatures, the ronin; loyal to Kurosawa, to Zatoichi, to Toshiro Mifune, to Miyamoto Musashi, to Lone Wolf, to the Genji, to the Heike...
Rendered with a grace that verges on the miraculous, Usagi Yojimbo is a delicate echo of a Japan that is vanishing forever. The samurai are riding the train of progress; they have donned suits and ties and become businessmen. The only vestiges of that medieval nobility, of the lore of the warrior and the peasant, can be found on these pages, with their half-human creatures, whose capacity for spiritual greatness is equaled only by their capacity for evil.
In Usagi Yojimbo I have found anew the warrior of the soul I so admired as a child - the one Walt Disney once tried to rob from me with his saccharine, stuttering beasts.
I salute you, Stan, and I thank you for bestowing upon us a truly worthy hero!
Publicado en el libro 4 de Usagi Yojimbo, 1990
Imagen: Dibujo del Ronin Usagi
Posted by Claudio Ferrufino-Coqueugniot at 5:43 PM