Sakai, Stan 1953–

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Sakai, Stan 1953–

PERSONAL: Born May 25, 1953, in Kyoto, Japan; immigrated to United States, 1955; married; wife's name, Sharon. Education: University of Hawaii, B.A.; attended Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA).

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Dark Horse Comics, 10956 Southeast Main St., Milwaukie, OR 97222.

CAREER: Writer and illustrator. Creator of Usagi Yojimbo, Space Usagi, and Nilson Groundthumper comic-book series.

AWARDS, HONORS: Three Eisner awards.



The Wanderer's Road, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1987; Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1989.

Lone Goat and Kid, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1992.

Circles, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1994.

Samurai, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1997.

The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1997.

Gen's Story, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1997.

Shades of Death, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1997.

Daisho, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1998.

Brink of Life and Death, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1998.

Seasons, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1999.

Grasscutter Book 12, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1999.

Grey Shadows, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2000.

Grasscutter II: Journey to Atsuta Shrine, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2002.

Usagi Yojimbo, Book Seven, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 2002.

Duel at Kitanoji, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2003.

The Shrouded Moon, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2003.


(With others) Sergio Aragonés, Sergio Aragonés: The Groo Chronicles, Epic Comics (New York, NY), 1989.

Space Usagi, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1998.

(With others) Tom Sniegoski, Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails: The Adventures of Big Bone, Frontier Hero, Cartoon Books (Columbus, OH), 2000.

Contributor to anthologies and collections.

SIDELIGHTS: Stan Sakai is the creator of the Usagi Yojimbo comic-book series, the first issue of which was published in 1984. Over the years, many collections of his work have also been published, starring a samurai rabbit who lives in seventeenth-century Japan.

Sakai was born in Kyoto, Japan. His mother's family, who were descended from samurai, objected to her marriage to his father, a second-generation Japanese nisei who had grown up in Hawaii and was serving in the U.S. Army. They did marry, however, and when Sakai was two, the family returned to Hawaii, where he grew up immersed in Western culture. Sakai loved American comics and he took his first art class at Kaimuki High School, where he learned from his teacher, Lorraine Kawahara, to whom he dedicated his eleventh collection, Seasons.

After graduating from the University of Hawaii, Sakai moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a freelance artist and took additional art courses. He also taught calligraphy, and it was through his teaching that he met Sergio Aragonés, a long-time contributor to Mad magazine and creator of the comic-book series Groo the Wanderer. It was his series on which Sakai cut his lettering teeth.

Sakai's long-running Usagi Yojimbo series features Miyamoto Usagi, a masterless samurai, or "ronin" rabbit whose ears are tied up in a samurai-like topknot to keep them from flopping. Usagi Yojimbo means "Rabbit Bodyguard," and it is through his adventures that he earns enough to buy something to eat other than cheap noodles. Using his swordsmanship, Usagi kills evil ninjas, monsters, bandits, and all manner of bad guys in often-brutal stories that are rendered somewhat less so because they are done in black and white. The mythical foes include female demons called Hannya and aquatic vampires called Kappa. There are humans, but they are dominated by anthropomorphic animals. Stephanie Zvirin reviewed the first collection, The Wanderer's Road, for Booklist, saying that readers will "relish" it.

Usagi loves Tomoe Ame, a cat character based on the historic female warrior Tomoe Gozen. Charles Solomon wrote in the Los Angeles Times that, "although Usagi remains dedicated to bushido, the fatalistic samurai code of honor, Sakai leavens his adventures with lively doses of humor. He plays Usagi's seriousness against the devil-may-care attitude of the reprobate bounty hunter Gennosuke (Gen), a rhinoceros who insists he's the rabbit's best friend, a statement his actions often belie." The character of Usagi became so popular that it appeared in episodes of the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Sakai developed his Space Usagi miniseries as a spinoff in which Usagi is a warrior of the future. In an interview for Aragonés's home page, Sakai said that it "came about because I like to draw dinosaurs; that's the real reason. It's just that I can't draw dinosaurs in Usagi's world, except for those lizards running around in the background. I wanted to draw dinosaurs and Usagi, so I came up with Space Usagi. With Space Usagi, I can do anything."

Grasscutter II: Journey to Atsuta Shrine is the story of how Usagi came to possess the legendary sword that he is now returning to Atsuta, where it had been enshrined for centuries. Susan Salpini reviewed the volume in School Library Journal, noting that "the action is easy to follow and exciting, and the Japanese words used in the text are translated in the footnotes."

In reviewing The Shrouded Moon, Salpini wrote that Usagi "uses his brain as well as his sword to solve problems, and he is an honorable, admirable character." This collection of stories opens with "Showdown," in which Usagi and Gen try to save a town that is being terrorized by rival gangs. In "The Shrouded Moon," they help a beautiful fox named Kitsune.

"Despite the fantasy setting, the feudal world is scrupulously researched," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer of the Usagi Yojimbo series. "Sakai's blending of words and pictures is utterly assured." Steve Raiteri noted in Library Journal that "though this is not manga (Sakai is American), manga fans should enjoy it as well."



Booklist, March 15, 1988, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Wanderer's Road, p. 1241.

Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Steve Raiteri, review of The Shrouded Moon, p. 99.

Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1993, Charles Solomon, "Warrior Rabbit," p. E1.

Publishers Weekly, September 15, 2003, review of The Shrouded Moon, p. 47.

School Library Journal, June, 2002, Susan Salpini, review of Grasscutter II: Journey to Atsuta Shrine, p. 175; April, 2003, Susan Salpini, review of The Shrouded Moon, p. 198.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1994, Katharine L. Kan, review of Usagi Yojimbo comic-book series, p. 260.


Dark Horse Comics Web site, (August 1, 1998), interview with Sakai.

Sergio Aragonés Home Page, (February 13, 2004), interview with Sakai.

Usagi Yojimbo Web site, (May 4, 2004).