usagi yojimbo animated series

You’d be hard-pressed to find a comic book series that has been as good for as long as Stan Sakai‘s Usagi Yojimbo. The action-packed, supernatural-tinged samurai epic where all of the characters just so happen to be animals is one of comics’ crown jewels. And now, it’s becoming an animated series on Netflix. Sort of. Rather, an animated series set in the world of Usagi Yojimbo is the works and it’ll be set in the future, following the descendants of characters introduced in the comics.

Usagi Yojimbo began in 1984 and is still running today, hundreds of issues later. So perhaps it’s appropriate that the first television adaptation of Sakai’s comic book world takes us into the future. Netflix is teaming up with Gaumont to make a CG-animated television series titled Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles. The series is being made with the full cooperation of Sakai himself, who will be an executive producer on the series.

Here’s the official synopsis straight from Netflix:

The series takes place in the far future, set in a world that mixes modern high-tech images with classic Japanese references. It follows the teenage Rabbit Samurai Yuichi, descendent of the great warrior Miyamoto Usagi, on his epic quest to become a true samurai. But he isn’t alone! He leads a ragtag team of misfit heroes – including a roguish bounty hunter, a cunning ninja, an acrobatic pickpocket and a faithful pet lizard – as he battles depth-charging moles, metal-tipped winged bats, and monsters from another dimension, all in the pursuit to become the best samurai Usagi!

The original comic is a samurai take set in Japan’s Edo period, following a wandering ronin who gets involved in all kinds of incredible adventures and meets all kinds of memorable characters. The fact that everyone is an animal is ultimately just a stylistic choice that extends from Sakai’s instantly recognizable cartoonist’s style. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed that the series won’t adapt the original comic’s setting and characters and even more disappointed that it’ll be CG-animated. I would’ve loved to see Sakai’s style translated to the screen with traditional animation. Plus, that new title. Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles? Oof.

Still, Sakai is a genius and his involvement gives me hope. His work is the perfect blend of character, action, and even period detail, written to appeal to readers of all ages. Here’s his statement on the show:

“It is a pleasure working with Gaumont and Netflix. I am involved in each step of the production and am enthusiastic with the direction we are going into.  It is wonderful to expand the Usagi universe by collaborating with so many talented people. I am working with an awesome team and I’m looking forward to finally seeing an Usagi series on the screen! I thank my wonderful fans, friends and family for their support and encouragement over the last 35-plus years.”

88 Pictures, the animation studio behind Trollhunters, 3Below: Tales of Arcadia, and Fast & Furious Spy Racers, will animate the series. The laundry list of producers includes Aquaman director James Wan. No release date has been set.

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