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The Tale of Usagi Yojimbo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)
by yo go re

Welcome to another installment of "baby yo never watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

When Donatello's pan-dimensional portal accidentally transports Usagi Yojimbo to the sewers of New York, the rabbit ronin meets his new allies, the Turtles, and soon learns the ways of the ninja. Shredder devises a devious duel to divide the dudes - it's a bogus bunny betrayal! However, years of eating carrots have given the heroic hare 20/20 vision and he finally sees through Shredder's schemes. Reunited, the Turtles and their fearless floppy-eared friend confront Shredder and save the day!

I knew Usagi Yojimbo from the original TMNT toyline (and, since he was one of the indie comic characters Eastman and Laird used their unexpected success to help promote, eventually his own book), but I never knew he appeared on the cartoon. Playmates released an Usagi in their 2012 toyline, but the only worthwhile version was an SDCC exclusive, and all 350 of them sold out before I could get one. I wasn't about to spend money on an inferior mass market version, nor was I going to pay some lowlife scalper to get the exclusive, so my collection has been hurting for a quality rabbit bodyguard. No longer!

The 1989 action figure didn't really look like Usagi: he was wearing samurai armor, rather than his traditional robes. Another attempt in 2004 was closer, but still not exact. But this is NECA, and NECA strives for accuracy, so it's a lot better. Miyamoto is wearing his light blue kimono shirt and black hakama pants, with a sash bowed around the waist and a pair of brown sandals on his feet. Since this is based on the cartoon, rather than the comics, his top doesn't have all the black dots it normally would, though we do still get the circular yellow kamon crests that signify his allegience to Lord Mifune's clan.

Usagi was sculpted by Paul Harding, who's really been popping up all over the place in our reviews lately. The bunny comes with two heads with different expressions: one with the mouth closed and the eyes steady, the other with the mouth open slightly and the brows down a bit; call them "at rest" and "ready to fight." There are two little whiskers sculpted in on each side of the nose, and the curved scar over his left eye. Yes, that's a scar, not just a cartoon's way of depicting an eyebrow.

The rabbit's ears take the place of a samurai's top knot, even being tied together to further the comparison. On the peaceful head the ears stand up; on the fighting head, they lay flat, so you can put on his hat. But what's really neat is that they's a separate piece that plugs into the head, meaning you can remove them and swap them, so either expression can be used in either way. Fun!

Being swappable like that means there's a swivel joint where the ears join the head, but the figure also has a balljointed head and neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/​hinge wrists, balljointed chest and waist, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. This is defintely the most mobile Uasgi there's ever been! Right out of the package, he has open hands, but you can trade those for either fists or a pair to hold his accessories.

Usagi comes with long and short swords, which can fit in a joined pair of scabbards. The scabbards don't actually connect to the figure in any way, however. He has a katar dagger, which is an Indian weapon, but was also something the original TMNT toy came with. There's also a kunai he can throw at his enemies.

In the first episode where he appeared, the Turtles disguise Usagi so he can go out on the streets with them. Rather than the trenchcoats and fedoras they typically wear themselves, they gave him a black hooded robe, which this set also includes. It's softgoods, and does a decent job of concealing his identity. As long as you think a monk would have a rabbit face, I guess. The sash for the robe is elastic, and there's a second little loop of elastic included as well - oh, that's how the swords can be held on! Okay, not bad. I mean, elastic will absolutely stretch out over time, but no one's saying you have to keep him wearing his swords for years.

This set doesn't limit itself to the cartoon, however. We already mentioned his hat, a typical conical bamboo kasa meant to protect the wearer from the sun and rain when travelling. That isn't something he wore on the show, and it's not something the old toy had, so it's only a reference to the comics. So is the little tokage lizard, the petite lap brontosaurus that are always scurrying around the countryside in the stories; since the world of Usagi Yojimbo is one of anthropomorphic animals, it wouldn't make sense for there to also be real animals running around, so Stan Sakai created these little guys to serve as wildlife and pets. This one is probably meant to be Spot, who was Usagi's travelling companion for a time.

Miyamoto Usagi is not a NECA exclusive, so he should theoretically show up at Target at some point, but who wants to take the chance on waiting for that? NECA offered him via open preorder on their website, and I jumped at the chance to finally have a great figure of him. This may specifically be branded as being from the TMNT cartoon, but it's good enough to be a standalone piece, too.

-- 08/11/22

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