You may recall that back in 2020, Netflix announced their plans to create a an animated series based on Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo graphic novels. During the initial announcement, Netflix revealed that they didn’t plan to do a straight adaptation of Sakai’s rabbit ronin Miyamoto Usagi, but rather expand the mythology of the series by focusing on one of his descendants. Now, they’ve finally given us a look at the upcoming series — called Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles — and it looks like an interesting twist on the Usagi stories.
Having grown up hearing stories of his legendary ancestor, Yuichi Usagi (Darren Barnet) has dreamed of fighting yokai and saving lives like Miyamoto. After training to be a ninja, it looks like he’s finally going to get his shot in protecting Neo-Edo’s citizens after an extremely powerful yokai show up and begins to terrorize the city. Like with any kids show, he’ll have some friends to help him defeat all the yokai that are now running around — in this case, the rhino bounty hunter Gen (Aleks Le), fox thief Kitsune (Shelby Rabara), and cat ninja Chizu (Mallory Low).
Not having read the Yojimbo comics, I can’t personally speak as to whether or not Samurai Rabbit capture the spirit found in Sakai’s work. But the show has potential; the character designs from French studio Gaumont all look really good, and compared to how western kids animation can usually look — aka, extremely chatty, offbeat humour and rapid-fire gags — the more deliberate pace that this show seems to have is appreciated. (It probably doesn’t hurt that Sakai is one of the show’s executive producers, so he was able to help guide the series along.) And a rabbit ninja swinging through a city using a mystic yo-yo is just interesting enough to pique interests, surely.
Netflix’s animated output was fairly strong throughout 2021, and they’ve got another potential winner on their hands with Samurai, assuming they let it live longer than two seasons. With how hungry animation fans are for something different, there’s surely an audience that’ll groove with this and get it on everyone else’s radar in no time. And should it end prematurely And if not, the show should at least inspire viewers to check out the source material it’s based on.
Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles will hit Netflix on April 28.