Happy SDCC weekend everyone! As promised, Nickelodeon celebrated the event with a brand new episode of TMNT, and this one was special. Not only do we get a brand new tale, not only is it starring Miyamoto Usagi, but the episode was also written by Stan Sakai himself, creator of Usagi Yojimbo. Featuring absolutely beautiful art, we were introduced not only to this series version of Usagi, but also his world. With unique characters, a distinctive environment in feudal Japan, and an intriguing mission, this Tale is off to a strong start. In fact, it’s a shame we can’t get a whole season in this universe.
The episode started off with a fantastic introduction to Usagi and his nemesis Jei. A confused Usagi confronts Jei for killing an entire family. They face each other in a thunderstorm, and as Jei pontificates about his supposed mission from the gods, he is struck by lightning and disappears. Usagi himself is knocked out from the blast. When he wakes up, all that remains is Jei’s staff, a black spear with a lightning bolt on the blade.
Usagi, a wandering samurai, continues his journey and finds a village in ruin. This is where we find the central conceit of this arc. Usagi must escort a holy child to the monks of his order. Unfortunately, the child is being pursued by Sumo Kuma, a bear warlord, and his army. Also unfortunately, the holy child, Kintaro, is really annoying.
The episode then flashes to Jei, who casts a spell to summon four legendary turtle warriors. These warriors are, of course, our heroes. Surprised and confused by their sudden teleportation to this strange world, the guys are quickly put under a spell by Jei, and compelled to seek out Usagi and kill him, returning with Kintaro alive. It’s a simple reason to have the stereotypical fight before a hero team up, and Usagi quickly (and physically) knocks the spell out of the Turtles heads.
What follows are panels drawn by Stan Sakai, used as a flashback as Usagi explains his background to the Turtles. It’s such a clever way to incorporate artwork from the original creator, and was a real treat to witness.
The Turtles share their own story, explaining that they need to find a way back home. Usagi posits that Kintaro’s order may be able to help. And with that, we continue on our mission. In order to get more information, our heroes decide to infiltrate Sumo Kuma’s army. Where the infiltration is initially successful, Usagi and the Turtles are quickly found out (“We live in a sewer dude, it’s not hard to figure out”), and a fantastic fight sequence breaks out. It’s so unique to the rest of the
series. A fast paced fight on horseback, it features arrows flying through the air, characters jumping from horse to horse, and hand to hand combat. Even the music, a remix of the opening theme, adds to the excitement! It’s highlighted by Usagi saving Kintaro with an incredible arrow trick. It’d be too hard to explain, so just go back and watch that scene again. The action is so much fun and closes out the episode with our heroes tumbling off a cliff! What a literal cliffhanger!
Plain and simple, “Yojimbo” is a great episode and an excellent introduction to this Tale. It would be amazing to get a whole season (or a movie! *wink wink*) in this dimension. It’s so interesting to see the Turtles in a situation where they don’t have to hide. The straight forward mission is a great reason to explore this world and it’s characters, and what a joy it is to explore those things. Visually, Usagi and Jei look just like their comic counterparts. The animators did a great job of matching Sakai’s style, and the environments are gorgeous. Overall, “Yojimbo” has proven to be a thoroughly enjoyable time.