Thursday, 27 June 2013

Artus Reportus Longus Windus - Stan Sakai

This is the first report that we were required to do for the Critical Studies section of the course. I've broken it up three sections because the whole thing was far too image heavy.
CAVAET! - I got pulled up on my referencing for this report even after I used the handout sheets AND the APA referencing tool in Word.  Make certain of your references before submitting and cite everything! Even if you consider it to be redundant information.

In this report I plan to focus on three different practitioners. They all work in the same genre, fantasy art, but each is very different in their approach to the materials and techniques used.
  • Stan Sakai is the creator and illustrator of the Usagi Yojimbo graphic novels. His work is black and white and well written.
  • Frank Frazetta who was a fantasy artist until his death in 2010. He worked primarily in acrylics but started out illustrating comic books as well.
  • Brian Froud who is a fantasy artist. He worked closely with Jim Henson on The Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal movies.
(Sakai,, 1996)
(Sakai,, 1996)
This is the cover to Usagi Yojimbo #7 and also its draft version. What the viewer is seeing is Usagi facing off against Nakamura Koji [1] who is introduced in this issue as a student warrior.

After the pair fight off an attack by students of a fencing school which Koji had challenged it is revealed that Usagi’s own teacher, Katsuichi [2] was the same samurai who had defeated him in an exhibition match years ago.
The pair duel and Koji wins but allows Usagi to live on the condition that he send a message to his teacher to meet at Kitanoji temple in a years’ time. This is the start of the Duel at Kitanoji storyline which is one of the longest story arcs to date.

The pale colour of the grass and even the muted tones on the flowers in the foreground lets us know that this story happens later in the year with the coming autumn months being mentioned in the issue [3].


What methods were used?
Pencil and inks. The covers of a few special covers that have been done as watercolours but this is rare.

When was it made?
This particular image and the story was created in June of 1996

Where was it made?
Stan Sakai lives and works in Pasadena, California.

Why was it made?
The image was made as the draft for the cover for the Usagi Yojimbo comic with the final image being coloured. Sakai went through a period of putting the black and white drafts of his covers on his website but of late this practice has tapered off.

What was the social cultural and technological context of it's production?

Miyamoto Usagi is a Samurai warrior who frequently finds himself drawn into situations where his blades are the only solution. But despite this he has a good heart and will often look for solutions that don't involve death.

Usagi Yyojimbo is set in 15th century feudal Japan during a period known as “The Emperors Peace” He is a masterless Samurai (Ronin) who is on the warriors path of learning.

Steel is the ultimate test of a warrior and duels between Samurai are a common sight. Gunpowder, although present, is still at the stage where it is much too dangerous to use as anything other than fireworks [4].
Who made it?
Stan Sakai illustrates, inks and writes Usagi Yojimbo almost single handed. Tom Luth, who also worked with Sakai on Sergio Argones “Groo the Wanderer” comic, works as the colorist but with the exception of the covers and a few of the trade paperbacks the comics themselves are in black and white.
Who is the intended audience for this piece?
Seeing as how this is a comic I would generally say that the intended audience for Usagi is fairly young but this is a publication that has something for everyone. The younger set can enjoy the pictures while an older person would appreciate the storylines and even the story notes that Stan Sakai includes at the end of the books.
Sergio Aragones, in the foreword to Usagi Yojimbo Book Seven – Gens Story (1996), wrote:
 - Stan has created a unique world, a feudal Japan that allows dragons, ghosts, demons, and prehistoric lizards to live hand in hand (or paw in paw) with rabbits, rhinoceri, and bats - a mixture of fairy tale, adventure novel, horror, romance, sword and sorcery, and humor, and all without breaking the rules of good storytelling. His samurai understand bushido; the romance doesn't leave you with a "sappy" feeling; the horror doesn't need to resort to gruesome or gory scenes to convey the point; and his humor doesn't rely on modern references or lines from television situation comedies. The stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end and the drawings capture all this with a simplicity of line that is very difficult to accomplish. [para:7]  -
  1. nah-kah-MOO-rah KOH-jee
  2. kah-tsoo-EE-chee, (soft 't')
  3. Stan Sakai keeps to a fairly regular time line in the books which means that Usagi won’t be wandering about in summer in one issue and then snowbound in the next.
  4. Another issue dealt with Usagi defending a ninja from the Neko (Cat) clan against the Komori (bat) ninja for the black powder formula. Although the Komori seemed to have won they did not know that there was a verbal component to the instructions. “disregard the last step” and blew themselves up.

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