Netflix has announced the first-ever animated TV series based on the long-running Usagi Yojimbo comic books by Stan Sakai; Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles, which is set in a world that mixes modern high-tech images with classic Japanese references.
The comic book series is set primarily at the beginning of the Edo period of Japanese history and features anthropomorphic animals replacing humans. The main character is a rabbit rōnin, Miyamoto Usagi, whom Sakai based partially on the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. He wanders the land on a musha shugyō (warrior’s pilgrimage), occasionally selling his services as a bodyguard.
Usagi Yojimbo is heavily influenced by Japanese cinema, including references to the work of Akira Kurosawa, as well as to icons of popular Japanese cinema, such as Lone Wolf And Cub, Zatoichi, and Godzilla.
It is still ongoing and being published to this day since it began in 1984. As of now, Sakai has produced more than 200 issues of Usagi Yojimbo.
However, the Netflix animated series features a twist even for fans of the comics.
Rather than featuring the comic book protagonist Miyamoto Usagi, the Netflix animated series will take place in the far future and follow the teenage Rabbit Samurai Yuichi, who is a descendent of the aforementioned great warrior, on his epic quest to become a true samurai.
In Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles, Yuichi will lead a ragtag team of misfit heroes, including a roguish bounty hunter, a cunning ninja, an acrobatic pickpocket and a faithful pet lizard. Along the way, they will battle depth-charging moles, metal-tipped winged bats, and monsters from another dimension.
Sakai himself will serve as an executive producer on the show, along with Gaumont’s Nicolas Atlan, Terry Kalagian, Sidonie Dumas and Christophe Riandee, Dark Horse Entertainment’s Mike Richardson, Keith Goldberg and Chris Tongue, and Atomic Monster’s James Wan, Michael Clear and Rob Hackett.
Meanwhile, Candie and Doug Langdale are attached as executive producers and showrunners.
Speaking with Variety, Sakai said:
“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+ years.”
Mumbai-based 88 Pictures will be responsible for animating Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles. The CGI animation studio has previously worked on Netflix’s Trollhunters.