Usagi Yojimbo ("rabbit bodyguard") is a comic book series created by Stan Sakai in 1987. Set primarily at the beginning of Edo period of Japan (early 17th century), with anthropomorphic animals replacing humans, the series features a rabbit ronin, Miyamoto Usagi, whom Stan Sakai based partially on the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Usagi wanders the land on a musha shugyo (warrior's pilgrimage) occasionally selling his services as a bodyguard. Usagi Yojimbo is heavily influenced by Japanese cinema and has included references to the work of Akira Kurosawa (the title of the series is derived from Kurosawa's 1960 film Yojimbo) and to icons of popular Japanese cinema such as Lone Wolf and Cub, Zatoichi, and Godzilla. The series is also influenced somewhat by Groo the Wanderer by Sergio Aragonés (Sakai is the letterer for that series), but the overall tone of Usagi Yojimbo is more serious and reflective.
The books consist of novel-length narratives or short stories, with underlying larger plots which create long extended story lines. The stories include many references to Japanese history and Japanese folklore, and sometimes include mythical creatures. The architecture, clothes, weapons, and other objects are drawn with a faithfulness to period style. There are often stories whose purpose is to illustrate various elements of Japanese arts and crafts, such as the fashioning of kites, swords, and pottery. Those efforts have been successful enough for the series to be awarded a Parents' Choice Award in 1990 for its educational value through Stan's "skillful weaving of facts and legends into his work." The series follows the standard traditional Japanese naming-convention for all featured characters: their family names followed by their given names. Usagi was named the thirty-first greatest comic book character by Empire Magazine.