The early issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles released by Mirage Studios include a few guest stars here and there. One of them comes from the pages of Usagi Yojimbo, the samurai rabbit by the name of Miyamoto Usagi. The pairing of samurai rabbit and ninja turtles was a big enough success that it migrated to television during the original run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For some reason, the character Miyamoto Usagi was named Usagi Yojimbo in the show. I don’t know if it was deliberate or a mistranslation, but because of that a whole generation of kids grew up referring to the samurai rabbit character created by Stan Sakai as Usagi Yojimbo. To his credit, Sakai doesn’t seem bothered by this as he has let Usagi be utilized for pretty much every iteration of the turtles that followed. I’m sure he was compensated for that, but he seems totally willing to let this association continue and that’s why I’m here talking about NECA Toys’ latest deluxe release in its line of action figures based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Usagi Yojimbo.
Whatever you refer to him as, know that I’m just going to call him Usagi for the duration of this post. Usagi, as stated, is the latest deluxe release in NECA’s toyline which means he comes in that VHS style packaging with artwork by Dan Elson and Aaron Hazouri that is just so hard to throw away. It looks terrific and it’s loaded with product shots of the figure in action which is easily displayed by opening the front, fifth panel which is seated by a piece of Velcro. Usagi was put up for order on NECA’s website back in March as an open preorder and he’s just now making his way into the hands of eager collectors even faster than Storm, which I noted was the shortest wait between preorder and release I’ve had since 2019. This should be followed by a general release at Target stores across the US and other online outlets in international territories, but that could be a few months off given how long it took some past preorders to do the same. Target has a collector event planned for September so that’s a safe bet for when this figure (and others) may appear.
Usagi stands about 4 5/8″ to the top of his head and 5.5″ to the top of his tallest ears. He’s depicted in his show accurate black and blue attire with a gray sash around the waist and purple wraps around the base of the ears. He even has those circular, brownish, emblems on his vest that always looked like chocolate chip cookies to me as a kid. He comes out of the box with a very serious expression on his face (he’s a rather serious character in the show) and he has some open hands. He also has a set of gripping hands and fists and overall he looks great. Usagi is easily one of the best in this line based on likeness which is a testament to his simple design and the quality of the sculpt from Paul Harding and the paint of Geoff Trapp and Mike Puzzo. There’s virtually no paint slop on my figure and the black linework this line is known for looks crisp and I really like the subtle fur texture sculpted into the exposed fur on the character.
Usagi looks terrific, though some sacrifices were meant to get there. His articulation is a bit impacted as a result. The head is on a double-ball-peg and is articulated at the base of the neck as well. He can look all over the place and there’s no complaints there. The ears can swivel too. The shoulders are ball hinged and he can get to about horizontal when lifting them out to the sides. The elbows are just single-hinged and feature a swivel, but the cut of the joint is at an angle and you’ll need to be mindful about paint rub. The hands swivel and are hinged horizontally, also known as the “wrong way,” and at the waist there’s a ball joint that basically just allows for a twist. At the hips he can pretty much do a full split, but he really doesn’t kick forward very far nor does his leg go back much at all. That seems due to the baggy pants which also only let the single knee bend go about 45 degrees. The ankles are seated deep in the cuff of the pants so they too don’t have much range. The rocker is okay, but the forward and back is negligible.
For a samurai rabbit, it is a bummer to see the articulation so limited. Usagi basically can’t even do a two-handed sword grip, but his feet are big and sturdy enough that he can stand on one foot so it isn’t all bad. It’s obvious why he’s like this though so I have a hard time critiquing NECA too hard for the articulation when the aesthetic of the figure is so good. It’s just the trade-off collectors of this line have come to expect. The only improvement that would have made sense is double-jointed knees or a butterfly joint at the shoulder, but I don’t know if I own any NECA figures with such a joint so it’s not like I was expecting it.
As far as accessories go, Usagi comes packing quite a bit. I already mentioned the hands, but Usagi also has a pair of swords at his disposal. One is a katana while the other is listed as a wakizashi. Basically, you have one long sword and one short one and there’s a set of scabbards for each to go into that’s molded together. The scabbard can be affixed to the figure via a black, elastic, sash that’s very similar to what we’ve seen in the movie line with Shredder and the Foot. Just slip it over the figure and stick it on his waist. It will mostly disappear in the waist joint, but it can hold the scabbards just fine. Mine did start to fall out after a day or so though either due to the elastic stretching or part of it getting hung-up on the ball joint at the waist. Usagi also has two additional weapons: a kunai and a katar, which is that fist-dagger that came with all of the Playmates turtles and fit into the rear holster on Raphael’s belt. They’re well-painted and nice to have. We also get a little dinosaur, the Tokage, which is from the Usagi Yojimbo comic. It’s a fun little thing to have, plus who doesn’t want a tiny dinosaur?
We also have a second portrait that features some teeth and ears draped along the skull. The ears are swappable between the heads, but I have thus far encountered a lot of difficulty swapping the heads. The head is connected to the neck via a double-ball-peg and the bottom peg in the neck is the one that keeps popping out as opposed to the ball in the head. It’s so small that I can’t pull it out with with my fingers, so I had to resort to tweezers (I wasn’t sure my needle nose pliers would even get in there). With some advice and ecncouragement from Twitter user Uncle Jesse (@Mesademon149), I was able to dig the peg out with hot water and said tweezers. Even after lubricating the portion that inserts into the head, I still have been unable to get the peg to function properly so I’ve had to dig this thing out a few times so I need to pick a face and stick with it.
Lastly, we have some extra clothing. There’s a soft goods cloak that’s a dark gray with a wired hood. It’s easy to slip on and it looks terrific and there’s a black ribbon included to be utilized like a sash. I just wish there were belt loops on the cloak to better utilize the sash, or just another elastic band. I’m guessing it was a knotted robe in the show as I don’t remember, but I would take the trade-off. Usagi also has hit hat, a type of kasa or Jingasa, that most likely see and just think of as a samurai hat. It looks like it’s made of wood and is very well painted with a light brown on top and a dark brown inside. There’s a lot of nice linework on it as well. There’s a strap made of a thing plastic sculpted onto it to hold it on Usagi’s head and it works well with the flat ears. The strap is supposed to connect to the hat at four spots, but mine is only attached at two. Thankfully, it’s one on each side so it works, but it looks a little silly. I might try to glue those little strands in place, but then again, I’m not really planning on displaying him with the hat anyway. I thought I same promotional shots of the figure with the hat on his back, but I could be mistaken. If not though, it’s not something I would try as I don’t think those straps would hold up. They look quite fragile, so user beware.
Overall, Usagi is a dynamite release form NECA that just has a couple of hiccups. The articulation doesn’t bother me much, it’s really just the inability to swap the heads easily that’s irritating me. The cloak is really good though and I’m torn on how to display my figure because of how much I like that thing. I wasn’t expecting to use it, but now I’m reconsidering. The weapons are great, and the other other critique I really have is the absence of vertical hinges on the gripping hands. He’s a samurai, NECA, give him the right hands! NECA is sometimes very good about that, and sometimes not, it makes it hard to know what to expect.
This figure was $35 when it went up for preorder in March and hopefully it stays that way at retail. NECA Ultimates have been trending toward $38 of late so it may come in a little more pricey. This guy features tons of unique tooling so the value is there and I honestly don’t know how NECA does it considering what some other companies are charging for repaints these days. Usagi Yojimbo is a memorable character from the show, so anyone who has been collecting this line is likely going to grab him and he’ll be money well spent.