Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees Inspired Usagi Yojimbo Villain

The Eisner Award-winning Usagi Yojimbo is often considered a modern classic, and one of the most important comics of the modern era. Stan Sakai's long-running series has featured plenty of romance, action, drama and tragedy over the years, but it's never scarier than when Jei is on the scene. In the series, one of the titular heroes' most memorable foes is the seemingly supernatural serial killer/samurai Jei, but before Jei became one of the franchise's most iconic figures, he was just a love letter to a different unstoppable monster: Jason Voorhees, the primary slasher villain from the Friday the 13th series.

Jei is one of the most enduring villains in Usagi Yojimbo. The epic series focuses on a version of feudal Japan populated by anthropomorphic animals. This includes the rabbit ronin Usagi, as well as the many allies and enemies he's made over the years. Among the most dangerous has always been Jei. A wolf with black hair, the blank-eyed Jei is a wandering samurai who believes himself to be God's agent on Earth.

RELATED: Friday the 13th: We All Know Jason Voorhees’ Mother - But Who Is His Dad?

As such, "the Blade of the Gods" is compelled to target "sinners" across the land, dispatching them in typically brutal fashions. Across the course of the series, he's come up against Usagi multiple times -- to the point of quietly becoming perhaps his most popular and familiar foe. The closest thing Jei has to a friend is the young girl Keiko, who he mysterious dedicates himself to protecting.

Originally conceived as a one-shot villain, creator Stan Sakai grew fond of the character and repeatedly resurrected him. It's been confirmed by the Usagi Yojimbo Saga: Book 6 that Jei was actually created as an allusion to Jason Voorhees. The pair share a number of qualities, including their unstoppable murderous tendencies, brutal tactics and nigh-invulnerability. Both characters are monstrous killers with massive body counts, with Jei's presence turning the largely epic adventures of Usagi into more horror-esque stories. Like Jason, Jei has been dispatched multiple ways over the years only to come back from the dead each time. In fact, the full honorific for Jei should be Jei-San -- aka Jason, but Jei possesses an attribute that's even more frightening than anything Jason Voorhees has been shown capable of.

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Jei is eventually revealed to not be a single person, but a nefarious force of nature. At the conclusion of the "Grasscutter" storyline, Jei was seemingly killed once and for all by Usagi using the holy sword known as Kusanagi. Upon his demise, Jei's body seemed to erupt in a sea of spirits, unleashing those Jei had slain over the years, but the spirit of Jei lived on, possessing Usagi's occasional ally Inazuma. Inazuma gained the blank eyes and ruthless nature of Jei, only occasionally breaking through Jei's influence. Only in death did Inazuma eventually escape this dark path -- only for Jei to live on, this time in the body of the bitter warrior Hama.

Jei's wraith living beyond even his physical form is a terrifying concept, making it possible that anyone could become Jei. It also hints that there truly is something supernatural and unstoppable about the murderous figure. It's as if every time Jason Voorhees was killed, the killer's edge within him simply moved into another being and possessed them, turning them into killers as well. Despite Inazuma's best attempts to escape this curse, Jei continued to use her as a tool to cause more bloodshed across the land. Jei may have begun life as a love letter to Jason, but at least in this way, he's actually surpassed Jason in terms of sheer terror.

KEEP READING: Which Friday the 13th Features Jason Voorhees’ Highest Kill Count?

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Brandon Zachary (4413 Articles Published)

Brandon Zachary is an Associate Writer with Comic Book Resources and has written for CBR since 2018. He covers breakouts on comics, film, television, video games, and anime. He also conducts industry interviews, is a Rotten Tomatoes certified film critic, and knows SO MUCH about the X-Men. For requests, comments, or to hear his pitch for a third Avatar series that incorporates robots, you can contact him through [email protected].

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