Both of you make me very happy, actually. Because you are reading me dead right, which suggests that I may be expressing my meaning accurately.
An usuba is a "yes yes yes" thing or a "run like heck and don't look back" thing. There is no middle. Do it or don't. [Yoda: "Do or do not. There is no "try."] The first month SUCKS. Seriously. If you're not rather good at sharpening, with a great kit to do it, and you aren't willing to shell out pretty serious cash to buy the knife in the first place, the answer is easy: run like heck. Just DO NOT do it. A mediocre usuba is so awful that I can't advise against it enough. You know that feeling, "hey, maybe I'll just pick up a cheap one, see how it goes, maybe I'll like it or not, whatever"? That don't work. I tried it. I know. Horror and evil ensued. You can't begin with an usuba for under $200 to the best of my knowledge, and with the exchange where it is probably not under $300. Plus sharpening kit and all that. And even then, the first month is pretty awful. I'm crazy, and spent a year in Kyoto, so I did it, but I just do not encourage this. KC Ma, an e-pal of mine, once noted that I seem to be the only home cook around who made this shift and did not end up in tears and blood regretting it. I think he may be right. And I had all these great Japanese-language books to guide me on what to do (with my blonde, busy, mom-of-two professor of Japanese literature wife translating on the fly, with only mild, graceful irritation -- love that girl!).
Deba is great. If you don't know how to fillet French and have it burned into your hands, I think it's actually not that hard to learn, and you can pick up a good deba for a good price. Think 180mm. Keep it sharp and you will love it. There are a million videos, not to mention Nozaki Hiromitsu's great introductory book, to guide you on how to use it. I have not seen a truly bad deba yet. Maybe you have to sharpen it a lot, but who cares? Get a 180mm cheap, sharpen the bujeezus out of it, and give it a go. What can you really lose? It's fun. If you love it, and start butchering fish all the time, spend some more for a good one and you will be glad you did. But for once in a blue moon, a mediocre one will work. (This is the thing about usuba again: it does not work to buy a cheap one just to try, where it does for everything else.)
Yanagiba is great, but if you don't slice raw fish, what for? Costs a pretty penny, and a B****H to keep sharp. Still, a lot of fun. I can't really get my mind around advising someone to buy a cheap yellow steel 195mm one like I have, but since I was given it I rather like it. It's not bad at all.
But usuba.... Oy. Glad I made the shift, honestly, but my criteria for who ought to do the same keep narrowing. I just chipped the tip of mine doing something that only afterwards I realized was stupid, and thought, "jeez -- when do I stop being a total beginner in this?" That's after a year and a half of daily use, you understand. My love-hate thing with this knife knows no bounds.
At the moment, I think I hate it. But that's mostly because sharpening a chip out of it is such a raving PITA. Once I get it back in line, I think I will probably love it again.
Oy, I'm so conflicted....