Manga Review: “Star Wars: The High Republic: Edge of Balance, Vol. 1” by Shima Shinya, Justina Ireland, Mizuki Sakaikibara, Nezu Usugumo
It’s no secret that George Lucas was inspired by Japanese culture when he created Star wars. The Jedi are essentially space samurai, and the Sith have parallels with ronin samurai acting outside of Bushido, who seem to have inspired the Force. From the films of Akira Kurosawa to the feudal warlord armor that inspired Darth Vader’s costume design, there is no shortage of borrowings in Star wars, which is why it is so fitting that Lucasfilm partners with Japanese artists not only for the upcoming Disney + animated series Star Wars: Visions but also on a component of The High Republic with a series called Balance edge.
In a story by Shima Shinya (Lost Boy London) and Justina Ireland (Star Wars: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows), Star Wars fans see how far Nihil’s reach can go. Set on the lush planet of Bachii’s Outer Rim, this manga series follows Jedi Knight Lily Tora-Asi as she trains a Padawan and helps colonize this new planet. It’s one of many new to the series in this introductory volume, with a host of new characters and a few that will be familiar to fans who have diligently followed. The High Republic so far. This story takes place during the second phase at the time of the Republic Fair on Valo.
Debris from the hyperspace disaster has reached planet Ta’Klah, and the Jedi have arrived just in time to help its citizens evacuate. Lily Tora-Asi and Master Arkoff (a Wookie mentioned in Light of the Jedi) are among the Jedi who help move people to Banchii, where Lily and her apprentice Keerin Fionn are tasked with helping them settle. But when the Drengir (plant monsters who thirst for meat) make their first appearance on Banchii, it’s clear that the Nihil could be among the rescued citizens of Ta-Klah.
I sometimes feel tired of new planets being introduced to Star Wars media, especially when they don’t appear in the main saga and just feel like another mono-biome planet. But Banchii is different and clearly rooted in Japanese culture. Living in harmony with nature, the Jedi Temple of Banchii is carved from a giant tree, elements of its original form can still be seen in the living temple. There is also a common agricultural nature to the place, seemingly one of the most peaceful places in the Star Wars universe.
Lily Tora-Asi also has Japanese elements in her character, including her double lightsabers, whose handles resemble katanas. Her short dark hair is also a popular style for Japanese girls and her appearance in Mizuki Sakaikibara’s artwork (Tiger & Rabbit) is in a classic manga style. The young people featured in the story (a togruta named Viv’nia and a humanoid named Nima) have a kawaii style.
Volume one of Star Wars: The High Republic: Edge of Balance includes a bonus short story by Shima Shinya with illustrations by Nezu Usugumo titled “Tha Banchiians”. It gives readers a glimpse into Banchii beyond what we see in the main story through a smaller mission that Lily pursues along with Keerin, Viv’nia, and Nima. It presents the native species of the planet and will remind Star wars fans of the Ewoks on the Moon of Endor.
Star Wars: The High Republic: Edge of Balance, Vol. 1 is rated T for Teen, although the manga doesn’t feature any gory or sexual storylines. More of a local manga (there is no release date in Japan yet), it is very much in line with what you would expect from a kid-friendly. Star wars project. If you are looking at this for a kid old enough to read comics, you won’t find any worse scenario here than what you would find in Star Wars: Rebels.
Star Wars: The High Republic: Edge of Balance, Vol. 1 is now available from Viz Media.
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Star Wars: The High Republic: Edge of Balance, Vol. 1 (1): Shinya, Shima, Ireland, Justina, Sakakibara, Mizuki: Amazon.com
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).