This is actually four different mangas, each written by George Lucas, but illustrated by different artists. Originally these were published in Japan by Media Works. Dark Horse is publishing them in America. I found these manga through my manga reader app Zingbox, which only had these four episodes available. I’m going to review each of them individually.
Episode 1: The Phantom Menace by Kia Asamiya
This manga does a great job simplifying the movie. It goes over the important plot points, but skips some of the extra details. It takes a two plus hour movie and squishes it down to two volumes.
I like Anakin better on paper than I do in the movies. Probably because he’s a two dimensional character, and paper is where a two dimensional character belongs. Jar Jar Binks is worse in paper form than he is in movie form. I did not think that was possible. He is just so annoying.
The artwork is interesting, prominent angular noses and smallish eyes, but kind of static. The best part of The Phantom Menace is the action. The pod race in the movie was too long, but it was exciting. In the manga it took a less than a chapter. Same for the epic lightsaber battle between Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn. I would like some more action from now on.
3 out of 5 Stars
Episode 4: A New Hope by Hisao Tamaki
This manga does a great job of retelling the story and giving Luke some more motivation. In the movie, Luke says that he wants to join the Republic at the beginning. In the manga, Luke has flashbacks of his friend joining the resistance, and he plans to meet up with that friend. He only tells his Aunt and Uncle that he is planning to join the Republic. I like that this manga managed to add to the movie.
The artwork is classic manga style. Big eyes, small mouth, beautiful attention to details. It reminds me of the styling of Sailor Moon. The only down side, is the way Chewbacca is depicted. His body is big and furry, but his face is cartoonish and looks like he’s wearing a mask. Clearly the artist interpreted Chewie as the animal sidekick. It’s as though someone took Sailor Moon artwork and pasted a Pokemon into the story.
4 out of 5 Stars
Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back by Toshiki Kudo
This manga has all the intrigue, action, and romance that I remember from the movie. Leia and Han are super cute and flirty, Luke is clueless but eager, C3PO is obnoxious, and Yoda is kind of equal parts cheeky and preachy.
The artwork reminds me of Slayers, another classic anime. It’s a simple and clean style. When a situation is funny or a character is embarrassed, their faces scrunch up. It kind of looks like a boot with a face and hair on top. I really like the way Chewie is depicted. He looks less like a cheap animal sidekick and more like the legitimate partner in crime that he is.
4 out of 5 Stars
Episode 6: Return of the Jedi by Shin-Ichi Hiromoto
This is the story where everybody steps up their game, except Han. Han’s character doesn’t really have anything to contribute but one liners and googly eyes for Leia. Last time we saw them, everyone was sad and pathetic. Now Luke is a legit action hero. Leia is the kick ass female protagonist of my dreams. Chewie is a power house. I would actually have liked more focus on Chewbacca.
This is the first story with art that is such a mixed bag of great and horrible. The great? The aliens/droids and the action. The aliens/droids are depicted with such detail, that they feel real. Like I could totally see a droid rolling down the street in everyday life with the way the artist draws. The action flows beautifully, there is motion in every frame. The horrible? The humans. Anytime a human is not involved in an action scene, there is no life. It’s like someone took an eight year old playing with dolls and drew that. It’s very disconcerting.
3.5 out of 5 Stars
The formatting of this manga is confusing. Traditionally manga is read right to left, top to bottom. When Dark Horse chose to translate it, they also chose to mirror the images, so that it would read left to right. It took me a few pages to realize what was happening. They do warn you at the beginning of the volumes, but I skipped that page apparently…
Translation wise, it’s interesting. This story was originally done in English, translated into Japanese, and then back into English. If you’ve never translated Baby Got Back into Latin and then back into English, you are missing out. If you have you know that some things don’t translate back and forth very easily. When it came to droid names, the translator spelled them out. Artoodetoo and Seethreepio. It was a little odd, because everywhere else I see them named R2D2 and C3P0. I think it was done to humanize the droids, which is cool, but it took me a while to figure it out. One weird translation that I only saw in the first manga was translating laser shots to “shoot shoot shoot” and not “pew pew pew.”
If you like Star Wars, this is a good manga. Often it adds a fresh perspective to the movies. There are several things I noticed in the manga that I missed in the movies. Like the fact that R2 was Padme’s droid. Or the realization that C3P0 was programmed by a little kid, which was probably why he is kind of annoying. I also like that the manga is taking the familiar and then interpreting it through another culture.
Altogether 4 out of 5 Stars
The entire collection of Star Wars Manga is purchasable on Amazon here.
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Would you read these classic tales in Manga form? let us know in the comments. Catch up on our other Star Wars Month themed posts and come back next week for more.