By Julie Catherine
Japanese culture and cinema had an immeasurable influence on George Lucas in his creation of Star Wars and now, almost half a century later, things come full circle with Japanese artists bringing Star Wars to life in new and exciting ways. Authors Shima Shinya and Justina Ireland and artist Mizuki Sakakibara team up for The High Republic: The Edge of Balance, Vol, 1, the first in a new canon manga series from Viz Media. The Edge of Balance follows Jedi Knight Lily Tora-Asi in the aftermath of the Hyperspace Disaster depicted in Light of the Jedi and around the time of the Republic Fair attack on Valo. Lily is tasked with helping people displaced from the Hyperspace Disaster on a remote planet in the Outer Rim when hidden threats emerge…
Taking a step back, a project like The Edge of Balance showcases how brilliant it is to see the Star Wars universe brought to life in creative, different mediums. Various Star Wars stories have been explored in manga, but none in the High Republic era and none that have felt so raw and connected to the Japanese influences of Star Wars. Any qualms with the somewhat pedestrian story of The Edge of Balance are quashed by the sheer novelty of this medium of storytelling and the beautiful intersection of manga and Star Wars.
Much of The Edge of Balance works due to our lead: Lily Tora-Asi. Lily feels like a character straight from a classic manga and it’s interesting to see the Japanese manga aesthetic used to depict a new collection of Star Wars characters. The Japanese influence doesn’t stop there. The planet Banchii that is at the heart of this story would not be out of place in a Kurosawa film.
Although there is clearly more to be told in this story, The Edge of Balance does a serviceable job with its narrative. The sheer intensity and raw emotionality seen in other High Republic works like Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm is absent here, but this is to be expected given the manga’s target audience and the amount of storytelling that can be covered in Volume 1. It feels as if we’re just getting started with this story and there’s going to be more than meets the eye with the Drengir and the Nihil moving forward, but, for now, the beautiful artwork, terrific lead, and Japanese influences make The Edge of Balance a worthy read for Star Wars fans.
Images courtesy of Viz Media and Lucasfilm