Old-School 'Star Wars' Manga: The Best (And Goofiest) Scenes
Nerds across the world are furiously hyping themselves up for the release of Star Wars: Visions, an anthology series made out of all-new anime shorts inspired by one of the seminal works of popular entertainment: yes, The Animatrix. But they'll also be based on Star Wars, probably.
Thing is, this is not the first time someone asks the question "What if Star Wars, but also Japan?" Back in the mid-'90s, George Lucas licensed his babies to Japanese publisher MediaWorks, resulting in a Star Wars manga series named ... Star Wars Manga.
The story sticks extremely closely the plot of the movies, but everything is mildly magna-fied. For starters, there's way more blood splashing around than we remember from these classic scenes ...
... especially on Return of the Jedi, the kid-friendliest and cuddliest part of the original trilogy.
This is actually an interesting study on how the same script can lead to wildly different products, because, despite having the same dialogue, Han comes off as way more of a maniac in this version. And possibly a vampire, too?
Obi Wan is also a lot more badass, not to mention spry, than Alec Guinness' "I was just on my way to bed when you caught me" performance.
The most jarring thing is that the movies are handled by different artists, leading to certain stylistic inconsistencies. For instance, Luke and Leia look like they're about twelve on A New Hope ...
... but then, Luke suddenly turns into 1990s Jean-Claude Van Damme after training with Yoda for two days, and Leia is definitely of adult age by the time she has to put on the golden bikini.
Speaking of that outfit, guess what's the FIRST thing that pops into Anime Luke's mind upon finding out that Leia is his sister?
Meanwhile, Chewbacca goes from a wacky cartoon character in A New Hope to a distractingly handsome furry hunk in Empire Strikes Back ...
... and from that to a truly striking resemblance to the sucky panther tattoo meme in Jedi, to the point that we're seriously wondering if the original tattoo artist used this manga as a reference.
On a related note, the Empire manga beat The Mandalorian to the punch by making Yoda look all adorable 20 years before Baby Yoda mania took the world by storm. Look at him!
The Empire adaption is perhaps the most faithful representative of the manga medium here, in that it goes from bloody action to cartoon-y nonsense to a tender romance comic without any warning. Entire pages are devoted to Han and Leia just glancing in each others' direction and such.
Also, the A New Hope section has tentacles in it, so everybody just ease back into their mind's eye, and let your thoughts fly.
After the original trilogy, a manga-fied version of The Phantom Menace was also released, and Japan must have felt like there was no way to top that masterpiece because they didn't even bother doing the other movies. In 2006, Tokyopop published an anthology series featuring short stories by several Japanese writers and artists, including one where Darth Vader fights Jar Jar Binks' revenge-driven son. That entire series is worth it because of the story that finally pits Vader against his true nemesis: a lightsaber-wielding R2-D2.
The story starts with Vader sensing great power in R2 and inviting him to the Dark Side, but the droid says no (now Vader finally knows what it's like to be rejected by a fire hydrant). Thus begins an epic fight between the two, with a dreadfully inconvenienced C-3PO stuck in the middle. Vader is extremely excited to finally meet his match ... like, maybe too excited for a PG-13 comic.
Although R2 bests Vader in combat (obviously), it's 3PO who eventually defeats him by accidentally pushing him into a carbon-freezing chamber. The comic ends with Vader suspended in carbonite while the droids yell "COOL!!" -- confirming our theory that R2 has always been able to talk, he just doesn't feel like it.
Even if it ends up running for 25 seasons, it's hard to imagine Star Wars: Visions ever coming anywhere close to the perfection of that ending.
Top image: Marvel Comics