entertainment

5 ways Japan influenced ‘Star Wars’

19 Comments
By Adam Douglas

"Star Wars" is a cultural juggernaut, a mass media power encompassing filmtelevisionbooks, comics, toys and much more.

While "Star Wars" has several reference points, including old sci-fi movie serials like "Flash Gordon," the novel "Dune" (spice, anyone?), and World War II dogfights (check out 1955 film "The Dam Busters" for proto-Death Star destruction action), Japan has had an outsized influence on the galaxy far, far away.

Here then are five ways Japan has influenced "Star Wars." We’ve tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but there may be some reveals.

1. The films of Akira Kurosawa

Yojimbo.jpg
This is the Obiwan Lucas was looking for. Photo: Toho

t’s no secret that George Lucas was a big fan of Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa. So much has been said about the connection between Kurosawa’s "The Hidden Fortress" and "Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope."

We’ve talked about it before, so we won’t go into too much detail here. But the parallels are striking: both feature a bickering pair of commoners embroiled in an adventure with a sassy young princess and a weathered general, played by Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune. Lucas even approached Mifune about playing Darth Vader when casting the first film.

The connections go deeper, though. Lucas (along with Francis Ford Coppola) produced Kurosawa’s 1980 film, "Kagemusha," about a warlord’s doppelgänger getting thrown into the thick of things. This story idea also made its way into "The Clone Wars," specifically in the fourth episode of the fourth season, “The Shadow Warrior” (also the English translation of the Japanese word, kagemusha), with Jar Jar Binks playing the double.

Kurosawa’s arguably most famous film is "The Seven Samurai." It was the inspiration for "The Mandalorian" episode, “Sanctuary” in the first season. Hiding from the Guild, Mando leads a group of mercenaries to repel raiders from attacking a local village, a clear parallel to the movie. Not coincidentally, this is also the premise for Zack Snyder’s upcoming "Rebel Moon," which started life as a "Star Wars" project.

2. Lone Wolf and Cub

lone-wolf-and-cub-manga-2.jpg
This is the way. Photo: Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima, Futabasha

"Lone Wolf and Cub" was a manga series that ran from 1970 to 1976. It was also made into numerous films (recut and released overseas as "Shogun Assassin") and television series. It’s the story of Ogami Itto, the former executioner for the shogun, who is forced to go on the run with his young son, Daigoro, after being framed for a crime he did not commit.

The similarities to "The Mandalorian" are numerous, with Grogu following Mando in a floating cradle. Although Daigoro does not have supernatural powers, he is sometimes brought into the fray. The scene in "The Book Of Boba Fett," where Luke offers Grogu the choice between the life of a Jedi and being with the Mandalorian, is almost shot for shot from the first "Lone Wolf and Cub" film.

3. Samurai and bushido

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19 Comments
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Japan always trying to take credit for Americas' talent.

-17 ( +12 / -29 )

Japan always trying to take credit for Americas' talent.

Sure, copy aspects of Japanese culture or anime works as well as from other countries to make their own productions, because Hollywood ran out of "inspiration"...

What a talent... Lol..

-8 ( +16 / -24 )

"The Seven Samurai," one of the best pictures ever made, and it is in black and white.

Some films have been the inspiration for innumerable others, and this is one of the few.

Not to insult the original, but I can't help but wonder how the picture would have looked in color.

In my opinion, Star Wars, while a huge commercial success, is not the artistic success of "Samurai."

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Sounds like enough evidence to proclaim Star Wars UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Japan.

5 ( +15 / -10 )

The original Blade Runner (1982) film was highly influenced by Japanese culture in the context of the times: Japan was on its way to being Number One in the world. The 2017 sequel too reflected the sentiment of the times and so Japanese culture was by and large left out of the film.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

On the subject of copying, I think that artists, engineers, and scientists, all build on the work of those who came before them. It is not a thing to be ashamed of, but is the natural order of thins. "Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest form of learning." George Bernard Shaw.

Film makers and playwrights of today often borrow liberally from Shakespeare, who borrowed liberally from the Greeks. I wonder if the Greeks were really such geniuses, or if they borrowed like crazy from those who came before them. For instance, the Greeks replaced the Cretans after the massive explosion at Santorini destroyed their ability to dominate the Eastern Mediterranean. Almost nothing of their culture survives directly, but they must have influenced the Greeks, who were considered barbarians at that time. Surviving Minoan inscriptions have defied translation.

Rarely discussed is the adoption of Western music in the Far East. When watching a Chinese, Korean, or Japanese movie, one almost never hears the old music that was played before the West came in.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Huge Star Wars fan since my childhood. I've always seen some correlations with Japan and some of the characters in the Star Wars story drawn from the Samurai era, never bothered me at all and thought it to be quite creative to come up with this sci-fi story. Lucas himself has even admitted he is a fan of Japanese old samurai movies and Japanese culture. I like how the title of this article says "influenced" because it's absolutely correct and anyone who thinks otherwise or is trying to twist it as meaning copy is just silly. Looking forward to the new Kenobi film.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

The 2017 sequel too reflected the sentiment of the times and so Japanese culture was by and large left out of the film.

and that is the reason that the 2017 sequel was a box office Turkey and Blade Runner Is a Masterpiece film.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

Go watch The Hidden Fortress.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

All art, engineering, technology; anything that creates anything will, to a certain degree, copy an existing sample as reference.

Thats how the modern world evolves.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

As Isaac Newton famously said: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Japan always trying to take credit for Americas' talent."

So you never listened to interviews with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and other great filmmakers on great Akira Kurosawa!

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Go watch The Hidden Fortress

https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20160104-the-film-star-wars-stole-from

3 ( +3 / -0 )

> RoblibMar. 15  09:36 am JST

Huge Star Wars fan since my childhood. I've always seen some correlations with Japan and some of the characters in the Star Wars story drawn from the Samurai era, never bothered me at all and thought it to be quite creative to come up with this sci-fi story. Lucas himself has even admitted he is a fan of Japanese old samurai movies and Japanese culture. I like how the title of this article says "influenced" because it's absolutely correct and anyone who thinks otherwise or is trying to twist it as meaning copy is just silly. Looking forward to the new Kenobi film.

there's something to be said from this article. George Lucas invented the word 'JEDI' by combining the first syllables of two Japanese words. But there's more sources, some outside of Japanese culture. A 'YODA' in ancient Arabian culture was a scholar, mystic or teacher. 'SKYWALKER' comes from Apache mythology. 'Luke' just sounded right, I suppose.

DanMar. 15  06:47 pm JST

"Japan always trying to take credit for Americas' talent."

So you never listened to interviews with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and other great filmmakers on great Akira Kurosawa!

And in the classic 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom', when Indy and Kate Capshaw are fleeing a fracas in Shanghai city, did you notice a 'Club Obi-Wan'? Of course, that refers to Obi-Wan Kenobi of STAR WARS but where did THAT name originate from or was inspired by?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Agree that Asia esp Japan has made huge influence on the West.

Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood 1/2, Female Prisoner films and Stray Cat Rock films) highly influenced Tarantino.

Btw, Akira Kurosawas' best film is actually 1963 High and Low.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

You would have to be living under a rock not to know any of this. The Jedi are basically masterless samurai and the light saber is just a glowing katana. Most overrated film franchise in history!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

absolutely inspired I mean even yoda is a common Japanese surname

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

BackpackingNepalToday  06:56 am JST

Agree that Asia esp Japan has made huge influence on the West.

Old Imperial Japan is where the novel was 'invented'. And the band KISS combined glam rock/glitter rock with heavy metal and took their outfits from sci-fy and samurai getup. And need i mention that their makeup is inspired by kabuki theater?

The Roman Empire traded indirectly with the Orient, especially Imperial China but Roman coins have also found their way to Japan and they had a waylay station in modern Thailand. The Chinese Empire made many innovations and was a major force for several millennia but the Japanese (and Mongols) were also very important in their influences on the West, one way or another.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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