The Star Wars franchise has long worn its Japanese influences on its sleeves. From the kimono-like robes of its Jedi, to the pseudo-Japanese names, to the Akira Kurosawa homages, as well as the roots of the Force in Eastern mysticism and philosophies, Lucas owes a lot to the country. For further proof, George Lucas initially wanted to cast longtime Kurosawa collaborator Toshiro Mifune as Obi-Wan Kenobi.
So it’s fitting that Star Wars will come full circle and turn all that Japanese narrative subtext into text. An official Star Wars kabuki adaptation is in the works, with the stage play set to premiere in Tokyo later this month.
Ichikawa Ebizo XI, one of the most famous and popular kabuki performers in Japan, will be adapting Star Wars into a kabuki stage play, according to Mantan Web (via Nerdist). Ichikawa will supervise the production of the kabuki adaptation and star as Kylo Ren “in the generational portrayal.” The kabuki production will only cover the new trilogy and will reportedly “feature key scenes” from each of the new movies, including the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
“Star Wars Kabuki will depict the love and loss felt by the Skywalker family over the past 40-plus years,” Ichikawa said in a press release about the upcoming performance. “Whether you ’re a Star Wars lover or a kabuki lover, it ’s a great piece to enjoy.”
The full title for the kabuki production is Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke Hikarigatana Sanbon, which roughly translates to Star Wars Kabuki-Ren and Three Light Sabers. It’s a title that suggests the kabuki play will shift the focus to Kylo Ren away from than the new trilogy’s protagonist, Rey. Who are the Three Light Sabers? Perhaps Kylo, Rey, and Luke? Or the three sad Skywalker men whose tragic arcs have defined the series, Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, and Kylo? The latter seems to be more the case considering modern kabuki’s male-heavy casts.
Kabuki is considered one of the most beautiful traditional Japanese theater traditions, characterized by its elaborate make-up and costumes, and heightened dance-drama performances. The performances are usually set in the samurai era, though can extend to other eras — in this case, a galaxy far, far away. I wonder if this Star Wars kabuki adaptation will go full sci-fi and feature futuristic costumes of Stormtroopers and droids, but it would also not be difficult for Ichikawa to transplant the story to medieval Japan. The narrative’s Eastern influences are threaded throughout the new films, and the visuals of The Last Jedi especially are not far off from the bold, heightened designs of kabuki.
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