I am very disappointed by Star Wars: The Edge Of Balance. It has no importance in the overall structure of The High Republic initiative.
One of the greatest things about Star Wars is how it eventually branches into all different mediums of entertainment. Star Wars has done manga before, but Star Wars: The Edge of Balance Vol.1 marks the first foray into this vehicle in the new Disney era.
Manga is a traditional Japanese comic known for its speech bubble dialogue and intricate and often memorable illustrations. This manga was written by a traditional Japanese writer. AND The High Republic‘s own Justina Ireland; who I regard as the best writer in the High Republic initiative. Edge of Balance is yet another story in this great era of storytelling, and I was very anxious to check it out.
The story starts immediately with the Emergences raining down on a world. The Emergences, for those who don’t know, were pieces of debris that broke out in hyperspace and entered realspace as extremely dangerous relativistic kill missiles. The Jedi scramble to stop them and deal with the origin of these deadly anomalies who we later find out to be the work of the Nihil. A band of extremely violent and dangerous space pirates who have absolutely no value for sentient life. To make matters worse, they are joined by the Drengir, horrific plant monsters who eat sentients and regenerate almost instantly when their plant appendages are severed. So yeah, the Jedi have their hands full.
This particular story shows the Emergences on a world. And it is rescued by Jedi, including the great Jedi Master Stellan Gios, who is a major character in the adult novel The Rising Storm. He counters the blast of an emergence in a very Dragonball-Esque style. By dissipating it with his hand. It’s cool, but I am not a fan of overpowering the Jedi. And this seems a bit too godlike. Yet, I remember, that it is a manga and many Japanese stories involve characters who can do this.
We fast-forward a bit and meet the main character of this story; a young Jedi Knight named Lily, who is traveling to the planet Banchii to help relocate refugees. The set-up is a little abrupt and wonky, but it’s fine in the long run. Lily is joined by her former Master Arkoff, who is an intimidating Wookiee Jedi. The two have a little chat en route. And the dialogue consisting of Basic and the alien, guttural Shryiwook, is executed very smoothly.
Another High Republic writer, Daniel Jose Older is not as successful in this practice. And it seems he should take a leaf out of his colleague, Justina’s book. Banchii as a planet has a very Asian feel and look, with the name even invoking the traditional Bonsai trees. Lily’s Padawan is a human male named Keerin Fionn. When he was introduced, I was surprised, as I thought Lily was still learning under Arkoff. The manga effect did not create a good preamble for this and it did not flow well. The dialogue of this entire manga needs work, but kudos to the artist who gave great depictions of Lily being constantly interrupted by Force visions.
I don’t enjoy hearing the characters talk, as everything is awkward and titled. The lightsaber demonstration teaching lesson just didn’t hit the mark, and oftentimes, I found myself reading through the dialogue as fast as I could. The lightsabers have a real Japanese samurai feel but the blade itself I felt is drawn poorly. Another manga specialty shows up when depicting the Jedi using the Force to augment their speed. After-images. After-images are the bread and butter of the anime Dragonball, and here I am not complaining. They are fun and accurate depictions of super-speed.
As the story progresses, I feel that Banchii is like being in feudal Japan. And has nothing in resemblance to a sci-fi universe. Depending on your own point of view, this can be seen as good or bad. Lily and some younglings soon investigate the forest and it’s not a stretch to imagine what they will find there. I do NOT like Lily. She is a complete hypocrite. She tells her Padawan that if he can no longer reflect on himself, it will lead to arrogance and he will then make mistakes. Yet, in the same conversation, SHE displays supreme arrogance in herself as a being by saying that she was always, the super-focused and intelligent Jedi. Even when she was a Youngling.
She claims younglings don’t focus and ask too many contradictory questions. She has a lot of nerve in declaring herself eternally perfect. And I am glad that Master Arkoff reminds her of her shortcomings. My biggest problem with the Jedi is their hypocrisy, and this is a prime example of it. Lily asks her padawan to feel a certain way, yet does not follow her own advice.
The Drengir soon attack and then we see they can turn sentient beings into wood! Huh?! That’s quite a deadly ability, and we’ve never seen it before. This manga shoehorns a lot of stuff into the story without explanation. And it can be hard to follow what is going on. The whole “brilliant” plan to combat the Drengir was also confusing and was not set up correctly. Where manga usually shines, the artwork failed to convey emotions. And I once again found myself skimming past the art boxes. Yet, I LOVE the drawing of the Drengir. Truly hideous and terrifying and much better than other art depictions. This image I will keep in my mind’s eye going forward.
The story is very basic. And Lily finds herself with a big responsibility as Arkoff leaves with Stellan Gios to deal with the Nihil elsewhere in the galaxy, leaving us with a cliffhanger. The “great” Lily is nervous, as she is in charge of continuing to protect the refugees and the new Jedi Temple on Banchii.
Part 2 arrives in January, and I am minimally curious to see how this wraps up. For absolutely, no reason at all, the manga contains a bonus short story called The Banchianns, and it is complete garbage. Lily acts too sweetly to the younglings in it, contradicting her stern and unyielding character. And the Banchiann’s design is poor, resembling sparrows mixed with Jawas. It literally has no point, and I feel a waste of time to read.
I am greatly disappointed by this manga, as it has no importance in the overall structure of The High Republic initiative. However, Part 2 could surprise me by ending with an important message for the future. Anyway, this foray into manga may have been premature, and I am hoping for better depictions in this genre in years to come.
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Star Wars: The High Republic – The Edge Of Balance by Justina Ireland is published by Disney Books and is available to buy NOW. UK fans can pre-order yours here with an estimated release date of October 14, 2021.
Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!