As a franchise, Star Wars has always taken inspiration from samurai stories, and that’s especially true of The Mandalorian. Masterless, but still focused on service. A soldier without a war. An experienced fighter in search of a cause. While the television series certainly had these elements, the series’ upcoming manga adaptation can take them even further.
The Mandalorian tells the story of Din Djarin, a bounty hunter raised in the Mandalorian culture who, true to their reputation, is one of the most fearless and effective fighters in the galaxy. He prefers to work alone and has no time for emotional attachments until he meets Grogu, a vulnerable former Jedi youngling. Since its debut, in November 2019, The Mandalorian has captured the hearts and minds of Stars Wars fans old and new.
Now, Star Wars has announced a manga adaptation of The Mandalorian’s first season with a tweet. The popular Disney+ series is being adapted by veteran illustrator Yusuke Osawa of Spider-Man Fake Red fame. This announcement is undoubtedly exciting for fans of manga and Star Wars alike, especially because of the potential it has to finally return the franchise to the samurai roots which are often forgotten. It is well known that George Lucas was inspired by the works of acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa when creating Star Wars.
There is not just a direct connection between the Star Wars storyline and the samurai, there’s also an extensive connection of using manga to tell the story of the samurai. Given how important the mythology surrounding samurai is to Japanese culture, it is only natural that manga has been used as a tool for samurai stories. However, some of the best depictions of the life and adventures of the samurai have been produced in manga including classics like Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond and Kazuo Koike’s Lone Wolf & Cub, as well as more modern samurai-themed manga such as Takashi Okazaki’s Afro Samurai. The Lone Wolf & Cub movie adaptations are of particular importance to The Mandalorian, as their story of a world-weary samurai caring for a young ward was a clear inspiration. This background places the upcoming manga in an excellent position to expand upon the idea of the Mandalorian as a samurai.
The Mandalorians’ inclusion in an elite group of fearsome warriors, who live by a strict code, and were once among the feared military forces in the Star Wars universe is quite similar to the samurai of ancient Japan. Moreover, his independent, anti-authoritarian mindset mirrors that of the ronin samurai. These aspects of his background can be explored with more depth and focus than can be brought out in an eight-episode, 50-minute television series.