Kabuki Star Wars: Watch The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi Reinterpreted by Japan’s Most Famous Kabuki Actor

The appeal of Star Wars tran­scends gen­er­a­tion, place, and cul­ture. Any­one can tell by the undi­min­ish­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of the ever more fre­quent expan­sions of the Star Wars uni­verse more than 40 years after the movie that start­ed it all — and not just in the Eng­lish-speak­ing West, but all the world over. The vast fran­chise has pro­duced “cin­e­mat­ic sequels, TV spe­cials, ani­mat­ed spin-offs, nov­els, com­ic books, video games, but it wasn’t until Novem­ber 28 that there was a Star Wars kabu­ki play,” writes Sora News 24’s Casey Baseel. Staged one time only last Fri­day at Toky­o’s Meguro Per­sim­mon Hall, Kairen­no­suke and the Three Shin­ing Swords retells the events of recent films The Force Awak­ens and The Last Jedi in Japan’s best-known tra­di­tion­al the­ater form.

To even the hard­est-core Star Wars exegete, Kairen­no­suke may be an unfa­mil­iar name — though not entire­ly unfa­mil­iar. It turns out to be the Japan­ese name giv­en to the char­ac­ter of Kylo Ren, the pow­er-hun­gry nephew of Luke Sky­walk­er por­trayed by Adam Dri­ver in The Force Awak­ensThe Last Jedi, and the upcom­ing The Rise of Sky­walk­er.

In Kairen­no­suke and the Three Shin­ing Swords he’s played by Ichikawa Ebizō XI, not just the most pop­u­lar kabu­ki actor alive but an avowed Star Wars enthu­si­ast as well. “I like the con­flict between the Jedi and the Dark Side of the Force,” Baseel quotes Ichikawa as say­ing. “In kabu­ki too, there are many sto­ries of good and evil oppos­ing each oth­er, and it’s inter­est­ing to see how even good Jedi can be pulled towards the Dark Side by fear and wor­ry.”

The the­mat­ic res­o­nances between kabu­ki and Star Wars should come as no sur­prise, giv­en all Star Wars cre­ator George Lucas has said about the series’ ground­ing in ele­ments of uni­ver­sal myth. Lucas also active­ly drew from works of Japan­ese art, includ­ing, as pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, the samu­rai films of Aki­ra Kuro­sawa. And so in Kairen­no­suke and the Three Shin­ing Swords, which you can watch on Youtube and fol­low along in Baseel’s play-by-play descrip­tion in Eng­lish, we have the kind of elab­o­rate cul­tur­al rein­ter­pre­ta­tion — bring­ing dif­fer­ent eras of West­ern and Japan­ese art togeth­er in one strange­ly coher­ent mix­ture — in which mod­ern Japan has long excelled. No mat­ter what coun­try they hail from, Star Wars fans can appre­ci­ate the high­ly styl­ized adven­tures of Kairen­no­suke, Han­zo, Reino, Sunokaku, Ruku and Reian — and of course, R2-D2 and C‑3PO.

via Neatora­ma

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch a New Star Wars Ani­ma­tion, Drawn in a Clas­sic 80s Japan­ese Ani­me Style

How Star Wars Bor­rowed From Aki­ra Kurosawa’s Great Samu­rai Films

Japan­ese Kabu­ki Actors Cap­tured in 18th-Cen­tu­ry Wood­block Prints by the Mys­te­ri­ous & Mas­ter­ful Artist Sharaku

The Cast of Avengers: Endgame Ren­dered in Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Ukiyo‑e Style

High School Kids Stage Alien: The Play and You Can Now Watch It Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­maand the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future? Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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