Published September 23, 2022
Ronin is a novel that extends the story of the episode The dual from the Star Wars: Visions series.
Star Wars: Visions is a nine-episode anthology anime series released in its entirety on September 22, 2021, which offers the opportunity for seven Japanese animation studios to offer short films on the theme of Star Wars while remaining of fundamentally Japanese inspiration. Among them, The dual is directed by Takanobu Mizuno and produced by studio Kamikaze Duga. The structure was created in 1999 and specialized in 3D animation with 2D rendering, becoming known for the feature film ninja batman released in 2018. What strikes in The dual is first of all its incredible very stylized black and white graphics produced in 3D with a 2D rendering, a bit like Paperman of the Walt Disney Animation Studios but on a more realistic drawing. The excellent idea is then to put a touch of color with the lasers present in the film, be it the sabers but also the blasters. The story is also amazing. Clearly inspired by feudal Japan of the samurai era, the keys Star Wars are minimal with its lightsaber fighters, droids, stormtroopers, and aliens. The village, like the appearance of the human inhabitants, is typically Japanese and finds itself attacked by former stormtroopers now led by a bloodthirsty Sith warrior. But a brave samurai stands against them. The episode then offers a nice twist that brings a welcome non-Manicheism to the saga. Star Wars, but specific to Japanese culture. The fights are superbly choreographed, especially the one on the log on the river.
The novel is, for its part, written by Emma Mieko Candon. Of American-Japanese origin and living in Hawaii, he wrote his first book on the saga here. Star Wars. Both a fan of George Lucas’ films and of Japanese culture, he immediately agreed to write this book located at the border of the two universes and whose story is written in a way based on the original short film. to embroider around in order to create an unprecedented adventure and environment, inventing a whole political and societal system. They also asked for the directors’ notes to verify that there was nothing contradictory in this story from their imagination. Only the first fifty pages are indeed a novelization of the short film. The book then continues on nearly 475 pages of a totally original story.
The principle of Ronin is the same as that of the series: looks like from afar Star Wars by offering a personal vision of the universe known to all. But if the idea works perfectly well in animation, especially in the style of Japanese anime, his novel is much less convincing. The fan reader of Star Wars will not at all have the impression of being in a book dealing with the saga. Of course, Japanese culture is very present so that the more the reader is aware of the subtleties of Japanese folklore, the more he will be able to appreciate the lore of the novel. On the other hand, the book is written in such a way that it is more of a purely Japanese science fiction story: certain designations have indeed been replaced by vocabulary. Star Wars but without seeking a concern for consistency with respect to the franchise. Thus, the Empire here is a central political system, rather feudal, despite its influence on several planets. However, it does not seem evil, the people being neither unhappy nor mistreated. The guardians of peace and justice are samurai bearing the name of Jedi and ensuring the stability of the Empire. Their weapon, the lightsaber, takes its power from a particularly powerful stone, the Kyber crystal, the object of all superstitions. Their power comes from an almost magical aura called the Force. But some Jedi have rebelled against the established order, far too ossified for them, pushing them to the margins of the system and calling themselves Sith. When the story begins, the Sith have mysteriously disappeared, most of them for years, while the capital planet they had invaded to make it their stronghold has mysteriously vanished.
Ronin also coats its history with a lot of fantastical folklore. It is thus a question of ghosts, witches, resurrections, zombies, magic mirrors… The atmosphere is really strange, especially since all the elements are more or less blurred. The short film managed to perfectly mix Japanese folklore with elements Star Wars, especially since the whole was beautiful, obvious and exhilarating despite a confusing graphic aspect. Trying to extend the story of the audiovisual medium, Emma Mieko Candon instead offers a convoluted, slow, boring and above all hazy narrative. It must be said that not much is happening! The story can be summed up in a group of characters who set off in search of an artefact that will allow them to find the missing capital. Everything then revolves around these characters, six main ones, who are as ambivalent as each other, always introspective, and far from being as endearing as each other. What’s more, their interaction is quite flat; the dialogues exchanged between them are often limited to banalities sprinkled with philosophy. Most frustrating for the reader is that the characters each hide their true thoughts from their interlocutors in an ultimately exhausting game of hide and seek. However numerous, the talks are uninteresting as possible, almost futile. The action scenes are not better off, being also quite rare. Only three moments in the story offer truly striking ones: at the beginning of the novel, in the middle and at the end. The rest of the book is made up of descriptions and above all endless psychoanalytical thoughts. The whole is long and laborious to read; not that the style is very complicated to grasp but the reader has the impression that nothing is happening and that the little that is told is without interest. Even the final twist is insipid so much the emotion never managed to dawn during the whole reading because of characters certainly tortured but generally unsympathetic.
As the narrative is quite thin, the novel relies entirely on its characters and their interactions. The concern being that they spend their time betraying each other when they are not lamenting their fate by doing permanent inner psychological analyses. The fact that they weren’t black and white might have been a good thing on paper. But they all have so many flaws that they never manage to make themselves endearing. Thus, as the reader never manages to feel empathy for any of them, the novel ends up collapsing on itself.
Like the short film, the Rōnin is logically the main character of the book. If in The dual, he was mysterious but charismatic and chivalrous, he loses his luster here. Tortured, with a strong sense of guilt, he is a sort of anti-hero who never seems to show or feel any emotions. Its purpose is also rather vague. Always accompanied by his droid B5-56, he wants to kill all the Sith still alive while trying to get rid of a strange witch. In addition, he carries a heavy secret from his past – like almost all the other characters! – and whose veil will be lifted as the story progresses.
Kouru is another character from (The dual even though his name is only given in the novel. In the short, she is the Dark Lord of the Sith whom the Rōnin fights and ends up killing after single combat. In a mysterious way, she comes back to life in the novel and will want revenge on her killer. However, she will turn out to be much less evil than she even thought and her intentions will evolve as the story progresses without them being inevitably very clear. They allow, in any case, to make it less smooth and predictable.
The third important character is Nomad or Fox, depending on what the other characters call him. Sensitive to the Force, of unknown species, this non-binary being is absolutely horrifying. Always answering with questions, never confiding in his past, he is enigmatic, always seeming to want to give advice to others in a slightly haughty way. The character, by his characterization, is unsympathetic to excess, despite all the efforts made to make him endearing. This feeling perhaps comes from the fact that he gives the impression of knowing a lot, of always being judgmental, without ever giving himself up even though he is shrouded in mysteries.
The other three main characters are a little less important.
First there is Ekiya, a young woman from the capital planet, who has become a pilot of the Poor Crow ship. She seeks to find her missing home planet to make a pilgrimage there in order to find peace following her painful past. He is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the novel, even if he remains a little unobtrusive.
Among her crew, besides Nomad and her, there is also Shi-e, an old lady who knows how to fight, although she is not Force-sensitive. A bounty hunter, she hunts down Force users who misuse her. But she also hides her game well and is not what she claims to be.
Finally, much less important, there is also the character of Hanrai, a Jedi Lord, who hunts down the other protagonists of the novel. He seems to be committed to justice, or so he proclaims. Because this high dignitary of the Empire gives off a funny aura that makes it difficult for the reader to define the contours of his morality.
Ronin is a laborious novel, weighed down by a light plot and unsympathetic characters. The exercise wanting to create a parallel universe inspired slightly by certain elements Star Wars falls flat here, the project is so uninteresting. Worse still, he devalues the short film which serves as his starting point and which was particularly successful.
The editions pocket announced that there were no plans, in the short and medium term, for a pocket-format edition of this novel released by across the river, as had been the case with the novelizations of the Postlogy. Fans interested in the novel should therefore obtain the large format before its edition is exhausted.