The Duel is the only piece of Star Wars media produced since the original movie aired in 1977 that successfully combines George Lucas' aim to create a thought-provoking sci-fi action film with his admiration for the cinematic aesthetic of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.
Lucas has never been reluctant to express his admiration for the films made by the renowned Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, which he loved both as a viewer and as a director. There's a reason why Kurosawa is mentioned so much in Star Wars. Lucas claims in an interview for The Criterion Collection that he was inspired by Kurosawa's use of his "powerful and unique" visual aesthetic to enhance conventional stories in an unassuming manner. Takanobu Mizuno, the director of the anime The Duel, employed all of these strategies, and the result is superb.
The Duel by Takanobu Mizuno, the opening episode of Disney's anthology series Star Wars: Visions from 2021, tells the tale of Ronin, a mystery character with a red-bladed Sith lightsaber who stops for a break with his droid in a feudal Japanese village. Soon after he arrives, there is a disturbance in the town centre as Empire-like stormtroopers round up the locals to find out who is in charge of the rebellion against the authority. The stormtroopers are suddenly attacked by armed rebels, which prompts the regiment's Sith leader to appear. Ronin now becomes interested in what is going on after previously disengaging from the previous event involving the stormtroopers. He soon finds himself fighting the Sith to defend the community and himself.
How The Duel Upholds George Lucas' Star Wars Vision
Lucas would undoubtedly agree that the story of The Duel doesn't provide anything new to aficionados of the Star Wars universe, but the presentation is where excellence is truly demonstrated. The contrast of the historical periods, which are smoothly incorporated into one another, draws the viewer's attention initially. Although the story's events unmistakably take place in feudal Japan, the technology is totally futuristic. It gives meaning to the claim that, despite the fact that Star Wars takes place a very, very long time ago, the technology is extremely sophisticated. This kind of presentation specifically influenced Lucas. The effect wouldn't be as powerful if it were carried out in a contemporary or futuristic environment. In addition, Mizuno prefers black and white to colour for everything but cutting-edge technology. On the one hand, this is consistent with the Japanese manga tradition, whose emphasis on black-and-white illustrations encourages readers to concentrate more on the plot. On the other hand, it appears to be a nod to the classic Kurosawa black-and-white samurai movies, which pushes filmmakers to create non-color visual effects to please the audience.
Together, The Duel expertly updates the age-old tale of good vs evil and combines it with an intriguing science fiction scenario in Kurosawa's recognisable visual style. It would be ideal for Lucas, both as a single work of art and as a plot for the Star Wars world.