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Star Wars: Disney Japan Streams Skywalker Saga Kabuki Show

Disney Japan, in collaboration with the Ichikawa family, has created a kabuki play called Three Shining Swords. The show revolves around the love, pain and suffering that the Skywalker family has felt in the majority of Star Wars films and projects for more than 40 years. The show was set for one night only at the Tokyo Persimmon Hall.

The event, which lasts 40 minutes, was live-streamed on Disney Japan's YouTube channel and uses the language of kabuki to retell Kylo Ren's story in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi through three acts structured around the three battles that Kylo has with the men in his life.

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The first part is the Blade to the Father and portrays the moment where Kylo Ren killed Han Solo. While in Western mythology and psychology, this is a metaphorical rite of passage in storytelling, in the East, killing an ancestor is considered a major sin, and, accordingly, Han Solo's death is much sadder than in The Force Awakens.

The second part, Blade to the Lord, depicts Kylo Ren's slaying of Snoke and the ensuing throne room battle. The sound effects mimic the lightsabers in the movie, and the dance of Kylo Ren against the praetorian guard is carefully choreographed, with a stunning finale where it looks like the entire scene is burning.

Finally, the Blade to the Teacher shows Kylo Ren's battle against Luke Skywalker's spirit. This is where the kabuki production departs from the film: Kylo Ren realizes that Luke is not present, and yet in his rage he continues attacking him.

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The final scene ends with a child character, wearing noblemen's clothes, wielding a wakizashi (short sword) and sporting a double bun hairstyle very similar to Leia's in A New Hope rising above Kylo and expressing his sadness with the words, "I am torn." This character seems to represent Kairen, the last of the Skywalkers, before he fell to the dark side, and is played by Ebizo's son, Ichikawa Yugen; according to Eiga, both father and son received a standing ovation.

There are significant changes to the production, which for one, cuts down on roles played by women. Leia and Holdo have a short scene between acts, where they decide on the battle strategy to save the fleet and briefly hold hands for Kylo Ren's downfall. Rey's role in the throne room battle, meanwhile, is almost incidental. Other changes made to Star Wars were the names of the characters, which were adapted to the Kabuki-style.

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As such, Three Shining Blades features Kairen, not Kylo Ren. He is the son of Hanzo and Princess Leian, nephew of Lukuu, the last of the Judai, and apprentice to Lord Snowuku. Similarly, Holdo became Aishikari. Instead of writing the names in katakana -- one of Japanese's alphabets -- the kabuki names are written in kanji, which are characters that describe a word or phrase, and often contain multiple or hidden meanings. Lukuu (琉空), for example, means "Jeweled Sky."

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, who directed, choreographed and performed the role of Kylo Ren, was happy to participate in the kabuki adaptation of Star Wars. "My father loved the universe, and when I was a child, he showed me the stars through a telescope. Star Wars would have resonated in my father's heart."

Speaking of the themes in the series, he said, "Star Wars is currently in a state where the good and evil are sharpening, because of fear and anxiety; even though [Kylo Ren] is a Jedi, he is dragged into the dark side." Ichikawa Ebizo added, "I feel the charm of the part. As for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, this is really the end. If it ends, we would like justice to triumph, but it may not be the case -- that's the main takeaway."

Another remarkable addition to this kabuki adaptation was the beautiful set design. which used brushed animations to convey the context of the story. The opening, which features stormtroopers marching inside a massive Star Destroyer, as well as the Crait sequence with monoski speeders tracing red lines, were both remarkable.

Some guests also posted pictures of their programs on Twitter, which featured Kylo Ren in an ukiyo-e cover, and which will are sure to become coveted collectors' items.

(via Kotaku and Eiga.com)

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