A Star Wars manga! Now I can happily retire and say to myself, I’ve seen it all. It would be funny, wouldn’t it, if the thing to finally get me into manga was a Star Wars product? What a shame it isn’t so; that said, I had a fun enough time with The Edge of Balance by Shima Shinya and Justinia Ireland, with art by Mizuki Sakakibara. I’ll start with the last name’s contributions first: the art has charm to spare in the way Sakakibara portrays each character. The way she tackles action scenes is dynamic and the protagonist’s lightsabers, in particular, look altogether too cool whenever she lights them up!
The story itself touches on what’s going on in the wider High Republic universe only tangentially: the Hyperspace Disaster that took center stage in the first third of The Light of the Jedi is the inciting incident that forces displaced citizens to find new homes on Banchii under the guidance of Master Arkoff, a Wookie Jedi Master, and Jedi Knight Lily Tora-Asi, as well as her padawan, Keerin, and a pair of younglings, the togruta Viv’Nia and the human Nima. Lily is the chief protagonist of this story and she’ll offer you a few echoes of Anakin but without all the angst; she questions herself and her weaknesses not because of crippling self-doubt but in search for improvement. I related to that; it seems an increasingly rare thing to see, examining of the self in a positive way rather than with destructive consequences…wish Anakin had done some of that.
Unlike The Light of the Jedi, this is an intimate story focused on this new, growing colony–and on its Jedi guardians the most. There’s socializing with the colonists, there’s discussing Jedi philosophy, there’s even fighting the Dark Side plant creatures called “Drengir” (I wasn’t convinced about them when they were announced as this big threat to the Jedi, and I’m no more convinced having seen them in action now). Where this story succeeds the most is in making me want to pick up the High Republic novels gathering dust in my audio library. I once more have the desire to delve into The Rising Storm and Tempest Runner and a few others, and to see if the overarching story of this newest of Star Wars eras still has the ability to charm me into caring about such an awkward time period in the overarching mythos of the universe. It’s a fun half-hour read I was glad to have checked out of the library; would I read the next one? Sure! Do I care about it all that much?