Rebels Review – ”Rebel Assault”

STAR WARS REBELS
”Rebel Assault”

 

 

A few things were made abundantly clear while watching Rebel Assault :

1.  don’t mess with Hera.

2.  X-Wing have been and will forever be cool

3.   I don’t think that Force Wolf is saying “Dume” anymore.  It might actually now be saying “doom” as in Kanan is totally doomed in this thing.

Rebel Assault starts out with some non-stop super  Star Wars action and wastes no time by giving the audience exactly what they want.  Christmas comes early as we are given a fairly awesome X-Wing battle led by the fearless butt kicking space mom Hera. Speaking of Hera and Christmas, where’s a Hera Forces of Destiny figure/doll?!?!? Hasbro you’re missing out with that one. Anyways, while it’s hard to top the still very fresh and dizzying space battles seen in last year’s Rogue One, this opening does its darndest to pump up the show an early shot of adrenaline.   Even the inclusion of former space waffle eating pirate kid now hotshot almost bootleg Wedge Rebel Pilot Mart Mattin didn’t ruin the party!

Thrawn of course is there watching the whole thing almost and letting yet another victory slip from his fingers.  On the ground while all this is happening,  Ezra, Kanan and crew are on exciting Lothal putting bombs on gun turrets and blowing stuff up real good.  

Pretty soon the Rebel fleet gets beat up and Hera crashes in what obviously is the one and only neighborhood in Lothal where everything happens.  She’s captured by Irina “Governor Pryce” Spalko who may think that Hera has the illusive crystal skull of Akator. Once Kanan senses that Hera is in trouble, he turns his speeder bike around to save her and is stopped by that giant Force Wolf.  Is it a warning? A sign that this isn’t going to end well for Kanan?  Is the Wolf hungry and just wants a biscuit?  Is it the world’s biggest She’s All That fan and wants to know what Rachael Leigh Cook is REALLY like? Maybe all of the above but we will have to wait until January to find out as this is the big mid season finale for Rebels.

While Rebel Assault is definitely an improvement on what’s come before and is possibly the best episode of season four so far, the lackluster quality of the season has made it almost difficult to care about what’s going on here.  Yeah it’s pretty clear that Kanan’s days are numbered and a giant sacrifice for Hera and the crew may be happening soon, but this kind of business is how the season should have started.  We’re getting to the real meat and potatoes of season four here and we’ve only got a handful of episodes left to tie this whole thing up.

This is a season that has felt off from the first episode and has relied on nostalgia both new and old to carry episodes.  The X-Wing sequence could have fallen into that “Hey look everyone, X-WINGS!!!” category but it totally works in this one.  The building relationship between Kanan and Hera feels like it’s going somewhere and the selfless decision Kanan makes here will sure lay the groundwork for the series’ impending conclusion.  This may yet be when Rebels season four got it’s groove back.  A few more episodes like this and I’ll forgive the Bossks with electric whips and Ezra smiling as a Bossk gets burned alive.  Maybe.

 

Final grade : B+

Rebels Review – ”Kindred” ”Crawler Commanders”

STAR WARS REBELS
”Kindred”
”Crawler Commanders”

 

First the bad news :  we are still on Lothal and it is still the most boring planet in all of Star Wars.  Not much actually happens in these episodes and Crawler Commanders almost violently put me to sleep about 45 times.  If you’re still reading and you are curious about the good news, Kindred isn’t that bad.  It hints at some interesting stuff that could be coming and there’s just something dang intriguing about those giant Force Wolves.  So in our last back to back, let’s hurry up and get this show over with, two episodes at a time style, we get a very mixed Rebels bag.  There’s decent stuff in especially the first one but man oh man, this show is riding a speeder bike straight to it’s quickly approaching end.

Things get started with Hera and Kanan spending some time together having deep thoughts on what we’re all wondering, just why they are still on Lothal.  Kanan wonders if there’s a deeper purpose that keeps bringing them back there and I honestly hope that’s the case.  Cut to that dastardly villain who can’t get anything done, Thrawn as he unleashes his gorilla mixed with a pencil eraser assassin thing named Ruhk on the Rebels.  Ruhk jumps out of his ship smelling for Zeb, rides a speeder bike, fights Ezra and then he’s pretty much out of the episode.  Maybe and hopefully he’ll turn up again in another episode but for now he was a total waste of time.

Ezra and crew hide out in the cave mountains and the Force Wolves show up and naturally they ask for Kanan.  Next thing you know Ezra’s eyes get crazy and faster then you can say Carlos Castaneda in the desert, they’re on the other side of the planet.  Just like last season’s Bendu, I like the idea of creatures that thrive of the living and cosmic Force but aren’t necessarily Force users.  I’m hoping and sensing that these wolves will actually lead to something at may help bring a satisfying conclusion to some of our main characters.  Or maybe they will talk more and remind Kanan and Ezra that the greatest power in the universe is the strength of family.  We’ll find out!

After that, there’s some stuff about a giant mining crawler, some Trandoshans with electric whips and Ezra grinning when a Seth Green voiced lizard man accidentally falls to his death.   It’s weird and it definitely is not one of Rebels’ best episodes.

The good thing going on with Kindred there’s moments that feel like this thing is going somewhere.  It has a nice forward momentum to it that sometimes Rebels episodes severely lack. Watching it though I can’t help feeling like this first half of season four has been phoning it in.  I think back to episodes like Maul’s flirting with the Ezra and the dark side in Twilight of the Apprentice, the Bendu’s lesson for Ezra and Kanan to learn that they needed each other last season and it makes we wonder what’s going on this season.  We’ve got a handful of episodes left and we are getting Bossk dudes with electric whips.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Bossk with an electric whip and the promise of X-Wings next week but that leads to my weekly gripe that’s still valid, what about the characters?  And not the characters from Star Wars movies or Clone Wars, what about the Rebels characters?  It’s time for this show to address the Bor Gullet in the room and start to lay the foundation that give these Rebels their final act.  Save the Bossks with whips for the next show.   Or my dreams.

 

FINAL GRADE: 
Kindred : B
Crawler Commanders: D

Rebels Review – The Occupation and Flight of the Defender

STAR WARS REBELS
“The Occupation”
“Flight of the Defender”

 

Does anyone really, REALLY care about Lothal?  It’s been the planet on Rebels that they never seem to leave or are constantly coming back to.   It has been interesting to see how with each visit it becomes more and more under Imperial control, but has anyone anywhere proclaimed how excited they were for the next episode of Rebels where they go to Lothal and wear funny hats to blend in? Anyone? …  Anyone?

This week finds two Lothal centered episodes that happily don’t rely on plot lines connected to previous Star Wars movies or shows but still features its own unique set of issues.  The action begins with Ezra straight up throwing a fit that he has to go back to Lothal and check up on everyone’s favorite Star Wars background character Old Jho. Remember him?  No? Well that’s okay as things don’t go too hot when they arrive as the planet.  Lothal has seen better days as it looks like it’s been burned down and the Empire is literally hanging out everywhere.   Ezra goes to a bar, runs into some goofball from the Imperial Academy there and that’s pretty much all that happens in that first pretty much lackluster yawn of an episode.

Things pick up a little in the second one as Sabine and Ezra (who seem to get all the missions now) head out to steal some info on a new super advanced TIE Defender. Everything seems fine until Thrawn shows up and once again let’s the Rebels escape right in front of him as it’s still all part of his master plan or something.

Thrawn does manage to disable the prototype TIE enough so that it crashes and Ezra and Sabine have a trippy Lewis Carrol meets Jim Morrison in the desert moment with a white Loth Cat and giant mystical wolf who may or may not be connected to the Force somehow.

For the most part these episodes seemed to be going through the regular Star Wars Rebels brats and motions and repeating the same kind of stories and action we’ve been seeing for the past few seasons.  However, I’m intrigued by the idea of the giant Force Wolf as it reminds me of Bendu-esque stuff when the show branches out from just doing Star Wars and pushes the ideas of the saga and The Force forward a little.

Having two Jedi in the Rebel Alliance before Luke Skywalker blows up the Death Star has always been Rebels’ biggest “what’s up with that” obstacle and when they stretch out the interpretations of Force Users to include giant wolves and a huge rock moose, they’ve got our attention.   As often as Rebels has been wildly frustrating for me at times, it’s also been game changing awesome.  These giant Force Wolves, while feeling a little shoehorned into an episode about stealing a TIE Defender, is a good reminder that the show continues to at least explore the rich mysticism of The Force and reminds me that I can’t wait to see how this whole thing wraps up.

FINAL GRADE: 
The Occupation : C
Flight of the Defender: B+ 

 

Rebels Review –  “In The Name Of The Rebellion Parts 1 & 2”

STAR WARS REBELS
“In The Name Of The Rebellion Parts 1 & 2”

 

Oh Rebels, why are you making it so difficult for me to love you every week.  If this keeps up, I think we will need to go to couples therapy to sort out my feelings on this show.  We are four episodes into this final season and you’ve already acquired a long list of fresh and unsqueezed raw Star Wars awesomeness, but you’ve used that in all the episodes as a crutch for the rest of the show to stand on.  Last week we had a flawed but suitable and possible conclusion to the epic Mandalore saga which had Mandos shooting rocket jetpacks at TIEs.  This week we return with basically a prequel to Rogue One featuring lots of Saw Gerrera, Mon Mothma, U-Wings & even some laughs with the world’s sweetheart, Two Tubes!  While there’s no denying the coolness of the simple fact that we are are getting animated versions of all these beautiful things, they constantly upstage and overshadow the characters this show is supposed to be about.   This season more than ever feels like the Rebel Alliance aspect of Rebels is in red and underlined, but with only a handful of episodes left and some very big questions about what happens to who that need to be answered, I just wonder if this is the time or place for the Saw Gerrera Hour.  Which physically hurts me to write that as i really did love it so much.  Maybe just give Saw his own show?  The New Adventures of Saw Gerrera?  With his sidekick Two Tubes!

Anyways, the basics of this two parter finds the Ghost crew meeting up with Hera and Zeb at the new secret base on Yavin IV.  There we quickly are greeted by the new Rebel, Hot Kallus and then it’s straight into the planning room with Mon Mothma and a sweet hologram of Bail Organa.  Clearly, this is all Star Wars gold so far.  There’s some stuff about a mission to head to giant Imperial Radar Dish and Sabine, Ezra and Chopper volunteer to go all 2009 Star Trek and dive down to the dish.  Naturally, things don’t go quite as planned and they are picked up by Saw & Two-Tubes who somehow are flying around in a presumably stolen Rebel U-Wing.

Let me back up here and talk about a scene with Saw that happens a little before the radar dish mission.  It’s nighttime at Yavin and mysterious droid suddenly begins projecting a GIANT hologram of Saw’s head basically telling all the Rebels on Yavin that they are a bunch of babies and that the only true way to fight the Empire is to fight dirty. Out walks Mon Mothma and the two of them have a brief but juicy debate over the morals of war.   Written by Rogue One co-writer Gary Whitta, this is an amazing moment that makes you look at both Saw and Mothma’s roles in Rogue One in a whole new light.

The thing that bums me out with scenes like that is thinking about how a moment that strong and with that much Star Wars heaviness is the kind of thing Dave Filoni and crew seem to have such a hard time harnessing into our main Rebels characters.  Major things happen to these people, but feel quickly passed by in sometimes the very next episode.  Week after week, the show’s best moments are often left for characters that have been borrowed from Star Wars films, books or Clone Wars.

As the episodes go on, Saw’s quest to discover the secrets of the Empire deepens as he finds a gigantic Kyber Crystal (perhaps the same one last seen in the unfinished Utapau arc of Clone Wars) and sees the awesome power of the Crystal when it is used as weapon.  Ezra, Sabine and Chopper make it back home and once again probably learn that family is the greatest power there is or something.

So is this a good episode and should you as a Star Wars fan reading a review of a Star Wars cartoon on a website for a Star Wars podcast watch this episode?  Definitely yes to all those questions.  Do I have hope that Rebels will start to address it’s own characters and tell it’s own stories now that we’ve got Mandalore and Rogue One stuff out of the way?  A little bit.  But then as we all know, rebellions are built on hope…

Final Grade : B 

Rebels Review – Double Agent Droid

STAR WARS REBELS
“Double Agent Droid”
By Jason Gibner

NEWS FLASH: Star Wars is weird.  If you’re not sure about that, try and imagine explaining the basic plot of the eight movies to someone who has never even heard of this wacky story of magical space wizards.  Sometimes, Star Wars animation head honcho Dave Filoni and his crew like to tap into a pure, unfiltered raw version of this unique brand of Star Wars weirdness.  We saw it in Clone Wars with the infamous Sunny Day in the Void episodes which featured a tiny frog and group of droids trekking across a never ending barren desert.  Last season in Rebels, we saw a whole episode about Ezra befriending a group of hyperspace traveling space whales and it was glorious.  Sometimes these random side trips to Goofytown work and are fun pauses from some of the more heavy episodes and sometimes they fumble out the gate and are quickly dismissed by the fan community as “filler”.


Double Agent Droid exists somewhere in between with half the episode playing like a traitor in the midst kind of thing and the other half is AP-5 doing an odd one droid comedy show.  The episode begins with Hera leading a top secret mission to get some Lothal clearance codes.  Jointing Syndulla on the trip are the droids, Wedge “All Time Champion” Antilles and because he has to do everything and go everywhere on this show, Ezra. Upon sneaking onto an Imperial ship, an Imperial listening ship guy who looks a lot like Pablo Hidalgo dressed as Lobot for Halloween identifies Chopper and AP-5.  Once Chopper plugs into the main computer, Lobot Hidalgo reprograms Chopper to spy on the crew and tell the Imperials where the secret Rebel base is located.


I gotta say, the whole concept of an evil Chopper rolling around the ship and maybe trying to poison Wedge was possibly the most terrifying thing Rebels has ever done.  The whole thing just made me feel kinda gross and I had to brush my teeth after watching this one. For some reason we have zero problems seeing Ezra flop around with a Sith Holocron and murder people and be fine a week later but Chopper giving Wedge a mystery thing of space water???!!  Now that’s just going too far.


Naturally it all gets wrapped up in the end but not before we realize that AP-5 has been left floating alone in space after an outside the ship tussle with Chopper.  Seems that AP-5 enjoys this little moment of peace and tranquility so much that he bursts into a song out there.  I’m not joking. And then some little space birds come out and fly around him.  It’s a moment that’ll have fans either smiling or rolling their eyes but hey, like I was saying … Star Wars is weird.   Lucas thought of a bunch of weird stuff and when Star Wars isn’t weird enough then it’s not Star Wars anymore.


So Rebels, before we get to Maul screaming in the desert and Thrawn attacking the Bendu or something, go ahead, put up your feet and go to Goofytown this week.  You’ve earned it.


FINAL GRADE: B

Rebels Review – Secret Cargo

STAR WARS REBELS
“Secret Cargo”
By Jason Gibner

Way back when Star Wars Rebels was first announced in May 2013, it came with the lofty promise that it would present the roots of the Rebel Alliance and the birth of the Galactic Civil War.  That was enough to make fans like me stare at themselves in a mirror for a few hours wondering how we be able to handle that level of outrageousness.  That also led some to believe that the first episode of Rebels should feature Wedge Antilles and a squadron of X-Wings shooting proton torpedoes at The Emperor as he woke up from his afternoon nap.  As fantastic as that way of thinking may have have been at the time, it wasn’t quite what Dave Filoni and his talented team had in mind.  The series has been a slow build that has had its own distinct voice while it wrapped up threads from Clone Wars and brought us closer to the period in Star Wars history we saw in Rogue One and A New Hope.  The line to that momentous era got a little straighter with Secret Cargo as Rebels soared like a U-Wing over Scarif with yet another standout episode.


Maintaining that tricky balance between storytelling and fan service has sometimes been tricky for Star Wars and has caused a few Rebels episodes to be stopped right in their tracks.  Secret Cargo walks that tightrope with it’s eyes closed and with a freaking hula hoop around it’s waist.  Rattling off all the awesomeness in this episode is enough to make a Star Wars fan’s nose bleed and pass out.  There’s Y-Wings bombing stuff,  the wonderful Genevieve O’Reilly back as the voice of Mon (Hey Mon!) Mothma, Jon “Gold Leader” Vandor, Rebel Pilots in the classic orange jumpsuits!  Seriously.  Just even typing that makes me sweat.


Even with all that Old Country Buffet style embarrassment of Star Wars riches, the real highlight comes at the episode’s end as Mothma tells Palpatine where to stick it with a defiant speech that cements the formation of an alliance to bring that old Sith Lord down.  As Mothma delivers her speech, we see all the different sects of the still mostly unformed Alliance watch and get inspired to take that next step.  Good thing they didn’t show Raddus and Ackbar watching her on Mon Cal as I now would be writing this review from heaven.


Though I loved this episode almost as much as pumpkin pie, the fact that Ezra was able to just jump into a Y-Wing, fly it like a champion and start bossing everyone around kind of bugged me.  I like ya, Ezra but you’re no Luke Skywalker.  I get in the end the show is for kids but why does Ezra always have to be the one who does EVERYTHING in every episode?  We have GOLD FRIGGIN LEADER here!  Let that guy who is a legit living legend, get busy on those TIEs.


As we come into the home stretch here with season three of Rebels we are getting to that era of a base of Dantooine and the Mon Cals joining the fight.  With a first look at Rebels season four and beyond at Star Wars Celebration in a matter of weeks, the future looks brighter than a pair of twin suns for the show and the Ghost Crew.

FINAL GRADE : A-

Rebels Review – Through Imperial Eyes

STAR WARS REBELS
“Through Imperial Eyes”
By Jason Gibner


Oh Kallus, I really think this time you and your awesome mutton chop sideburns are in trouble.  I’ll admit, at first I didn’t like you at all.  Back in that first season of Rebels you seemed like the real Imperial stooge of the week and you ran around like a Scooby Doo villain. Seriously you were one step away from blurting out “My mission would have succeeded if it weren’t for those meddling Rebels!!”


Then something changed in you when you had that surprisingly game changing season two episode “The Honorable Ones”.  All of a sudden we saw that maybe you weren’t the guy just drinking the Empire’s Kool Aid and just maybe you were a character with some actual dimension beyond that grey uniform and trendsetting facial hair.


With the latest episode of Rebels “Through Imperial Eyes”, Kallus’ story is either just beginning or coming to it’s ghastly conclusion.  Here we see what constitutes a day in his roughsville drab and secretly rebellious Imperial life.  Through season three we’ve seen that Kallus is now serving the Rebels as being the newest Fulcrum aka Super Secret Spy.  Which is fantastic except Kallus’ boss is that whispering blue skinned, art gallery creeper weirdo Grand Admiral Thrawn.  The evil Smurf in white is no dummy and he’s figured out Kallus’ game a long time ago.  So as Ezra comes on board an Imperial ship to warn Kallus that even the Alliance has figured out that he has been caught, Thrawn allows the whole charade to go down as it’ll just help his dastardly master plan of slowly wiping out the Rebels.


This episode takes that fairly simple plot and turns it into what could be the most tense, thriller style episode of Rebels so far.  The whole thing plays like a never ending chase through Thrawn’s Star Destroyer as he is almost constantly behind every door Kallus and Ezra try to hide behind.  It’s a dark and spooky 22 minutes of Star Wars action that’ll have you biting your nails just WAITING for the moment where our heroes get caught.


There’s an awkward subplot with Chopper and AP-5 in there and some really wasted stuff with Kanan and Rex aboard yet another stolen Imperial Shuttle but thankfully it never manages to slow down the episode’s rapid fire pace.  We do however get a welcome addition to the roster of bad guys with the return of former Clone Wars hero of the Republic and A New Hope background guy with a mustache, Colonel Yularen.  It’s rough seeming this former friend of the Jedi and the Clones now acting as basically the CIA director for the Empire but we all new that’s how it had to happen eventually.


Through Imperial Eyes just adds to what so far has been an outstanding second half to Rebels season three.  Top shelf stuff like this episode and the previous Sabine arc shows that we have a lot to look forward to in coming weeks as with the Thrawn stuff coming to a possible conclusion , Maul’s showdown with Old Ben Kenobi and the further birth of the actual Alliance coming to a head. Rebels has it’s foot on the hyperdrive gas these days and hopefully isn’t letting up.

FINAL GRADE : B+

Rebels Reviews – Legacy of Mandalore

STAR WARS REBELS
“Legacy of Mandalore”
By Jason Gibner

Alright Rebels, you earned it.  That’s right, you get the intercontinental championship belt with this one.  Legacy of Mandalore is yet another blue ribbon brilliant episode that somehow not only captures that elusive brand of Star Wars magic but show that the galaxy far, far away can thrive on the small screen.  This is an episode to show to anyone who ever questions not just this show but if it was possible for Star Wars Rebels to ever match the quality of Clone Wars.  This is an episode that makes the entire series better while it echoes some the best qualities of its older sibling series.   Here we have a story that is not afraid to take the time it needs to properly convey real deal  emotion, have a dash of saber fueled fist pumping action and manage in 22 minutes to take viewers somewhere they’ve never been before.  This is just good Star Wars.

Opening up right where Trials of the Darksaber left off, we see Sabine, Ezra, Kanan and Fenn Rau headed to the snowy planet Krownest so Sabine can bring the mythical Darksaber to her mother and hopefully convince her to have Clan Wren join the fledgling Alliance.  Things do go as planned as when they enter the atmosphere, they are attacked by a group of totally cool looking rocket jetpack flying Mando warriors.  Once on the ground, the saber is handed off and some old family wounds are opened up before a seriously fun action climax takes place.   To say that the last couple episodes of Rebels have finally given the criminally underused Sabine Wren some brilliant material is a bit of a parsec of an understatement.   By deepening her relationship with her Mandalorian past, her family, the built in connection with Star Wars history, and her exciting future in the saga, the show has finally shown the character the respect she’s been due for quite a while now.


This episode’s bittersweet ending could start some Twitter wars about how it goes down and what it means for the future, but show head honcho Dave Filoni promises the obvious fact that more Mando action is on the way.  Mandalorian history and culture is something that’s existed in the minds of fans since 1980 and for Clone Wars to begin to tell that story and for it to continue so surprisingly and in such a compelling way in Rebels is just plain awesome.  I for one can not wait to see what happens next with this Mandalorian epic they’ve created here and if this is any indication on how the rest of season three is gonna go then we are in for some fun.

Final grade: A

Rebels Review – Trials Of The Darksaber

STAR WARS REBELS
“Trials of the Darksaber”
By Jason Gibner

While watching this phenomenal Filoni scripted episode of Star Wars Rebels, I kept saying to my myself that this one felt more like some of those really great episodes of Clone Wars.  Often that show would take a break from the Anakin, Ashoka and Obi-Wan slicing up battle droids action to focus on a smaller, more character centered storyline.  It was those kind of episodes that makes the show continue to win over and connect with both old and new fans what gives it the mighty legacy it still rocks today.


There’s no space battle in this episode, no droid hi-jinks, no fan friendly winks to past movies or clueless imperial moron of the week.  Trials of the Darksaber is a just a simple and powerful little look at the awesome seriousness of lightsaber training and most importantly, a real dive into the meat and potatoes of Sabine’s character.  It’s such a welcome change of pace and honestly the kind of episode Rebels should be creating much more often.


We get started on a real high five note as the episode begins with Kanan and Fenn Rau discuss the fascinating backstory of the Darksaber and just how it ended up basically being the Mandalorian version of Camelot.   From there it’s decided that the blade and what it represents is just too darn important and the crew try to convince Sabine that she has to wield it in order to try and unite her people once again.  Hesitant at first, she eventually decides she will try to let Kanan and Ezra give her a crash course in lightsaber combat.


Now for the small but dedicated fans of the nuances of lightsaber fighting and all the different numbered forms of that, this episode is like the first day Doritos tacos came out at Taco Bell.  It’s what we’ve all for real been waiting our whole lives for.  The training scenes are so well done as they not only strengthen Sabine’s character but are magically able to revive storylines that had been last seen struggling on life support.  Thanks to the Magic of Filoni’s wizard writing skills we finally get some good business this season happening with the previously limp relationships between Ezra and Kanan and Hera and Kanan.


Watching this episode unfold while thinking about the growing mystery of just what will happen next when Sabine heads back to Mandalore, and confronts the Vizsla Clan. It all makes the wait for the next episode feel almost impossible.  At the episode’s end, as Sabine still full of doubt, stands with the Darksaber as Ezra, Kanan and Rau pledge that they will support and stay with her no matter what happens on Mandalore.  They make this cool promise as they remind her they are family.  I’d say that goes for all us watching the Ghost Crew every week as well.  We will stick with this family and thanks to episodes like this one, we are just as curious as they are for where it all go next.

Grade :  A

 

Rogue One – Rebelling In The Land Of The Rising Sun

REBELLING IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN –
a look at Rogue One in Japan by Dave Hackerson

I took a bit of a detour on the way home Friday evening to go see the Japanese dub of Rogue One. This viewing marked the third time I had seen the film, with my previous two viewings being in the original English. Though the movie is doing really well in theaters, it has been tough finding theaters that are doing multiple showings of the dubbed version in the evenings. Fortunately a Japanese user on Twitter provided me with a pretty comprehensive list of theaters in the greater Tokyo area showing the dubbed version, so I was able to make my mission a success.

Prior to going to see the film, I did some research on impressions of the dub and the voice actors who handled the characters. One thing that struck me was the number of people who recommended that parents wanting to see the film with their children should go see the dubbed version. Unlike English, where we learn all 26 letters we need to know and the basics for putting them together to form words in our first two years of school, Japanese uses a combination of two phonetic alphabets (which combine for over 100 characters) and Chinese characters (or kanji, with the average person expected to be able to read over 1200 by the end of middle school). Star Wars is filled with lots of specialized sci-fi vocabulary and expressions, many of them including kanji characters kids won’t learn until they are far along in grade school. The daunting task of following along with subtitles that you can only partially read would quickly dim any kid’s enthusiasm, not to mention concentration. In addition, subtitles in Japanese are generally kept short and must eliminate some information in order for people to keep up with the pace of the story. However, a dubbed version spares you all the trouble of reading and allows you to focus nearly entirely on what is transpiring on screen. I was not a big fan of dubs in the past, particularly when it came to anime, but after seeing a number of western films dubbed in Japanese now over the years, I have a greater appreciation for their ability to engage you and help you better experience a movie free of distractions.

Ultimately, the success of the dub relies on the quality of the voice actors, and fortunately for the Japanese audience there is a wealth of outstanding voice actors here in Japan. I would say that the Japanese dub of Rogue One did the original justice, so much so that I forgot I was actually watching a dubbed version at times. Here I will introduce the characters, the respective voice actors, and their profiles.

Jyn Erso: Haruka Shibuya
Veteran of numerous Western film dubs. Often handles the dubs for Keira Knightley and Rachel McAdams.

Cassian Andor: Yasuyuki Kase
Popular voice actor known for simply outstanding work. Recent dubs include Dead Pool and Captain America: Civil War.

Orson Krennic: Satoshi Mikami
Actor/voice actor that often covers parts acted by Benedict Cumberbatch. Recent dubs include Dr. Strange and Imitation Game. Rogue One marks his SW voice acting debut.

Chirrut Imwe: Yasuhiko Nemoto
Voice actor that specializes in mainly western films and animated features. Has done a lot Disney film dubs, such as Frozen, Toy Story, and Brave. Also has done many of the Marvel films.

Baze Malbus: Katsuhiro Kitagawa
Another veteran voice actor with an outstanding track record, including Transformers, Frozen, and Disney animated series.

Bodhi Rook: Takuya Kirimoto
Wide-ranging voice actor who has done many Western films and dramas. Possess a dramatic flair that he puts to good use for roles acted by Bradley Cooper and Robert Downey, Jr, as well as Asian stars such as Andy Lau and Hyun Bin.

Galen Erso: Masahiko Tanaka
Original Gundam veteran. Often handles roles acted by Alec Baldwin.

Lyra Erso: Marika Hayashi
Voice actor responsible for the dubs of major actresses such as Cameron Diaz, Claire Danes, Kate Winslet, and Mary Lyn Rajskub.

Saw Gerrera: Fumihiko Tachiki
Voice actor that has done a number of anime titles. Most recently “appeared” in Independence Day: Resurgence. Has done Forrest Whitaker roles numerous times in the past.

K-2SO: Hideki Nonaka
Best known for his dub work on the CSI series. Has covered a number of foreign films, dramas, and Japanese anime titles as well. Rogue One marks his first major blockbuster.

Mon Mothma: Ai Satou
Voice actress that does primarily anime, Western films, and foreign dramas. Wide variety of work, including the Space Ranger series, Speed series, Ghostbusters, and 007 series. She also did the voice of Mon Mothma in Return of the Jedi.

Darth Vader: Taiten Kusonoki
The second person to voice Darth Vader after Toru Ohira. Pretty much handles all of Darth Vader dubs today. He’s done a tremendous job in Rebels.

I was fairly impressed with the job that Disney did on the dub for The Force Awakens, but it pales in comparison to the job they did with the dub on Rogue One. As I mentioned earlier, the quality of the dub made me forget that I was actually watching a dubbed version for 95% of the film. One aspect in which the Star Wars franchise may have an advantage when it comes to dubs is that the films take place in a “galaxy far, far away”, so our willing suspension of disbelief makes it easier for us (or me at least) to further separate what we see on screen from every day life. I knew we were in for a great ride upon taking in that opening dialogue between Galen and Orson. Actors Mikami and Tanaka did a fantastic job of producing the same gravitas as the original characters, but almost perfectly matching the tone and delivery. Galen holding Jyn and then looking at Lyra and saying “Ike (“Go” in Japanese) sounded exactly the same. Time and again throughout the film, I found the Japanese in the dub matching how I imagined things to be translated from English, and that made it all the easier for me to fully immerse myself within the experience.

Shibuya’s portrayal of Jyn was excellent, and while the standard Japanese she spoke lacked the atmosphere we get from Jones’s British accent, her voice conveyed all the nuances of the character quite well. Indeed, I could sing the praises of every voice actor, but there are two that I believe are worthy of special attention: Nonaka (K-2SO) and Kirimoto (Bodhi). Nonaka’s portrayal of K-2SO was simply sublime, and sounded exactly how imagined the character would have sounded in Japanese. Nonaka produced the same dead-pan delivery that Alan Tudyk perfected for the character, and I found myself laughing at all the same lines as the English original. In a certain sense, the different levels of honorifics used in Japanese helped to further enhanced the character, adding another dimension that made his lines work even better. The language and expressions he used clearly indicate that K-2SO is there to serve Cassian and others, while at the same time the over-the-top politeness made his initial encounter with Jyn all the funnier and goofy. As for Bodhi, Kirimoto’s work on the dub made appreciate that character’s transformation all the more. In fact, and this might sound strange, but the dub left me more impressed with Riz Amed’s performance all the more. His performance provided the template for Kirimoto to work off of, and he did that and more. The sense of confusion and fear when he first meets Saw’s men, the growing confidence he gains as he interacts with the other members of the rogue motley crew, and the ultimate sense of assurance he exudes by the end of the film… each of these small elements were perfectly captured within the dub Japanese, and fully conveyed by Kirimoto’s delivery of the characters’ lines.
There are only two major gripes I have with the dub. The first is that dub removes the added flavor we enjoy from the accents of the truly global collection of actors, many for whom English is not their first language. Their performances lend a sense of authenticity to our beloved galaxy far, far, away, where many of the humanoid and alien characters speaking a first language that is something other than Galactic Standard. This is lost in the Japanese dub, where all the characters sound like native Japanese speakers and speak in a natural tone. I loved Kase’s work on Cassian in the Japanese dub, but I must admit I was momentarily taken aback when I first heard him speak at the beginning of the film. The second is the translation of one single line of dialogue. It may sound trivial, but Bail Organa’s response to Mon Mothma regarding Leia’s capacity to handle the mission to find Kenobi could have been handled much better. In English, Bail says “I would trust her with my life.” The Japanese translation contains far less gravity, and reduces this weighty line to “She’s more than up to the task (literal translation: “She’ll be fine”). Considering how well they did with the translation for the dub, I wish they could have done a little more to capture the implied meaning of Bail’s response in this scene. Again, a minor gripe, but reflecting back on the dub I can’t get this one point out of my mind. On an interesting note, I think they created a Japanese dub for the Death Troopers as well. I listened really close, and I swear I heard them utter things that sounded like Japanese, such as garbled “stop right there” to Lyra when she approaches Galen and Orson. Finally, and this will probably come as no surprise, but Two Tubes and all the other characters who spoke a dialect other than Galactic Standard sounded just as they did in the English original

Well, there you have it. In conclusion, I give the Japanese dub two very big thumbs up, and may choose to watch it again when I take my son for another viewing of the movie (he’s eager to watch it again, and now claims it’s his third favorite of all the films).