Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited – Part 11: Ode to Japanese Cinema

During a lot of the first season, I started to tire of the war being almost the sole focus of every episode of the show. I get that it’s what the series is named for, but the Star Wars setting is so much bigger than that. Much to my delight, the writing for the second series has already broadened its scope and explored

this is part of an ongoing series, talking about the clone wars in chronological order. Go here to see what I’ve covered before now.

 

Season 2, Episode 17: Bounty Hunters

Before this episode even begins, we get a title card dedicating the episode to legendary Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa, which should have given me a hint of what was to come. And I’ll put my hands up in embarrassment at not realising what this episode was doing until the very end.

That’s because the plot of this episode is inspired by one of his most famous works. One in which Anakin, Obi Wan and Ahsoka crash on Felucia again and stumble upon a village of Felucian farmers paying a group of seven bounty hunters to defend them from a group of pirates that have been stealing their crop. Together, the seven of them train the villagers to defend themselves.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited - Part 11: Ode to Japanese Cinema

To begin with, I was hind of rolling my eyes at the episode. Another story of training an indigenous race to fight off invaders? I’d think, haven’t I already seen the series do that several times before. But maybe I’m getting myself mixed up with episode 4 of The Mandalorian, which also did this. But the tension between the Jedi and the Bounty Hunters ended up being the thing that kept me interesting.

As I said though, it wasn’t until right at the end that I realised that the entire thing was a homage to the Kurosawa movie; Seven Samurai. Which is apt considering A New Hope, the very first Star Wars movie was inspired by his movie: The Hidden Fortress. Without Kurosawa and his samurai movies, there would be no Star Wars.

Knowing that makes me appreciate this episode a whole lot more. Because, I’ll be honest. On its own merit, it wasn’t an especially striking episode. There were things to appreciate, don’t get me wrong. For one, when the Jedi meet with the Bounty Hunters, there is a tense dialogue scene in which they’re sat around a table at night.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited - Part 11: Ode to Japanese Cinema

The character acting and lighting in this scene suddenly hit me, it had taken a real jump up in quality from the previous season. Most of the episodes I’d seen before now had that stiff, stilted momentum to them. As you got with older computer generated animation. This season though, the characters move so much more naturally, with the subtle facial movements being much more pronounced, it makes me enjoy the quieter moments even more.

By the way, the pirates we’re dealing with here are the Weequay band led by the ever charismatic Hondo Ohnaka, who comes down the mountain to shake down the villagers. Obi Wan goes into diplomat mode and offers him a pretty great deal to take them off-world and leave the farmers alone. One Hondo spurns, because bloody pirates.

By the time we get to the action sequence, the episode flies by at a rapid clip, with Anakin getting a fool made of him by Hondo in their duel. But they do enough to drive the pirates off world and get their ride in an ending that comes as pretty abrupt compared to how well paced the early parts were.

 

Season 2, Episode 18: The Zillo Beast

This, the first in a two part story line, is one more episode that takes inspiration from the world of Japanese cinema. I don’t know if it was intentional that these three episodes all aired back to back, but it works really well for the purposes of me reviewing these episodes.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited - Part 11: Ode to Japanese Cinema

These episodes are all heavily inspired by the Kaiju genre of monster movie, the most notable of which would be everyone’s favourite nuclear breathed lizard; Godzilla.

The episode begins on Malastare: the Dug homeworld and a major fuel refinery world. The planet is on the verge of falling to the Separatists and the Republic are forced to use a last resort weapon: An Electron Proton Bomb. This seems very unlike the Republic to me, and yet they insist that it’s just a big old EMP and shouldn’t harm any living thing in the blast.

The animation and visuals of the bomb dropping and resulting explosion is cool as hell. An unfortunate side effect is the bomb leaving a nasty sinkhole in the landscape.

During a rescue operation to recover the clones what fell into the hole, it becomes apparent that there is something else down in this whole. Which is the homage to Godzilla begins. In detonating this weapon of mass destruction, the Republic wake up something much worse than they could have imagined.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited - Part 11: Ode to Japanese Cinema

Much like how Godzilla was a cautionary tale and metaphor for the atomic weapons that were dropped on Japan towards the end of World War II. The Zillo Beat is a direct parallel. From here, the episode becomes a debate between the Jedi and the Dugs. Mace Windu is insistent that the creature be captured alive and relocated to somewhere it can live in peace, while the Dugs simply want to kill it.

The use of long shots and the music being used in this episode is incredibly reminiscent of the 1950s era Godzilla movies, and it all works wonderfully. And like those old movies, the Dugs try to poison the creature by filling the sinkhole with their toxic fuel. Something that becomes a point of principle for Windu, who argues the morals of the act and their role as Jedi.

It’s Anakin who, unsurprisingly, debates Windu on this. Taking the more militaristic viewpoint in that they desperately need the Dug’s cooperation and their fuel source for the war effort. The debate ends up falling flat when the Zillo Beast escapes the hole slowly filling with poison.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited - Part 11: Ode to Japanese Cinema

In the end, the Republic manage to knock it out using a ton of electrical tanks. While the plan was initially to send the beast to an isolated planet to live out its days in peace, once Palpatine finds out the creature is nigh indestructible, even able to withstand Lightsaber strikes, he changes his plan.

He orders the army to bring the creature to Coruscant, which seems like a bloody terrible idea to me. But I think I see where this is going.

 

 

Season 2, Episode 19: The Zillo Beast Strikes Back

When even your narrator is telling you that bringing the Zillo Beast to Coruscant is a bad idea, you know that this was the absolute king of dumb choices.

As the creature is unloaded, we see Palpatine waiting in anticipation, guy’s got to be careful, his Sidious is showing. From here, he orders his top scientist to study the beast and find out how to reverse engineer it’s plates into an impenetrable armour. And damn the mortality of the tests along the way, openly ordering the thing to be killed if it helps him get what he wants. Something the Beast hears and apparently takes exception to.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited - Part 11: Ode to Japanese Cinema

At this point, we feel sorry for the Zillo Beast, its containment and treatment in this episode feeling more reminiscent of King Kong than Godzilla. And so we do feel bad, because Palpatine is just a heinous human being. So when this thing inevitably does escape, it had a vendetta against the Supreme Chancellor. Which makes it the smartest character in the galaxy at this point.

Elsewhere, Anakin is jumped by Padme, who wants to use his familiarity with the Chancellor to talk him into sending the beat off world. There’s obviously no talking Palpatine down, but plopping Anakin into a situation where he finds himself between the two is entertaining. Normally he’d bend over backwards for both of them individually, but ultimately makes the choice that makes the most sense from a militaristic perspective.

Once again, Anakin Skywalker: amazing general, crap Jedi.

In a shock move, the Zillo Beast escapes and makes a b-line right for the Senate Building. How does it know that Palpatine is there? *shrugs*. Either way, it climbs the tower and snatches Palpatine’s escape shuttle out of the air, along with Anakin and Padme who are along for the ride.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited - Part 11: Ode to Japanese Cinema

At which point I find myself wondering, at what point does Sidious consider blowing his cover to save his own life. In doing so, he’d most likely have to kill the young Jedi he’d been grooming as his new apprentice to keep his cover a secret. It doesn’t come to that though and the Sith Lord shows astounding restraint to allow the Jedi to rescue him and kill the best using gas bombs made from the toxic Malastare fuel.

The death of the Zillo Beast is tragic. It was an innocent creature, dragged from its home and experimented one. Thus this episode feels like it takes a little more inspiration from King Kong than it does Godzilla. It’s a surprisingly sombre ending to the episode, one I guess I was surprised at considering this is a show aimed towards kids. Full credit to it.

It’s a mature message that really poses the question “Who is the real monster here?”

It’s Palptaine, he’s the real monster. As he orders the beat cloned. So he can just keep killing it and experimenting on it over and over.

 

Verdict:

this second season has been banging so far. While the war is always the staging event for each new story line, the story of the episode itself has always been something different. Really showing off different aspects of the Star Wars world, while also allowing the writers and animators to flex their creativity.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Revisited - Part 11: Ode to Japanese Cinema

And these episodes were all very creative, and making much better use of the series’s anthology format. Throwing an episode at us that payed homage to Seven Samurai, then giving us a two-parter that took inspiration from the Japanese Kaiju movie genre. I also feel like the series really has a solid grasp of its characters at this point.

Already I feel like it’s taken Anakin from the movies and turned him into a much more likeable and well rounded character with a bunch of flaws to exploit. If we’re only on season 2 and it only gets better from here then I’m really exited to get to the next part.


 

Speaking of next parts, we’ve got our first five parter coming up. I didn’t know they did storylines that went that long. Considering how long this ended up being just talking about three episodes, I’m not going to do that to myself. So I’ll just be covering the first two parts next time and concluding the story line in the week following.

 

  • Season 2, Episode 04: Senate Spy
  • Season 2, Episode 05: Landing at Point Rain

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