This is it, the final episode of True Fiction … for now, at least. To send off the season we’re delving into one of the most beloved sci-fi franchises of all time: Star Wars. The universe that George Lucas created is deeply loved by many the world over and has become a cultural touchstone for those that love any form of entertainment. But the inspirations that led to its creation are perhaps less known.
In this episode of True Fiction we’re taking a look at some of those inspirations, particularly the work of Akira Kurosawa. Additionally, we’re also looking at how Japanese history and culture informed the creation of the Jedi. In more ways than one, the Jedi are founded on principles that the Samurai lived by years ago, and the parallels between the very real warriors of ancient Japan and the space-faring warriors of Star Wars are numerous.
You can check out True Fiction on the GameSpot Universe YouTube channel, where every episode in the season so far can also be found. You’ll also find a little more about the process of making the episode from host and writer Kurt Indovina.
Kurt: Star Wars. Yes, Star Wars. The grandiose saga that’s spawned too many books for me to care to count (I lost track around 70), dozens upon dozens of games (including an Angry Bird reskin), and, of course, lest we never forget: a prestigious Christmas special. Oh, right, and a bunch of movies.
The impact Star Wars has had on this planet is so overwhelmingly massive that it feels almost arbitrary to restate. Yet, despite how ingrained it is in our society, the details of its origins aren’t as broadly known.
Admittedly, I’m a casual Star Wars fan at best. I like Star Wars; I’ve seen the movies; I’ve played a handful of games (shout out to Dark Forces); And with a half-hearted ounce of confidence, I can tell you that Han shot first.
But Star Wars wasn’t the first choice for True Fiction’s season finale. In fact, it was another George Lucas associated franchise: Indiana Jones. Initially, we wanted to explore Raiders of the Lost Ark, and examine the mystery of the ark’s supposed real-life hiding place. But upon rewatching the film, more and more did I begin to uncover that very little truth was used in the films premise at all.
Due to the ark being lost for 3,000 years, there’s little documentation to prove it actually existed in the first place; in the film it’s believed to be in Tanis, “the lost city of Egypt,” said to have been buried in a sandstorm, however, in reality, it’s not lost, and that sandstorm never happened; and lastly, the staff of Ra–an ancient artifact that reveals the location of the ark when shined in sunlight at a certain time in a certain place–was made up for the movie. I was grasping onto myths.
But what about Star Wars? How much truth can be found in an intergalactic space opera with monastic power wielding warriors, bickering robots, and an alien jazz saloon band, you may ask? Well, as it so happens, not really that much either. On the surface, George Lucas’s inspiration for Star Wars stemmed from two very specific interests of his own: Flash Gordon, and the samurai film The Hidden Fortress. When the two are combined, the foundation for which the boundless behemoth space epic was built upon suddenly seems small and kinda underwhelming.
However, it was the Jedi that pulled the most truth from reality. The Jedis influence can be traced beyond fiction, and back to 17th century Japan. Most specifically, the samurai.
While researching, I got the chance to learn about ancient Japanese beliefs like Shinto, and its similarities to the Force. I also got to learn about the history of the samurai, and how they came into being some of the most prominent figures in the country’s history. But the most surprising part to me was learning how 17th century impacted not just Japan, but popular culture as we know it. Give the episode a watch to truly grasp how far the ripples of that era reached.
All that said, this episode brings us to the conclusion of the first season of True Fiction. If you’ve been following along with this series, thank you–your time and attention has been invaluable to me, and I hope you’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Until next time, so long.