How Akira Kurosawa's films inspired 2 episodes of The Mandalorian

Dec 5, 2020

akira kurosaw

George Lucas was inspired by many things when he wrote that first Star Wars script. 

Flash Gordon

John Carter of Mars.

Robbie the Robot.

And legendary film maker Akira Kurosawa's film Hidden Fortress was one of the biggest. 

Rian Johnson gave it a go with The Last Jedi and it's now the turn of Jon Favreau and his collaborators to make some new Star Wars - and his show The Mandalorian is a wonderful format change for Star Wars - the first live-action show - but one that rings true to what came before. 

This means players like Favreau and Dave Filoni have been true to the roots of Star Wars and incorporated a great deal of that Kuroawa into The Mandalorian. This has been in the form of themes and nods and homages to the films themselves. 

The man who plays Mando Pedro Pascal said that his character was "built on the iconic presence of the Man With No Name in the Sergio Leone movies, played by Clint Eastwood, [and] the lone samurai [Toshiro Mifune] in Akira Kurosawa. It's aesthetically and very, very much narratively built in that kind of iconic lone gunslinger/sword-wielder."

So while the wild wild west side of Mando is cool, let's have a look at the influence of director Kurosawa on two episodes. 

Season One's Episode 4: Sanctuary

Episode 4 begins with a small farming community. After establishing their quiet and defenceless ways, some mysterious raiders attack the community destroying their property and stealing their harvest.

The Mandalorian quickly becomes the saviour of the people with a little bit of help from Cara Dune. 

This plotline, while now a Hollywood cliche first originated from Kurosawa's 1961 Yojimbo. The title character is presented as a lost warrior who has become a soldier of fortune. He is the archetypal “r┼Źnin” – a masterless wanderer from a tribe of proud warriors with a rich heritage. Hollywood has translated this character into a cowboy many a time - think John Wayne and you'll find a film that does the same. 

Eastward's A Fistful of Dollars is was effectively an unlicensed remake of Yojimbo. 

Yojimbo translates to "bodyguard" which sums up both the episode and Din Jarin's role protecting baby Grogu. 

Season Two: Chapter 12: The Jedi

kurosawa references in the Mandalorian

This is a more direct rinse and repeat of the wandering Samuari plot from Kurosaw's films and Yojimbo again.

Director David Filoni mines this basic plot for “The Jedi.” producing a classic Star Wars moment.

In this episode, Mando mirrors the role of Toshiro Mifune’s wandering ronin, while Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth and Ahsoka fight each other to determine the fate of Calodan in a similar manner like the crime lords did in Kurosawa’s film.

The movie also homages two obvious moments as well, shot by cinematographer Baz Idoine (who one an Emmy for his work on season one). - check out the above meme. Lucas did this himself in the Revenge of the Sith using Yoda to mimic Kambei Shimada’s motion in the Seven Samurai, another Kurosawa film.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance inspired Mando and Grogu's relationship

There's another interesting Japanese film, which served as inspiration for The Mandalorian making his way through the universe with Baby Grogu in tow:  Released as Shogun Assassin in the United States, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance follows a rogue samurai who travels around Edo Japan with his three-year-old son. 

Sounds familiar right?

shogun assassin

Sub out the cart for Baby Yoda's protective cradle and you've the same mode of transport. 

grogu and mando

The Mandalorian is similar to Shogun Assassin in the sense that each episode features a new adventure for the Beskar coated bounty hunter and Baby Grogu.

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