Manga Publishing The High Republic

Star Wars The High Republic: Edge Of Balance Vol. 1 Thoughts

The High Republic releases its first manga and struggles to find the balance between character development and world-building.

The Edge of Balance Vol. 1 is a strange piece of content. Some familiar characters and situations tie it to The High Republic, yet it feels the most removed. The story, written by Shima Shinya and Justina Ireland, may feel different because it is rooted more in Japanese themes. But the story itself revolves around life in a Jedi Temple in a small farming community with lower stakes than the galactic war against the Nihil. Of course, more is happening than meets the eye, but that foreshadowing does little to save Edge of Balance from a dull start. 

**Full spoilers for Edge of Balance Vol. 1**

The Story 

Kids ask the craziest questions | credit Lucasfilm Press

The story takes place after The Great Disaster, and refugees from the planet Ta’klah are resettling on the planet Banchii where a new Jedi Temple has just been built. Jedi Knight Lily Tora-Asi is escorting the refugees along with Wookie Master Arkoff and is awakened mid-flight by a voice calling to her for help.  

Days later, while meditating, Lily has a Force vision of civilians in trouble and the same voice calling. She continues to ignore this and engages younglings Viv’nia and Nima about the balance between saving and taking a life with a lightsaber. Lily likens it to the balance of water, fire, and wood, which seems to take from Gogyo, a protoscience theory that revolves around five elements (fire, water, wood, metal, and earth). She tells the younglings that dueling is more than just using lightsabers but reading your opponent’s moves and anticipating their actions. Even though she puts up a confident front with the younglings, she is uneasy with their lack of focus and wonders if Banchii is a good place for them at all. 

The mystery of that voice takes a back seat to another mystery that involves a refugee farmer, Mr. Kooba, who is acting strange. After looking him over with the local Doctor, Silar, Lily accepts that Kooba is fine and returns to life at the Jedi Temple until citizens complain about uprooted crops. Lily and Keerin venture into the forest to check things out (along with the younglings under the orders of Master Arkoff). Arkoff tells Lily they can help broaden her perspective on the matter. Lily confides in Keerin that, while she values their enthusiasm, the younglings can be too much. Their talk is interrupted when they discover that Kooba and a few other farmers have turned into wooden statues. They are not wondering what happened for long as a quite different-looking Drengir plant suddenly attacks the Jedi. 

Lily figures out a way to beat the Drengir using oil and lighting them on fire, but the mystery remains of how the Drengir got on the planet. With the Republic Fair attack fresh in everyone’s minds, Stellan Gios visits Banchii to retrieve Arkoff for a mission, leaving Lily to look after the Jedi Temple. Lily is concerned at first being left alone to defend the citizens of Banchii against another possible Drengir attack; however, she realizes that she is not alone in protecting the citizens of Banchii and has a whole team of Padawans and younglings. Dr. Silar informs Lily that the multiple Drengir that attacked them are a mutated form of the previous plants, and she figures out that they came from seeds given to Mr. Kooba from an unknown person. The story ends with a local farmer revealing himself to be Nihil. 

Having the Nihil weaponizing the Drengir against citizens and the Jedi is slightly disappointing. The Drengir presented a literal Force of nature that could indiscriminately view both Nihil and Jedi as disposable. And this is not the first mention of the Nihil using the Drengir in warfare against the Republic (it was also a plot point in Race to Crashpoint Tower). And, while it is great to see a hybrid Drengir and how different it looks, it would be nice if their vocabulary could also evolve. 

Manga tends to focus heavily on story and characters, with art being secondary, and that is mostly true in Edge of Balance. But there are also some gorgeous panels, particularly portraying the Jedi Temple on Banchii.  

The Characters  

Lily accepts her place at the Jedi Temple | credit Lucasfilm Press

The similarities between Lily Tora-Asi and Vernestra Rhow are unmistakable: they are both young Jedi Knights that have insecurities about teaching the next generation of Jedi (Lily with the younglings and Vernestra with her Padawan Imri). Justina Ireland and Shima Shinya are the writing team behind Lily and Ireland introduced Vernestra in A Test of Courage. Her banter with her Padawan, Keerin, is different from Vernestra and Imri’s relationship and feels more like the two are colleagues. Outside of Lily, the other new characters have little to do but assist. Keerin is a springboard for Lily to convey her thoughts, but the cover for Edge of Balance Vol. 2 suggests that he will get more development in the next volume. Master Arkoff is pure exposition fodder being a Wookie where the characters have to Han Solo and repeat his dialogue in their response. The younglings Viv’nia and Nima are used to establish Lily’s teaching style, but they get their small arc in the bonus chapter, “The Banchiians.”  

Stellan Gios makes a brief appearance and bookends the story as connective tissue between the attack on Valo and to provide information on the battle against the Drengir (and the Great Progenitor from Marvel’s The High Republic). 

Canon Contributions 

The Jedi Temple on Banchii | credit Lucasfilm Press

Besides all the new characters, we have the newly named Outer Rim planet, Banchii in the newly named Inugg System. Moving forward, I hope they keep the story rooted at the Jedi Temple on Banchii. The Jedi Temples on various worlds in the Outer Rim are symbols of expansion (like Starlight Beacon) and are threats to the Nihil. It would make sense that the Nihil would try to sabotage the Jedi establishing a foothold in any Outer Rim planet. But how seeding the Drengir and potentially destroying a planet benefits the Nihil is still a mystery. And it also hints that we are going to see more variations of Drengir hybrids. 

Overall Thoughts 

Guess who’s back? | credit Lucasfilm Press

Edge of Balance Vol. 1 is a slow start and shows some growing pains with The High Republic’s foray into manga, but there is enough here (including the mystery of the voice calling to Lily) to build on and make Edge of Balance Vol. 2 better in every way. But the characters need more personality to put them in the same league as Vernestra, Imri, Lula, Zeen, and all the other young Jedi already established. 

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