Why Are Popular ‘Star Wars’ Characters Being Reimagined for Japanese Woodblock Prints?

The prints will revamping a dying craft one Sith Lord at a time.

One of Masumi Ishikawa's woodblock prints featuring Star Wars characters. Courtesy of Lucasfilm.

Lucasfilm is teaming up with Run’a, a Japanese curio manufacturer, to create traditional woodblock prints featuring the beloved characters of Star Wars giving the sci-fi film enterprise a touch of a centuries old Japanese tradition. Knowing how fanatical Star Wars collectors can be—just this year, one paid £18,000 ($28,000) at auction for a rare figurine—we can already see the die-hard fans lining up.

The traditional craft of ukiyo-e woodblock printing flourished in Japan through the 17th and 19th centuries and was popular amongst the upwardly mobile merchant class who had become wealthy enough to afford to decorate their homes.

Often depicting beautiful women, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, historical narratives, folktales, erotica, and landscapes, these scenes would be carved into the wood blocks. But here, the usual conventional imagery is replaced with Hollywood’s most iconic characters.

Designed by artist Masumi Ishikawa and then carved by master engravers, we see Sith Lord Darth Vader holding up his light saber while engulfed in flames and Queen Amadila depicted with her trusty robot R2-D2 while a Jawa character lurks in the background.

One of Masumi Ishikawa's woodblock prints featuring Star Wars characters. Courtesy of Lucasfilm.

One of Masumi Ishikawa’s woodblock prints featuring Star Wars characters. Courtesy of Lucasfilm.

The hand-crafted woodblock prints in the project, which is being hosted on the Japanese crowdfunding site Makuake, can range from 50,000 yen ($400) to 150,000 ($1,200) and are sold through Rhythm Force.

News of these prints comes just five months before the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, is due out in theaters.

In the coming years, George Lucas will also open a museum dedicated to narrative art.

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