TV Review: Star Wars Rebels – Season 1
This is a bit of an aside from my read-through of the Expanded Universe. In addition to reading Truce at Bakura, I’ve also been watching Star Wars Rebels. Having just completed season 1, I wanted to give my thoughts.
While Season 1 doesn’t grab a ton from the old EU, it’s interesting to see the concepts they do keep. First off, we have the Imperial Inquisitor, who was introduced in the old West End Games RPG (which is actually cited in one of the Rebels Recon episodes – which made me squee), and the ISB, along with the idea that the Empire has stopped using clones for their Stormtroopers in place of recruits or conscripts.
Also, one of the comparisons I’d seen made for this show is that it’s “the Star Wars RPG campaign that I wish I’d ran.” I agree with this assessment. Being like a RPG campaign is not a bad thing – when you’re in a good RPG campaign the players, and thus by extension their characters, have tremendous chemistry. Everyone is having fun, and when people or characters disagree, disagreements (ultimately) end amiably. People quip, and when quips misfire, they quips end up becoming amusing through how they misfire.
Further, and this is where things become important when it comes to works of fiction, in an RPG campaign, everyone has a real opportunity to be in the limelight. While some characters will come out as party leaders, and will push the action in one direction or another through their behavior or because they have more of a plan than other characters, everyone has a chance in the limelight. For a TV series with an ensemble cast, this is absolutely vital. I’d say this is why Leverage worked so well – many of the writers of the show, John Rogers in particular, played RPGs.
As far as the show itself goes – it’s an all CG animated show, much like Clone Wars was. What didn’t work for me in Clone Wars, and doesn’t quite work for me here is that CG as it’s used in this show feels very stilted. By comparison Fate/Zero had much more fluid and dynamic fight scenes. Now, Fate/Zero is clearly not aimed for children, but just because a show is aimed for a younger audience doesn’t mean you have to cut on quality. On the other hand, Ufotable’s Nasu-Verse shows (where their work truly shines) have either been films or OVAs (Garden of Sinners and the upcoming Heaven’s Feel films), or split-cour shows (Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works). That gives them more time to work on the episodes to maintain a constant level of quality.
Still, while they make the CG work really well for space battles, and providing continuity of look and feel for ship interiors, along with gunfights, this fall apart whenever hand-to-hand combat, and lightsabers in particular come into play. Maybe watching Fate/Zero and UBW in parallel with season 1 is spoiling me, but I can’t help but feel that 2d animation gives the characters in those shows more substance and weight than the characters in Rebels does.
Other than that, I really like Rebels. The writing is sharp and while it works for a young adult audience, it doesn’t feel like it’s dumbing down its material. The cast has tremendous chemistry and they play off each other well. This was definitely a good start to the new Star Wars universe.