Review: Star Wars Leia, Princess of Alderaan, Vol. 1 (Manga)

The Star Wars saga begins with the specter of the Empire literally hanging over the rebellion, as a Star Destroyer approaches and attacks the Tantive IV, Leia Organa’s small vessel. A destructive and violent Darth Vader boards the corvette, but meets his match in the diminutive princess. Though he arrests her, she is defiant and strong, a young woman who is already a leader of the passionate and ultimately successful rebellion. When she is taken as a prisoner, Leia is only nineteen years old.

Star Wars Leia, Princess of Alderaan, based on the 2017 young adult novel by Claudia Gray, explains in manga form how Leia grows from teenager to adult and bystander to a woman at the very center of the rebellion against the Empire. Gray’s works, including the one on which this is based, are well-acclaimed, and Leia, Princess of Alderaan is not the first to have found its way into manga form. Lost Stars, another series that takes place in the years leading up to A New Hope, was earlier adapted into a excellent manga (Read our reviews of volume one and the complete series). This story was adapted by Haruichi for Japanese audiences, and is now being released in English translation, with volume one arriving this week.

While we’ve seen Leia’s earliest appearances as one of the twins born to Anakin and Padme, this series functions as a true origin tale, Volume one begins with Leia preparing for her Day of Demand, a ceremony in which young Alderaan royalty demand their right to sit upon the throne, with the rest of the volume tracing the trials which she must undergo in order to earn the title of Queen. Along the way, she becomes more aware of the Empire’s evildoing; works through her own concerns about her parents’ growing neglect; and starts to grow friendships with other young future leaders, including a potential love interest, Kier Domandi, and future Vice Admiral, Amilyn Holdo. It should be noted that the original book featured Holdo in her very first appearance: she is portrayed as quite floopy, akin to Phoebe Buffay or Luna Lovegood, and her character was similarly drafted in The Last Jedi before being changed to one with a flatter personality by the final scripting (and after reading this work, I would say to that movie’s detriment).

This volume is an addictive read, and becomes more engaging by the chapter. The first half portrays Leia as almost an Oskar Schindler-type, which felt cheap and amateur; of course, the story goes on to reveal far more depth than initially indicated, as expected from Gray, leading to well-developed characterization of her royal highness. High points include reading Leia’s inner thoughts, which express her intelligence and famous fortitude, but also reveal the insecurities of a teenager. The growth here feels real and authentic, and is encouraged by her new group of friends, with the aforementioned ones—Domandi and Holdo—of most interest. I look forward to seeing how they impact Leia in future volumes and what becomes of the entire friend group.

If there’s a disappointment, its in the brevity of the volume. It ends at a natural point, and 182 pages isn’t unusually short, but it still felt too brief. The strength of the story and the full-color early pages, however, add quality to the volume and largely make up for my disappointment. The artwork should be noted, too, with character designs both different enough from the actors who portrayed them to add a strong sense of originality, but still instantly recognizable and, in certain frames, adjusted to look so familiar as to evoke strong nostalgia for the original trilogy, establishing that tone particularly well for fans of the franchise.

Ultimately, volume one of Star Wars Leia, Princess of Alderaan is an immensely engrossing read and a work worthy of its venerated topic and the actress who played her, as well as of the manga moniker—reading left to right and with the proper flourishes and styling, it is a Japanese work, which will be appreciated by manga readers. The highest praise I can give though is to say that this reviewer, whose appreciation for anime is only superseded by a passion for Star Wars and particularly the original trilogy characters, is deeply enthralled by this new work, and will be eagerly anticipating the continuation of this lovely addition to the canon.

Star Wars Leia, Princess of Alderaan, Vol. 1 is published by Yen Press.

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