Star Wars Ninjas Are A Long Time Coming

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

Many people think of the original Star Wars as a Western and John Favreau certainly channeled the genre when creating The Mandalorian. Ditto Robert Rodriquez with The Book of Boba Fett. While space cowboys like Boba Fett and Han Solo are fun and all, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably wondered, “Why doesn’t Star Wars have any ninjas?”

Fret not, because The Acolyte just gave us our first space shinobi!

From Cowboys To Ninjas

bad batch

Despite George Lucas being very vocal about his Eastern influences, no Star Wars movies or shows have really leaned into any Asian aesthetic deeper than putting vaguely Samurai-like robes on the Jedi. On the contrary, ever since Disney bought the franchise, creators have gone all in on the concept of the Wild West in space. Until now, that is. The Acolyte not only has a distinctly Eastern vibe but it finally blessed Star Wars with its first ninja.

I’ll admit that nobody actually refers to Mae as a ninja on the show, but nobody calls Cad Bane a cowboy in Book of Boba Fett, either. That doesn’t change the fact that the character is obviously a ripoff of Lee Van Cleef in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Trust me, as far as Star Wars is concerned, Mae is a ninja.

The Long Awaited Jedi Samurai

What else do you call a warrior that covers the bottom half of their face and throws kunai at their enemies? Mae even uses a giant cloud of smoke—technically sand but the results were the same—to hide her escape from a group of Jedi. If that’s not the Star Wars equivalent of a ninja I don’t know what is.

Frankly, I’m kind of embarrassed for Disney that it took them almost a decade to think of making an Eastern-flavored Star Wars series. It just seems like a no-brainer. The Jedi are already like the Star Wars version of Samurai, so why not include martial arts and ninjas, too?

Ninjas Used To Dominate Popular Culture

Okay, I know I’m really harping on the ninja thing, but you have to understand something. When I was growing up, ninjas were everywhere. Ninja Gaiden for the NES, American Ninja on VHS—even G.I. Joe had a ninja character. And, of course, the creme de le creme, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dominated our TVs as well as our comic books and toy chests.

It’s About Time

Star Wars was practically the only franchise that didn’t feature at least one ninja character. Oh, I’m sure if I dug deep enough, I could probably find someone obscure in the old EU/Legends continuity to fit the bill. As far as the movies and TV shows are concerned, however, nothing even came close before The Acolyte.

More Than Just Ninjas

That’s not to say that The Acolyte is just Star Wars with ninjas. The show also has a strong Star Trek vibe—gosh, it feels weird to type that—and revolves around a murder mystery. Both are firsts for the franchise.

The Acolyte‘s attempt to be something more than just another space western deserves to be celebrated. Even if everyone ends up hating the idea of Star Wars plus ninjas, you can’t say that Leslye Headland didn’t try something different. If Star Wars is going to survive as a franchise without focusing on the Skywalker clan or their associates, we’re going to need more shows like The Acolyte.

Oh, and ninjas. You can never have enough ninjas.

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