(Content Warning: the following video does contain depiction of severe eye trauma)
In November, a Star Wars fan film came out that made me sit down and watch. I love me the SW fandoms, but there is some times only so much you can sit and watch people in black robes fighting for the title of Baddest Sith on the Screen. I’ve been wanting to work on a review and my opinion of the film since Janurary, but time and tide pulled me in other directions. I think, with the discussions on Choreography and performance, that this is an excellent time to discuss it.
The film, Hoshino, is directed by Stephen Vitale and written by Eric Carrasco. It stars Anna Ackana as the titualr Ko Hoshino and Time McKernan as her master, Jann-Xu. It isn’t a long film. Only 7 minutes in total. What it does is introduce us to the character of Ko Hoshino, and how she became a badass Jedi master.
The entire film is a love letter to the lightsaber, and its relationship to the Jedi. There is choreography in the film, but it is minimal. The combat isn’t the point in this work, and that’s kind of the point this film is making.
To give a small summary, Hoshino is the tale of Padawan Ko Hoshino. From what we see of her, she is a hot headed padawan, She is training with Bokken while her master, Jann-Xu (who evokes a similar figure and tone to several incarnations of Obi-Wan) has a lightsaber. He explains to her the importance of the weapon of the Jedi Knight. It’s that it can be turned off. The weapon doesn’t have to be a weapon. We are seen small vignettes of him clearly trying to breach her impatience and the will to fight.
This all comes to a head when she steals his lightsaber, and goes practicing with it. There is something childlike in her movements, and reminds me a lot of the way everyone treats a lightsaber when they first get their hands on it. She is taken by the bug zapper effect, and the fact that she is holding this amazing tool. Her impatience blinds her, and due a swarm of mynocks (which is ironic since she took Obi-Wan’s Soresu stance earlier in the film) she ends up physically blind, with hellish scarring across her eyes.
This is all interspersed with a scene years in the future. An older Hoshino prepares her lightsaber, using the Force put to the saber together component by component. The Force is in everything, we are told, even in the wooden training swords that she originally used (which bears her name in Aurebesh). Reaching out with the Force, she is touching all of the pieces on a spiritual level, its completion is almost a form of prayer. A Jedi rosary.
She is not alone on the planet, as a malformed dark sider approaches her. This Hoshino learns her lesson and doesn’t draw first. She uses the Force to restrain and subdue, and until it becomes clear that violence is the only answer does she draw the saber, and end the movie.
I appreciate this film for several reasons. I alluded to the fact that this is a character piece, which is often rare. A lot of the people tend to go for the lightsaber as a combat prop and not a literary device. The lightsaber is the frame, it’s the macguffin. Hoshino is the subject in question, and the transition from padawan hot head to calm and ready master. Jann-Xu is espousing the beliefs in Form Zero, the philosophy of keeping the blade out of the fight unless absolutely necessary.
What we see through Jann-Xu’s words and the elder Hoshino’s actions is the crux of what the lightsaber is for the Jedi: it is a tool of focus, of learning control. It is Light, Jann-Xu tells us, and it is weight.
It also touches on the major crux of drama for a Jedi. The Jedi are not infallible, although some writers and performers will act like they are even when they aren’t. This makes them come off as grasping the idiot ball a little too tightly. Jedi, and I apologize for the language, are entitled to fuck up. They are entitled to feel, and the are entitled to fuck up. What happens next is on them. Hoshino could have seen her failure and her Master’s reticence to train her properly as a turn to the dark side (I’ve certainly seen worse and more abrupt reasons). Instead, we see her years later having clearly learned from her accident and not allowing it to control her. That is the mark of the Jedi. Life happens to you, but you do not let it get in the way of what you must do.
I also appreciate the film for another reason. I was born blind in my right eye. It’s
congenital and it’s non corrective. For the most part, I go through my day without issue and it is ultimately an invisible disability, but it’s a disability all the same. Star Wars is a series where they explore the notion of seeing without the need for eyes. Rahm Kota, Chirrut Imwe, Kanan Jarrus, the entire Miralukan Species. Now Ko Hoshino.
Of course, this is also the use of the Blind Swordsman trope (the header quote is even from Star Wars, for gods sake) and mystifying a disability. That being said, I personally find the mistification, as long as it is handled well, to be empowering. It makes me feel like there is a place for people like me in Star Wars, and places where we can throw down and be good guys and not just Bond villains where most people with quirky disabilities end up. Ko Hoshino has become a proud addition to a time honored tradition of badasses.
In the end, I enjoy Hoshino. It’s 7 minutes long but it does its job well. I wish there were a sequel to this. Maybe another short showing Hoshino learn from her mistake. There has got to be a lot of rage and doubt after her accident. And while we know the end result, I’d be interested in seeing the road she goes on. I highly recommend this film to Star Wars fans, especially those who appreciate the esoteric qualities of the lightsaber as much as a kickass tool they are.
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