It's pretty well known that Star Wars creator George Lucas was greatly influenced by Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, with Kurosawa's 1958 period adventure The Hidden Fortress often cited as a direct inspiration for Lucas' first space epic. With this in mind, it's nice to see Star Wars returned to its roots with this Japanese crowdfunding project for traditional woodblock prints of Lucas' characters.
The technique being used is known as ukiyo-e, a style of printing that was popular through the 17th to 19th centuries in Japan, with famous examples including Katsushika Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Ukiyo-e prints typically begin life as paintings which are then carved into blocks of wood. Ink is applied to the surface of the woodblock and paper is pressed against the ink, with a different block of wood used to build up each layer of color and create the final image.
So far, the Star Wars ukiyo-e project on Japanese Kickstarter Makuake has raised nearly 12 million yen ($96,000) — just under 800 percent of its original goal. There are three officially licensed prints to choose from, depicting Darth Vader, the Battle of Hoth, and Queen Amidala (with R2-D2 and an adult Anakin Skywalker also in the frame). The painstaking and laborious techniques of ukiyo-e don't come cheap though: a single print costs 54,000 yen ($434), with a set of three going for 162,000 yen ($1,303).
Verge Video: The year Star Wars took over E3