Before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released to theaters in 1999 it was one of the most anticipated films of all time. Unfortunately, it, and the ensuing prequel trilogy, turned out to be a disappointment for many fans for a variety of reasons.
However, in the two decades that have passed since the arrival of the Star Wars prequels, one of its few universally praised aspects is Ewan McGregor's performance as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi. McGregor's popularity as Kenobi has even inspired an upcoming Disney+ series about the legendary Jedi. Strangely enough, one passionate Star Wars fan foresaw young Kenobi becoming popular -- none other than Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama.
The famous manga artist has always been a Star Wars fan and the series even helped influence parts of his catalog. While working for Weekly Shonen Jump before the release of The Phantom Menace, Toriyama was one of several mangaka asked to draw a Star Wars tribute illustration.
What he drew in the tribute was young Anakin Skywalker and a battle droid, however, the caption he wrote next to the art, translated by The Dao of Dragon Ball website, tells another story about his Star Wars thoughts. Toriyama wrote that, while excited for the movie, he didn't "have much interest in the people in this series, so Darth Vader appearing as a child doesn't do much for me, (I'm only looking forward to Ewan McGregor)."
Considering how disappointed fans were over the portrayal of many characters in the prequels, it's likely Toriyama was a lot less disappointed since he wasn't excited by any of them in the first place. But he did see potential in McGregor, who at that time was best known for British independent films like Shallow Grave and Trainspotting.
Kenobi becoming the breakout character from the prequels was probably not what George Lucas had intended. The focus of the trilogy was on young Anakin Skywalker and his transformation into Darth Vader, but his portrayal in the films has been highly criticized. Neither Skywalker actors Jake Lloyd nor Hayden Christensen could make the character as compelling as McGregor could Obi-Wan. And even when James Earl Jones returned to voice Vader in Revenge of the Sith, his melodramatic yell at the film's end became the subject of mockery for years.
Despite the challenging material he was given, Ewan McGregor's Kenobi shone and managed to add to the legacy of his iconic character originally played by Sir Alec Guinness in the first Star Wars trilogy. Now older fans like Toriyama will get the chance to see Ewan McGregor reprise the role in the upcoming Kenobi Disney+ series. Thanks to the huge success of The Mandalorian, expectations are high that the best of McGregor's Kenobi has yet to come.