To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Star Wars: Visions is an upcoming anime anthology series for Disney+. The series consists of nine animated short films produced by six Japanese animation studios, Kamikaze Douga, Twin Engine, Studio Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G., and Science SARU, each telling their own original stories based on the Star Wars universe. The English voice cast includes the talents of Brian Tee, Lucy Liu, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bobby Moynihan, Temuera Morrison, Neil Patrick Harris, Alison Brie, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Masi Oka, Simu Liu, Kyle Chandler, David Harbour, Henry Golding, Jamie Chung, George Takei, and many more.
Off the heels of a widely enjoyed final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and its sequel/spin-off Star Wars: The Bad Batch comes another great series from Lucasfilm Animation. Star Wars: Visions is really enjoyable and widely different from other Star Wars animated series in its style and presentation. It’s the first true anime on Disney+ and hopefully not the last. There are a plethora of homages from Astro Boy to Ninja Scroll. The episodes we get in the first season are “The Duel” by Kamikaze Douga, “Tatooine Rhapsody” and “Lop & Ocho” by Twin Engine, “The Twins” and “The Elder” by Studio Trigger, “The Village Bride” by Kinema Citrus, “The Ninth Jedi” by Production I.G., and “T0-B1” and “Akakiri” by Science SARU. The episodes range between 14-20 minutes in length and are very distinct from each other. Having the episodes done by different studios is a unique idea that mostly pays off. This allows for interesting choices regarding animation, characters, story, and lore. Some episodes are memorable while others are forgettable. Still, it’s fun seeing different takes on Star Wars that are not held to canon and free to explore and expand upon what has already been established in films and comics.
The standout episodes are “The Duel” by Kamikaze Douga and “The Ninth Jedi” by Production I.G. “The Duel” follows a rogue Sith who protects a small town from another Sith and her Storm Trooper army. The design of this episode is great as it is presented mostly in black & white with small hints of color splashed throughout. It is very basic and there is a battle that takes place on a river which is very reminiscent of the battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar. You can even hear “Duel of the Fates” playing in the background. We don’t get much background about the main character other than that he is very skilled with the lightsaber and wishes he was a Jedi. He also has collected numerous red kyber crystals alluding to him having killed many Sith. “The Ninth Jedi” is one of the few episodes that can still fit within the Star Wars canon. It takes place an unspecified amount of time after Star Wars: Episode VII – The Rise of Skywalker and tells the story of a girl interested in what became of the Jedi as they are now uncommon. This story feels fresh as it is so distant from the characters and stories from the original trilogy. The writers are free to tell a new narrative and introduce new lore and expand the universe. Even seeing something such as a clear lightsaber was invigorating as it hasn’t been shown in the films.
The great thing about these two episodes and a few others is that they make the audience want to see the stories continue even if done by another studio. Falling in love with new characters and settings is what makes Star Wars great, not rehashing the past. While all the stories aren’t memorable, each episode has superb animation and sound. A great amount of detail and care was put into crafting these visions and I applaud all the teams involved in bringing this show to life. The voice cast is also top tier, with many Asian-American actors lending their talents to the variety of characters. It’s honestly surprising to find out who some of the voice actors are as they fit the characters so well you wouldn’t even realize until a second viewing.
It will be interesting to see which of these stories are officially canon because some of the Force abilities shown make what happened in the sequel trilogy seem weak. I give Star Wars: Visions Season 1 a Good 4/5. I can’t wait to see what studios are chosen for the second season. Imagine an episode done in the style of Dragon Ball Z by Toei Animation or something akin to Spirited Away by Studio Ghibli. The possibilities are endless and could open the door to more anime appearing on Disney+!