As a fan of both worlds, anime and Star Wars, I couldn’t really picture an anime series set in a galaxy far, far away. Sure, we’ve had artwork and collectibles that have been inspired by feudal Japan. But we’ve never received anything substancial. Until Visions arrived. When this project was first announced I was beyond ecstatic. Two of my favourite passions blended into one concoction. I was over the moon. Nine stories that each put a unique spin on the Star Wars universe, whether it was visually or narratively. Now, we were lucky enough to receive all nine episodes in one go, thank The Maker… And I’ve already binged them twice. Oops. As a dub and sub watcher, I really wanted the chance to see what each voice actor did with the role. I also wanted another excuse to watch it all again.
Just looking at the fact that I watched it all twice in a row should give an overall indication regarding my thoughts. Although, as I watched The Duel, my favourite episode, for the second time, reality somewhat hit me. How do I breakdown nine episode that vary in every way possible? Well, the best way would be to look at each individual episode. So, that’s what today is. You can journey with me as I dip and dive through Visions and all of its wonder and danger.
Kamikaze Douga –The Duel
The Duel is arguably one of the best episodes of this very short series. Not only is it a great introduction into Visions but it’s also a stellar piece of animation that fully embraces that Star Wars/anime combination. Appearing like an old Akira Kurosawa movie, The Duel is a perfect blend of Star Wars goodness and Ronin aesthetics. Objects, settings and aliens are instantly recogniseable despite that feudal overcoat. It’s such an odd combination, yet it works fantastically. The animation studio created something really special. The style is unique, the detail is insane, and the lightsabers are amazing.
It’s great to see Disney tap into the Dark Side a bit more, as well as play around with certain aspects. Take the lightsaber umbrella, for example. Despite it’s short appearance, it stood out completely and elevated the episode because it was something new. The entire episode is tied nicely together by some great voice work, fluid fight sequences that had me smiling from ear to ear, a fantastic score that embodied everything we love about Star Wars and that classic Japanese era, and some awesome character designs. As an opening episode, The Duel does an amazing job at laying down a brief foundation and I’m certain that it’ll help ease new anime watchers in.
Studio Colorido (Twin Engine) –Tatooine Rhapsody
Going from The Duel to Tatooine Rhapsody was actually a really nice transition. We started with a short action-fueled episode and then moved into a more heartfelt story that leans slightly into the highly popular Idol theme that frequently appears in anime. We’re presented with a very simple story as this episode focuses heavily on revisiting established elements of Star Wars i.e. Boba Fett, Tatooine, Pod Racing and Jabba the Hutt. We follow this band of misfits and their bond is really the central point of this short story. Rather than focusing on the Dark and the Light, we’re simply given a band who long to perform and it results in a fantastic musical performance. What I did find surprising was that the dub for the song actually turned out brilliantly. Translation can sometimes be a problem for songs and rhythem, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s version exceeded my expectations. Even if you’re more of a sub-watcher, I highly recommend giving it a listen.
The song is the centrepiece of this episode. Sure, there aren’t any epic lightsaber duels in this one. But, this episode is incredibly wholesome- especially in comparison to some of the others. It was really nice having that down time and the opporunity to explore an area of Star Wars that is more familiar to us. That’s definitely not an issue since it suits the scenario incredibly well. In fact, I’d love to see what became of Star Waver. Hopefully they’re out there performing in the galaxy’s biggest venues.
Trigger –The Twins
I will watch anything that Trigger makes. So when I saw that they had not one but two episodes, it was rather difficult to contain my excitement. There’s something about Trigger’s animation style that is highly addicting and mesmerising. From the clean and crisp character designs, to the over the top movements and spectacular battles. A team up between Trigger and Star Wars is simply a match made in heaven and The Twins proved that completely.
The Twins follows two siblings who are products of the Dark Side. But a change of heart puts them against each other in a battle for an all powerful Kyber crystal. The previous episodes have been somewhat grounded but The Twins takes us to the helm of two Star Destroyers and then into the void of space as the battle escalates. The character designs are absolutely on point with Karre and Am echoing Vader’s iconic suit. In true Trigger fasion, the entire episode is nuts. It’s over the top, but in the best way possible. There are some amazing things packed into this episode. You get a grand mixture of recognisable Star Wars elements and very typical lightsaber action that blends perfectly with Trigger’s overall style. The Twins is a bold and thrilling episode full of action, amazing animation and huge ideas, all of which contribute towards a fresh take on a very familiar universe.
Kinema Citrus –The Village Bride
The Village Bride is an interesting episode. If anything, it is somewhat similar to The Duel whereby it has a very traditional Japanese/samurai story. A fallen Jedi observes a wedding from afar and is forced to make a decision when the evil forces of the Empire arrive to take the new bride away. I think the thing I liked most about this episode, similarly to Tatooine Rhapsody, is that there’s this brief bit of time where we get to experience something that isn’t very typical in the world of Star Wars. It was really nice seeing this new yet traditional wedding unfold, and it was very sweet following this couple who weren’t torn in regards to picking sides. It was only when F and the Empire arrived that it transformed into something more familiar.
Like many of the episodes in this series, The Village Bride is a perfect example of this unique blend of two diverse worlds. There’s the classic action side of Star Wars that allowed the studio to show off their skills in regards to the intense standoff that closes the episode, then there’s the beautiful side of this episode which allowed this new world to flourish. We get to observe characters in this new setting, we get to witness their way of life all the while this conflicted Jedi begins accept her place in this universe.
Production IG –The Ninth Jedi
Out of all of the trailers and snippets we received during the build up for Visions this episode actually escaped my radar completely. So it was a complete and utter surprise in the best way possible. I actually found this one to be the most complex and shocking. Obviously, I won’t go into why but there’s a really nice twist that I just didn’t see coming. I also really appreciated the risk this episode took in regards to lightsaber characteristics and functions, if you’ve watched The Ninth Jedi you’ll know what I mean. This episode takes place in a future where stories of Jedi and lightsabers have faded away. In a bid to restore the Jedi Order Kara embarks on a journey to deliver a bunch of newly forged lightsabers, but all is not what it seems.
As previously mentioned, this episode comes with some really great surprises. While the animation doesn’t stand out in comparison to other episodes, The Ninth Jedi has a superior and much wider story attached to it. That’s not to say that the animation was bad. In fact, the character designs and fluid fight scenes were outstanding. It just didn’t have that visual hook that The Duel or The Twins had. Instead, The Ninth Jedi prioritised structuring a vastly different world. Honestly, I really want more. It taps into some very interesting notions regarding the future of the Jedi and Sith and plays around with some of the rules. Was it a risk? Absolutely. However, I absolutely loved what they did.
Science Saru – T0-B1
Imagine if Astro Boy lived on a Tatooine-type planet. That’s exactly what T0-B1 is. A small and adorable android dreams of becoming a Jedi and when danger arrives at his doorstep he has to step up. Can T0-B1 be the Jedi he dreams of becoming? This episode is a lot of fun. Droids have a special place in the Star Wars universe. Every Star Wars fan knows this and it was great to see them animated and so lively. I originally thought that this episode was going to be aimed at the younglings. The overal aesthetic really emitted this care-free and charming vibe, but that changed very quickly when the haunting Sith Lord appeared.
This very innocent story suddenly transformed into an epic fight between good and evil. The animation reaches new heights when T0-B1 embraces his destiny and we’re presented with a truly stunning finale that is bright, inspiring and pretty tragic. I won’t lie, this one took me by a surprise. In a good way, of course. I think this particular episode proved that animation can be deceiving and can carry some very heavy themes. As anime fans will know in general, animation definitely isn’t just for kids.
Trigger –The Elder
Trigger’s at it again. I think if I had to pick two episodes as my favourite it’d have to be The Elder and The Duel. The Elder is a really nice return to one of my favourite elements of Star Wars. In its essence, The Elder is an epic homage to the powerful and often unbreakable bond between a Master and their Apprentice. The short story perfectly captures that bond and all of its strains. Padawan’s tend to be overconfident and zealous while the Master is wise and controlled. Both Padawan and Master are tested when they come face to face with a rogue Sith warrior- An old and decrepit man whose looks are immensely deceiving.
Compared to other Trigger projects that I have watched and enjoyed, this one looks and feels so different. Rather than going for that over the top aesthetic, The Elder actually appears more tame with more ‘realistic’ character models and a more natural environment. It also uses an effect that I absolutely love and that’s lightsabers in the rain. The emitting smoke, the pouring rain and the looming confrontation just elevated the tension. The build up is definitely worth it. The actual fight is incredible and they cleverly separate different styles of fighting. Visually, the Jedi have a more graceful approach while The Elder is more ferocious and hateful and you can identify those notions simply by looking at the posture and movement of each character. The Elder is a fast-paced ride full of Star Wars action and stunning animation that certainly packs a punch.
Geno Studio (Twin Engine) – Lop and Ochō
I was incredibly excited for this episode. Lop and Ochō was fantastic, simply put. It had a beautiful aesthetic that was a perfect blend of traditionalised Japanese architecture and classic Star Wars environments. There were also some wonderful character designs. Lop being the highlight. She had wonderful energy and a story that tipped between heartwarming and tragic. Much like The Twins, this episode focuses on a family that is crumbling from within. That conflict manifests purely between the two sisters. One who thinks the Empire offers security, while the other believes that they must break free from the shackles of the Empire. Obviously as Star Wars fans, we know what the Empire is like, but that doesn’t take anything away from their conflict because they are both fighting for the sake of their family. You can understand their stance and their reasoning and that makes their fight even more devastating and intense.
I was really impressed by the quality of the animation, it was incredibly smooth and fluid especially when it came to the final confrontation. But even before that, the level of detail that is put into each background and even the haunting Star Destroyer that stalks the sky is insane. What I’ve loved about this series, particularly for episode such as this and The Duel, is how Japanese themes are incorporated into this very sci-fi setting. Lop and Ochō absolutely nailed it. Clothing, buildings, weapons, and even family hierarchies really evoked that Japanese spirit. Yet, it still felt like I was in the Star Wars universe. I feel as though Lop and Ochō will be a favourite among fans. Not just because of the outstanding animation and detail, but also because of the emotional story that drives these two new characters. Is it too much to ask for more from both Lop and Ochō?
Science Saru – Akakiri
There weren’t any episodes that I disliked. I think that’s because each one brought something new to the table both narratively and visually. However, Akakiri was my least favourite episode which hit me a lot more because I was hoping for a really strong episode to close this immensely ambitious and stunning series. It’s not that I didn’t like it. It just felt very average in the grand scheme of things. Having said that though, the episode ended on a very high note. All of these episodes have focused primarily on ideas surrounding hope, redemption and extinquishing the darkness. But Akakiri went down a different route which definitely mixed things up. It was actually very dark and Science Saru was able to harness that darkness through vibrant colours and some very harsh animation.
Just like many of the other episodes, Akakiri did feature a few duels but they felt very uninspired. This was both a pro and con. It felt as though the duels were purposely unrefined. Not only did it suit the actual style of the animation, but it also meant that the story wasn’t jeopardised. This episode is a journey. A fall from grace, even. So to have a segment that distracted you from that arc would have harmed the overall flow. Overall, Akakiri is a visually interesting story that tackles the Light and Dark from a different perspective. While it was my least favourite, it was by no means bad, unimaginative or boring. It just didn’t grip me the way the previous shorts did.
So, there you have it. Star Wars: Visions has been on my radar since its announcment. I’m somewhat sad that it’s already over and it didn’t take long to watch it all. But it makes me hopeful for more in the future. The Star Wars universe is vast and wide which means there are plenty of elements, characters, ideas, and worlds to explore and experiment with. Have you watched all of Visions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and please do let us know which episode stood out to you.
Star Wars: Visions is available now on Disney+. You definitely won’t want to miss it.