Now available on Disney + is a visionary series of short stories within the Star Wars universe, but there are no confines nor attachments to any previous Star Wars canon in Star Wars: Visions. Consisting of 9 episodes ranging from 13-22 minutes in length, Visions turns the reigns over to some seriously talented Anime directors. It lets them play freely, allowing them to explore with their own context and ways of storytelling.
The series starts off strong with The Duel by Takanobu Mizuno, which takes its cues from the very beginnings of Star Wars and its well-known influence The Hidden Fortress, setting his story in feudal Japan. There are flashes of steampunk that Mizuno mixes in to boot. It tells the story of a ronin samurai protecting a village. And it takes an unpredictable turn at the end that proves memorable. The second episode, Tatooine Rhapsody by Taku Kimura, is a fun tale taking place in the most familiar of all the world’s in the series, about a band whose members include a member of the Hutt family.
Jabba does not approve of one of his clan becoming a musician though, and the band must convince him otherwise. This one also features the voice talents of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bobby Moynahan, and Temuera Morrison. Other standouts from the series include the Astroboy-inspired TO-B1 (pronounced Tobi) about a cybernetic boy becoming a Jedi and The Elder about a battle-worn Jedi (David Harbour) and his padawan encountering a menacing presence (James Hong) while patrolling the outer rim.
But the best of the series comes from director Kenji Kamiyama, a veteran of the Ghost in the Shell universe who also worked as an animator on the classic Akira, with his tale The Ninth Jedi. This is Star Wars at its best and is a near-perfect story of the daughter of the last lightsaber-smith in the universe. Her task is delivering her father’s creations to a clandestine meeting with universal implications. It’s a rousing episode with fast-paced action and the best lightsaber battle of the series. There’s definite potential in this short to spell out an entire series of its own based on these characters. I personally would welcome this with open arms.
Star Wars: Visions works exceedingly well as an experiment and is one of the most exciting spinoffs from the main series because of its relative freedom of storytelling. All the animators take advantage of this. It makes the worlds explored in each short very unique. Thus, it allows them to breathe on their own despite Disney + packaging them as a series. This should attract more animators for a possible follow-up season. All of this hinges on the results of season 1. It allows animators and storytellers to explore their own wild swings of fantasy and lightsabers.
Star Wars: Visons was far from a slam dunk during the pitching process. There are many ways this could have failed. Instead, it becomes a veritable triumph for Disney and Lucasfilm mainly because they just let the filmmakers loose. They explore and play around with familiar Star Wars tropes and ideas as they please. Some episodes stand out more than others. But there isn’t a total misfire in the entire season, which bodes well for future editions. Now excuse me as I go fire up the Ninth Jedi again.
- Rated: PG
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Release Date: 9/22/2021
- Directed by: Abel Gongora, Eunyong Choi, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Hitoshi Haga, Kenji Kamiyama, Masahiko Otsuka, Takanobu Mizuno, Taku Kimura, Yuki Igarashi
- Starring: Alison Brie, Anna Cathcart, Bobby Moynihan, David Harbour, George Takei, Henry Golding, James Hong, Jamie Chung, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Karen Fukuhara, Kimiko Glenn, Kyle Chandler, Lucy Liu, Masi Oka, Neil Patrick Harris, sc, Simu Liu, Temuera Morrison
- Produced by: Hiroaki Sato, Hitoshi Itô, Kana Manabe, Kanako Shirasaki, Kohei Sakita, Masahiro Kannae, Will Feng
- Written by: George Lucas, Hiromi Wakabayashi, Kenji Kamiyama, Masahiko Ôtsuka, Mitsuyasu Sakai, Yasumi Atarashi, Yuichiro Kido
- Studio: Disney/Lucasfilm