Episodes viewed: 9 of 9
Streaming on: Disney+
For the last decade, the majority of Star Wars’ best storytelling has resided in animation. As masterminded by Dave Filoni, shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels have reinvigorated our love for OG characters and introduced us to some new fan-favourites like Ahsoka Tano (who recently made the jump to live-action in The Mandalorian). With Star Wars: Visions, the galaxy far, far away gets a fresh visual palette in an anime anthology series. Telling its short stories through the lens of some of Japan’s best creators, it’s all the better for being free from the constraints of canon.
Much of what you’d expect to see in any Star Wars story is present and accounted for throughout the series. Star Destroyers? Check. Stormtroopers? Check. Lightsabers? CHECK (more on this later). There’s even a recurring gag that has one character from each episode say the familiar one-liner, “I have a bad feeling about this.” But each of the nine chapters – which run from anywhere between 13 and 22 minutes – vary in tone and theme. Multiple stories have characters finding greatness within to become the best versions of themselves. Others flip the script on familiar narratives in dark and surprising ways. All of them feel like they nail the essence of what makes a good Star Wars story.
The lightsaber combat is especially noteworthy, and never less than fun and creative.
The best of these episodes – most notably ‘T0-B1’, ‘The Duel’, ‘The Ninth Jedi’, and ‘Akakiri’ – strike the right balance between exposition and visual storytelling, but it’s the visuals that really make Visions stand out. Seven different animation studios – from behemoths like Trigger to relative newcomers like Science Saru – crafted the instalments, and their distinct voices are felt in each one. The impressive series-opener ‘The Duel’ embraces an Akira Kurosawa style to striking effect. Later, Trigger’s ‘The Twins’ pays homage to their own popular Japanese anime ‘Promare’ with exaggerated but no less gorgeous imagery.
The lightsaber combat is especially noteworthy, and never less than fun and creative. In this regard, ‘The Twins’ is once again a standout; what it lacks in compelling dialogue, it makes up in epic battles that showcase the formidable weapon in ways that live action fare will never be able to. Meanwhile, ‘The Ninth Jedi’ envisions that a lightsaber’s colour will immediately change depending on who holds it, a clever idea that pays off in more ways than one.
It helps that the voice cast across the board is stacked. Asian stars like Simu Liu, George Takei, Karen Fukuhara, Lucy Liu, and the legendary James Hong mix it up with the likes of Alison Brie, David Harbour, Kyle Chandler, and more. The quality of the vocals sometimes ebbs, but even if one aspect of any given episode doesn’t quite work, there’s always something else to admire within it, and a better chapter is never far away. So whether you’re a Star Wars veteran or a newbie, there’s plenty to enjoy in the fun, breezy entertainment Visions packs into nine short episodes.