The Star Wars universe takes its most adventurous leap into the world of anime with Star Wars: Visions, an anthology series created by some of the world’s greatest Japanese anime studios. Each studio brings their own unique perspective, with original stories and animation styles like nothing the franchise has ever seen.
Star Wars: Visions is a prime example of a major franchise anthology series that really capitalises on the art form and the infinite possibilities of its universe. Each episode tells a complete narrative that has a beginning, a middle and (most importantly) an end. Yes, I’m looking at you What If…?. Even though I wasn’t really a fan of some of the episodes, each one feels like a complete journey that you can close the book on once it’s over. Being an anthology series, especially one with so many different studios involved, the quality between episodes is guaranteed to vary greatly.
You have episodes such as Tatooine Rhapsody, T0-B1 and Lop & Ochō, which didn’t really resonate with me, then you have ones such as The Duel, The Village Bride and The Ninth Jedi which are truly incredible, brilliantly-told Star Wars stories. Tatooine Rhapsody and T0-B1 specifically weren’t poorly written stories, they just lack a deeper substance. They each have their brief moments where the content shines, but overall there wasn’t anything different or engaging enough to make it a really fun watch. Then in terms of Lop & Ochō, it just felt like a riff on the political elements of Star Wars, which I find pretty boring most of the time.
On the other end of the scale, those three quality shorts I mentioned, plus perhaps The Elder, make the conception of this entire series well worth it. The blending of Star Wars and this feudal Japan aesthetic in The Duel is a mesmerising way to begin the series. The animation style is gritty, the story is fast-paced and adventurous, and there’s some awesome samurai-inspired sequences that I’d love to see more of. The Village Bride cements its place in the top 2 with a fantastic emotion-driven story, great characters and an amazing score to go along with it. It’s neat how attached to the characters you can become in such a short amount of time.
However, the episode that is on everyone’s minds is The Ninth Jedi. Hitting smack bang in the middle of the season, it’s undoubtedly the main event. It’s the short that has the most interesting concept, the deepest roots in Star Wars lore, and an overall story so thrilling that everyone wants a feature-length or series long version. Everything from the mysterious characters to the inventive way lightsabers are used exhibits the greatness that can be achieved when you give people free use of the Star Wars universe.
In terms of the voice performances, there’s way too many to mention individually so I’ll just say that, as a whole, I though the performances were great. I watched the series entirely in Japanese – so while I missed out on recognising the star-power behind the English-voiced characters, listening to the original voices enhanced my investment in each narrative.
In the end, I believe Star Wars: Visions successfully achieved what it set out to do. Each of the studios explored different corners of the universe, blending the themes of Star Wars with unique anime stories quite beautifully. As with any anthology series, some episodes will be received better than others, but here the positives vastly outweigh the negatives. Despite the stories not being canon, they open up the universe to a breadth of storytelling possibilities we’ve never even thought possible. Star Wars and anime fans rejoice, because this is a must-see experience for members of either clan.