Review | Star Wars: Visions

For the first time in Star Wars history, the medium of anime is used to tell the epic stories of space battles and good versus evil in the new series.


Parker Jones, Arts Reporter

Over 40 years after the first film opened in theaters, the Star Wars franchise has entered the world of anime.

On Sept. 22, Star Wars: Visions premiered on Disney+, and with it, a new addition to the massive repertoire of genres and mediums within the world of Star Wars.

The nine-part anthology of short films is not only the first anime in Star Wars history, but also the first to air on Disney’s streaming service. With oversight from Lucasfilm Animation, the series was produced by seven Japanese animation studios: Kamikaze Douga, Studio Colorido, Geno Studio, Studio Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G, and Science SARU, which each crafted original stories based on the Star Wars universe.

It was refreshing to see all the different stories told in so many different styles, with every studio that participated putting their own spin on the character design and animation. Some episodes like “The Duel” even incorporated 3D graphics in addition to the 2D animation style, which provided an even more immersive experience.

Every episode had a unique quality that fit into the larger Star Wars franchise, but also explored never-before-seen nuances of the Star Wars universe. Jacqui Lopez, the vice president of franchise production at Lucasfilm and executive producer of Visions said that anime was the perfect medium to explore these new stories.

“We’re all big anime fans at Lucasfilm animation — it’s something that all of us watch and talk about,” Lopez said.

With the connection that the team at Lucasfilm animation has to anime and Japanese cinema, Lopez said that Star Wars easily translated to the medium, and that some inspiration even came from anime-style fan art of existing Star Wars products.

Additionally, Kanako Shirasaki, Visions producer, is also the head of production at Qubic Pictures — a New York and Tokyo-based company that specializes in making anime for global streaming platforms. She noted that many of the production teams on the Japanese end had an equal love for Star Wars, and that bringing them together was a natural, exciting project.

RELATED: ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ steals the hearts of Marvel fans

“The feeling is really mutual,” Shirasaki said. “We did our best to have a really good channel between everyone, so that we have a great animation at the very end. And I think our hard work paid off.”

Though it is very difficult to choose, my personal favorite episode within the series, and one that I feel had particularly powerful visuals and a fantastic plotline, is “The Twins.” Produced by Studio Trigger, which has also made animes like Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia, the episode told a story of two twins born to the dark side of the Force, and the battle of morals that ensues when one of them tries to leave the Empire.

“The Twins” really mirrored the story of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, but also had so many other themes that were not even touched on in the main cinematic franchise. This was something I saw applied to several episodes — many had more emotional and moral depth than even some of the largest titles in Star Wars.

Lopez noted that although the episodes are not canonical — taking place in the same universe as the main Star Wars films and series — Visions will have a lasting impact on future Lucasfilm animation production. He also said they are congruent with the themes of their existing animated series, like Clone Wars and The Bad Batch.

Even so, the stories told in Star Wars: Visions will remain as real to me as the story of the Skywalkers. I would absolutely watch a full-length animated series for each and every one of the stories told in the short films of Star Wars: Visions, although a second season or other future anime projects have yet to be announced.

Lopez and Shirasaki said that ultimately, the series appeals to fans of Star Wars and the fans of anime in exciting new ways, and that the production team has enjoyed hearing the responses from everyone who has seen the series.

“That’s what was so great about this project, everything was so surprising and fun,” Lopez said. “We’ve been so happy about the response from the public, and both Star Wars fans and anime fans.”