Directors: Eunyoung Choi, Abel Gongora, Hitoshi Haga, Yuki Igarashi, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Kenji Kamiyama, Taku Kimura, Takanobu Mizuno, Masahiko Ôtsuka
Cast: Karen Fukuhara, Alison Brie, Kyle Chandler, Henry Golding, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Andrew Kishino, Jordan Fisher
Streaming on: DisneyPlus Hotstar
Star Wars: Visions is as refreshing as it is delightful. It envisions a beloved franchise as a universe that is not bound by the limitations of being exactly that — a franchise. The show neither stoops to fanservice nor adheres to Star Wars canon. What makes the show a must-watch is its ability to let casual viewers dive right in. If you know that jedi = good and sith = bad, you will be just fine. Visions is not so much concerned with being an integral part of the Star Wars universe, as it is with creating something new within that universe.
Much like the brilliant, but now forgotten, The Animatrix (2003), or Batman: Gotham Night (2008), the Star Wars: Visions anime anthology is its own confident creature that adds to the franchise’s lore. Streaming on DisneyPlus Hotstar Premium, the nine shorts are produced by different Japanese animation studios, including Geno Studio, Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G., and Science SARU. So each episode brings something new to the table in terms of story and style.
The anthology begins with The Duel. Animated by Kamikaze Douga, The Duel is a seemingly straightforward samurai story in which a small intergalactic village is saved by the actions of a Ronin. In a twist, the Ronin is not a Jedi, as you’d expect, but a Sith, calling into question the lines of morality defined by Star Wars canon. Another episode, Tatooine Rhapsody by Studio Colorido, is a fun departure from the formula. It features a hot new rock band that’s willing to take on Hutts and the Fetts to make sure the galaxy rocks on. I wouldn’t say that it’s the show’s finest episode, but it is its most inventive.
My personal favourites were Lop & Ocho by Geno Studio and Akakiri by Science SARU. Lop & Ocho is tale of a family caught in the tides of war and differing ideologies. Akakiri is a short and tragic tale of a man’s fall from grace. Both episodes pack in action, humour, empathy and tragedy in the right measure, elevating them above other merely competent episodes like T0-B1 and The Village Bride.
Star Wars: Visions is gorgeous to look at, with each studio capturing the scale and depth of the Star Wars universe on its own canvas. The English voice acting is competent and at 13 to 15 minutes each, the episodes are well paced. And unlike The Last Jedi, I doubt fans will find Star Wars: Visions divisive. I could see indifference, perhaps, but division? No. The force is strong in season one.