This week brings the Star Wars galaxy and anime together in nine short films from seven top anime studios. It’s an experiment that I hope to see a lot more of.
My love for Star Wars has been well-documented, but I’m also a big fan of anime (though I don’t talk about it nearly as much). The promise of Star Wars Visions bringing these things together is something I’ve been looking forward to since it was initially announced.
Star Wars: Visions
Voice Cast Details: Revealed Here
Kamikaze Douga – The Duel
Geno Studio (Twin Engine) – Lop and Ochō
Studio Colorido (Twin Engine) – Tatooine Rhapsody
Trigger – The Twins
Trigger – The Elder
Kinema Citrus – The Village Bride
Science Saru – Akakiri
Science Saru – T0-B1
Production IG – The Ninth Jedi
Release Date: All Episodes hit Disney+ on September 22, 2021
Blessedly, I had the chance to check all nine of the animated shorts (which range from 13-22 minutes a piece) and can tell you they definitely deliver. While I certainly liked some of them more than others, every single short was a blast in its own way and left me wanting more.
For the most part, I’m going to be talking about the series of shorts in broad strokes, without delving too deeply into any of them. I mean, they’re all short, so if I get too much into them, it’ll be almost impossible to avoid potential spoilers. So if you’re worried about potential spoilers, take heart and feel safe. Now, let’s get to it!
The Canon Conundrum
I’m going to talk about this first, mostly because this seems to be the thing people have been asking about most. No, these shorts don’t technically fit within the current Star Wars canon that’s been established, despite some of them being set around specific films (The Ninth Jedi and The Twins take place after The Rise of Skywalker, with The Elder being set before The Phantom Menace). Each of these are very much their own thing, sometimes adding in their own bits of “history/lore” within their individual worlds.
These aren’t even “What If” style stories, as they don’t feature any of the familiar characters we know and love, or even any of the planets. In general, it’s best to look at these shorts as a form of “alternate history.” Hell, sometimes they don’t even line up with each other (though a couple do have some fun references between them).
I know for some people this can be a tough thing to get around, especially considering how much this era has been defined by continuity/canon. I have some ideas on how to square that circle for fans, but won’t go into them here (check these out), but ultimately it doesn’t really matter.
Without fail, each and every one of these shorts feel distinctly “Star Wars.” Though most run in the 12-15 minute range, they instantly make you feel like you’re immersed in that galaxy far, far away. The themes at play, the tone/story structures, and the overall vibe of Visions captures the heart of what makes this franchise work. I think fans will enjoy these stories regardless of the canon “issue.”
Forging Their Own Path
As I mentioned, each Star Wars: Visions short tells a unique story, most of the time bringing their own background/lore into play. The result are nine tales delivering a different experience and sucking you in entirely. This is no mean feat, considering that so many of the stories seem to focus on similar ideas/themes. Whether it’s a central focus on combat/dueling, honor, or a very specific lens on Lightsabers, the ideas certainly crossover, but no two viewing experiences are the same.
Even the stories that are handled by the same animation studio feel wildly different from one another. The most notable differences are, obviously, the animation. Some utilize styles that harken back to earlier days of the anime genre (one even as far back as Astro Boy), others have a more modern touch, the “cutesy” style, and the hard-edged work that feels like it’s pulled straight out of a manga.
I love them all in different ways. I very much appreciated being able to see the unique styles for each of these shorts, and the skill that goes into them. Truly, each style feels specifically designed to set the tone and theme of the story being told. The child-like style of T0-B1 fits perfectly with the more lighthearted protagonist we follow, while the bombastic visual overload of The Twins matches the epic action continually on display.
In this way, the animation itself is as much a part of the stories being told as the dialog and action from the characters. It’s a key element in hooking you into the story (again, these are shorts) and they do it magnificently.
Personally, my favorite animation style was in The Village Bride, but they’re all gorgeous in their own ways. I found myself pausing the shorts multiple times while watching them, simply so I could take in the imagery on display. Even when the styles feel simplistic, there’s a lot of depth and detail going on that’s endearing on its own. Even if you’re not big into Star Wars and just a general fan of anime/animation, I think you’ll find a lot to love out of Visions.
Not Quite Standalone
Though each short in Star Wars: Visions works independently from one another, not all of them feel “complete” either. About the only complaint I have in these shorts, is that a few of them feel like they’re merely “Pilot Episodes.” They seem to do more to set the stage for a bigger story to be told, rather than telling a self-contained story.
It feels like a weird thing to gripe about. Essentially my complaint boils down to me wanting more of these stories. Since we don’t know if we’ll get another season of Visions—or if another set of shorts would have any kind of connection to these—it’s a bummer to think we might not ever get a resolution to some of the stories being set up.
Again, it’s a minor gripe and doesn’t really take away from my overall enjoyment of those specific shorts. That said, it seems no coincidence that the shorts which were my favorites, are those that are more self-contained.
In short, I was absolutely blown away by Star Wars: Visions. My hype for the show was already pretty high, but somehow, it managed to blow away even those lofty expectations. Each short is gorgeous and I’m already looking forward to watching them again and again.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, but on the fence about it, definitely give them a shot. If you’re an anime fan who’s not into Star Wars particularly, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here as well. Either way, set aside some time to check these out on Disney Plus.