Star Wars has already expanded into Japanese pop culture productions with manga adaptations of their existing books and new original stories like the most recent High Republic title, The Edge of Balance. And while Star Wars: Visions is the first time the franchise has been helmed by Japanese animation studios, it isn’t the first time that Japanese storytelling has shaped what the galaxy far, far away looks like. The samurai epics by the iconic Akira Kurosawa have been the foundation of Star Wars since the original trilogy and have taken a new focus in The Mandalorian. So in a way, seven Japanese anime studios crafting nine stories in this anthology is like watching Star Wars come home and finally honoring a cultural heritage that has made the franchise what we know today.
Star Wars: Visions is a collection of animated short films from Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio (Twin Engine), Studio Colorido (Twin Engine), TRIGGER, Kinema Citrus, Science Saru, and Production I.G. The strength of the anthology format is that each and every studio brings their signature styles to Star Wars. Additionally, the episodes aren’t beholden to any one timeline. Some take place before Order 66, some after, and others feel timeless. But what they all do is bring forth a magic and wonder that I honestly haven’t felt in Star Wars in a long time.
This series also marks the franchise’s first formal venture into anime, and each short in Star Wars: Visions is allowed to put Japanese storytelling first. Whether it’s through samurai Sith or character designs with clothing that match Japanese villages, each short in Star Wars: Visions beautifully highlights how Star Wars doesn’t belong to just one culture or country of storytellers. Instead, Star Wars: Visions is a beautiful representation of how Star Wars is for everyone, and ultimately the long impact Japanese storytelling has had on the franchise.
Star Wars: Visions offers up stories that align perfectly with the tone and spirit of existing Star Wars stories. Because of this, the series is highly accessible for those who may not have ventured into anime before. While some existing anime elements will be excitingly new for those who haven’t watched that animation, there are also beautiful explorations of Jedi that will excite anime fans who aren’t Star Wars fans as well. Star Wars: Visions offers a bridge that can be crossed by any fan; it effortlessly tells stories that require no prior knowledge.
Additionally, as what may be the first time people sit down to watch anime, these seven studios have brought their A-game while also showcasing the diversity in anime itself. With anime breaking new ground throughout the pandemic, especially where the Demon Slayer movie is concerned, Star Wars: Visions will be a new gateway. And that in and of itself is astounding.
Each episode, while also bringing each anime studio’s unique style, also borrows elements from the franchise. From screen wipes (which were inspired by Kurosawa films and became a signature of Star Wars) to rousing orchestral scores and lines like “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” or “I am one with the Force and the Force with me,” the Star Wars mythos isn’t only replicated in Star Wars Visions but expanded and made new. Even concepts like a Force dyad is revitalized. There is no doubt that each and every director, writer, animator, and more who worked on this series have a deep love of the galaxy far, far, away.
While Star Wars: Visions is filled with stories of Jedi, what makes this series even more special are the stories that focus on the Sith just as much. Some stories hold grief, and others that hold wonder, and others still showcase rising up against oppression or a look at family and finding your place in the galaxy. There is adventure, and there is love, and there is a fantastical beauty that courses through this series.
With each episode ranging from 13 to 22 minutes, the length of each makes it easy to binge the series on day one. Additionally, the availability to watch the series in Japanese with English subtitles or the English dub gives fans the ability to experience the series differently, with each episode well worth watching once in each language.
Overall, Star Wars: Visions is filled with stunning stories, beautiful animation, and new characters that you’re sure to fall in love with. Additionally, the inclusion of some old characters will make you get off your couch in excitement. Without a weak episode in the bunch, Star Wars: Visions is a breathtaking addition to the Star Wars universe that everyone should watch immediately.
Star Wars: Visions premieres on September 22nd exclusively on Disney+.
Star Wars: Visions
Star Wars: Visions is filled with stunning stories, beautiful animation, and new characters that you’re sure to fall in love with. Additionally, there are some old characters that will make you get off your couch in excitement. Without a weak episode in the bunch, Star Wars: Visions is a breathtaking addition to the Star Wars universe that everyone should watch immediately.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.