Any way you look at it, Star Wars has had a bumpy ride in the hands of Disney and Kathleen Kennedy’s leadership of Lucasfilm. There are plenty of people who liked the sequel trilogy, but it’s hard to argue against the fact that it was extremely divisive among the fan base. The next film won’t be released until December 2023, but with Patty Jenkins at the helm after the abysmal Wonder Woman 1984, it’s hard to get excited about Rogue Squadron.
Through all of this, the one shining ray of hope for many Star Wars fans has been Disney Plus. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have crafted animated and live-action shows that have been much better received by fans compared to any of the sequel trilogy films. Now, we get another animated series, but without Favreau or Filoni at the helm, the results are a bit of a mixed bag.
Star Wars: Visions is a collection of nine standalone short films, created by six well-known anime studios. The episodes range from 13 minutes to 22 minutes in length (including credits), with little to no connection to any previous Star Wars property, and only very loose ties to existing canon. The original idea was to offer a new, diverse perspective on Star Wars, and the series does accomplish that. Unfortunately, with seemingly little overall direction, the message may be lost for some.
The six anime studios involved include Trigger, Production I.G., Science SARU, Twin Engine, Kinema Citrus, and Kamikaze Douga. Between them they have produced a countless number of exceptional anime films and TV series, including Ghost in the Shell, Kill la Kill, Devilman Crybaby, Made in Abyss, and more. Most handled one episode each, with Twin Engine, Trigger, and Science SARU handling two episodes each.
All nine episodes will be available at the same time (similar to a Netflix release), with an English and Japanese voiceover cast for each. Disney did not skimp on the budgets, with everyone from Lucy Liu and Simu Liu, to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Neil Patrick Harris. This is some of the best English voice acting you’ll find on Disney Plus. The Japanese side isn’t as star-studded, but anime fans may still recognize some of the voices. As someone who rarely enjoys watching dubbed anime, I didn’t have any issues watching Visions in English.
While none of the episodes are connected to each other, or any existing Star Wars properties, they’re also meant for a wide variety of audiences. You have episodes like The Duel (episode one) and Akakiri (episode nine), that seems heavily inspired by Akira Kurosawa films. These seem to be aimed at a more adult audience, although younger people will surely enjoy them as well. Then you have episodes such as Tatooine Rhapsody (episode two) and TO-B1 (episode six) that are clearly meant for much younger viewers.
These stark contrasts in target audiences will make it difficult for some people to enjoy the series as a whole. None of the episodes are “bad,” but while Paw Patrol and Bob’s Burgers can both be enjoyed by children, adults would likely be much more entertained by Bob’s Burgers. That contrast is similar to how the episodes in Star Wars: Visions play out, with the target audience widely varying as you go through the series.
Given the short runtime of many Visions episodes, there isn’t a lot of time to develop characters or plots. Most of the episodes handle this well, with concise, yet impactful scripts that bring out each character’s motivations and allow for easily understood, yet often complex plots. For the most part, Star Wars fans should be able to pinpoint the approximate timeline for each of the episodes, even though they don’t directly connect to any other show or film. Some take place before The Phantom Menace, while others come after Rise of Skywalker.
Many of the episodes have small nods to big moments in Star Wars history. Sometimes it’s more direct, such as many characters having, “a bad feeling about this,” while other times it’s more subtle, such as nods to Luke and Leia’s relationship or The Mandalorian. There are a few liberties taken with lightsabers and the like, but these are mainly stylistic choices and shouldn’t be an issue for most Star Wars fans.
Star Wars: Visions is a fun distraction while fans wait for The Book of Boba Fett, season three of The Mandalorian, and the other Disney Plus shows in the pipeline. The stark contrasts in target audience will throw some people off, but overall each episode is well-crafted and enjoyable. Even with runtimes as short as 13 minutes, you still feel as though you’re watching a full episode. It would be fun to see some of these themes turned into full-length projects, but that seems unlikely at the moment.
About Star Wars: Visions
Synopsis: Star Wars: Visions is a collection of animated short films presented “through the lens of the world’s best anime creators” that offers a new, diverse perspective on Star Wars.
Animation Studios: Trigger, Production I.G., Science SARU, Twin Engine, Kinema Citrus, and Kamikaze Douga
Producer: Kanako Shirasaki
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.