Starting from a single film that wasn’t expected by 20th Century Fox to become a blockbuster, Star Wars has become a juggernaut of a franchise. After Disney bought out Lucasfilm, the juggernaut is only getting more powerful. With an ongoing pandemic, streaming has become a strong contender for the entertainment dollar, providing works both old and new to audiences when the audience wants to watch. With the sheer volume of films and animated series, Star Wars is already providing a good number of viewing hours on Disney+. Add in new series like The Mandalorian and the streaming service can generate demand.
One of the new series is Star Wars: Visions. First release September 2021, the series is a non-canonical series of independent stories, each created by a different anime studio. The studios were allowed to create a story in their own vision of the setting. The seven studios produced nine episodes, with two studios providing two eps each. The studios involved are Kamikaze Douga, Studio Colorido, Studio Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G, , Science SARU, and Geno Studio. There aren’t any clunkers in the series, but there are some stand-outs.
“The Duel”, by Kamikaze Douga, opened the series. The episode is, essentially, Star Wars as done by Akira Kurosawa. Yes, Kurosawa was one of George Lucas’ influences, but “The Duel” takes the elements of *Star *Wars* and combines it with Japan’s Sengoku era, using black and white animation with colour for emphasis. The concept is simple, a ronin warrior protects a village from bandits led by a Sith. The execution is anything but simple, and sets a high bar for the rest of the series.
The next episode, “Tatooine Rhapsody” by Studio Colorido, almost pales in comparison. However, the episode is more personal, and focuses on the magic of friendship and the power of music. Not every story in Star Wars needs the clashing of lightsabers. Music has played a role in the movies, whether as background or as part of a scene. “Tatooine Rhapsody” just adds more music to the setting.
Science SARU’s first episode, “T0-B1″, takes influence from *Astro Boy” and features a young robot boy who wants to become a Jedi Knight and what happens to him and his family when an Inquisitor arrives on the deserted planet T0-B1 calls home. The story shows the difference between wanting to become a Jedi and what it means to be one, with T0-B1 going through growth to discover the difference.
The series takes the elements of the setting as shown through the movies and prior series. Visions leans heavily on the Jedi, but the Jedi fill a role that samurai and ronin do in Japanese cinema. Having episodes featuring wandering Jedi, like “The Village Bride” and “The Elder” fit naturally into the setting. The episodes do play it loose on how a character becomes a Jedi, but the series is meant to allow anime studios to play in the Star Wars sandbox, with adherence to canon a secondary concern, if at all.
That said, the stories do provide new insight into the setting. Many of the episodes can be easily slipped into the canon without notice. Some episodes point out the dangers of the Dark Side, while others show how the Light Side of the Force works conceptually. None of the episodes could be moved to a new setting without massive rewrites; each one takes advantage of the setting to tell its story. Several, like “Tatooine Rhapsody”, “The Ninth Jedi”, “The Village Bride”, and “T0-B1”, could be easily expanded into a series of its own.
Overall, each episode explores Star Wars, playing with concepts and adapting them to both anime and to Japanese culture and history. The series is well worth a watch and provides a new perspective.