I don’t love all of this, but enough of it is deliriously gleeful that I can’t help but be happy with the entire project.
Star Wars: Visions is a nine-episode anthology series set in the Star Wars Universe. A couple of years back Disney decided to reach out into animation that wasn’t solely under the thumb of Dave Filioni (a good dude that is slavishly loyal to the prequels era, trapping him in that forever). Deciding to bring other cultures into the universe, they decided on Studio Colorido, Geno Studio, Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G., and Science SARU – anime companies. Many American fans decried this decision, unhappy that these ideas were eking into their space opera while remaining completely unaware that Lucas ripped it all off of Akira Kurosawa. Each episode, ranging from fifteen minutes to almost half an hour, is a standalone piece of imagery and dialogue that remains arch, ridiculous, and something that Star Wars has desperately needed since the Original Trilogy was released.
A lot of it centers around the Jedi and Sith conflict, specifically the connection they have with both Kyber Crystals (the juice that makes their lightsabers special) and The Force. This is where some of the stories begin to have mixed results, as it’s the most overblown aspect of the franchise’s legacy while also remaining the one that would lend itself to best to the anime format. Star Wars is historically a ripoff of feudal-set Japanese films, taking the stories of samurai and the royal caste to tell stories of boots-to-the-ground individuals navigating those spheres; it creates a Japanese iconography with a lily-white cast in its mere existence. Bringing it to anime studios has allowed these historical, feudal stories to take root in their most primordial form. Lightsabers look like katana, old Sith masters look like sinister caricatures, and the the visuals wouldn’t feel out of the realm of possibility in series like Cowboy Bebop or Inuyasha.
Perhaps the most intelligent use of the format is “Tattooine Rhapsody,” directed by Taku Kimura to tell the story of a pop rock band on the run from Jabba the Hutt. Stories like these are an anomaly in the Star Wars universe, with almost everything centering on Jedi/smugglers/soldiers while the rest of the galaxy is left out. I truly loved watching them delve into this more niche area, appealing to kids and music enthusiasts with a taste for J-Pop anime themes. It’s an absolute blast in both Japanese and English dub, and it represents what these types of stories could be. We’ve had our Skywalker saga, our Clone Wars series (both during and after), and we’ve had offshoot movies connected to the main series. Somehow Kimura made a short that involved both Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt that felt more unique than any of the badass fighting sequences we’ve seen in decades (lightsaber umbrella notwithstanding).
I dug this, and I’m hoping that a couple of these lead to ongoing series or sequels. I’d urge you all to give this a shot and see what we get out of this charming little idea centered around “what if we just admitted that Star Wars is a mixture of Japanese and American pop culture and let them have a crack at it?”
It’s on Disney+, and you should go watch it!