Star Wars has a long history with Japan. Samurai were a huge inspiration for George Lucas as well as the films of Akira Kurosawa. While I haven’t been in anime circles recently, I grew up with the medium. Star Wars and anime felt like they should be a match made in heaven. Fan videos and comics crafted in an anime style always clicked perfectly in my mind. It felt like a major gaping hole that a galaxy far, far away didn’t have an anime series. So when Star Wars Visions was announced, it felt like a long time coming.
Visions’ nine shorts was unlike anything else in the entire franchise. Not having to play in the rules of canon, the creators could do anything they wanted within the galaxy and could take on their own view of the franchise.
Now, one year later, Visions is still one of the more creative ventures in the Disney era.
Each one is so drastically different from the others. It’s like a sampler platter for people who were new to the medium and a love letter to long-time fans of anime. There was a short for everyone as they introduced new stories and characters. So many struck a positive chord with fans that they’ve been clamoring for sequels or full series spin-offs. Frankly, any of them could be expanded upon. Some have as “The Duel” got a full novel being Ronin by Emma Mieko Candon.
While all very different, many of the themes of Star Wars are there. The Jedi and what they represent to the galaxy were prominent throughout. Jay in “Tatooine Rhapsody” (my personal favorite and I argue it is very underrated) found an alternate way to save his friend. He walked the Jedi path of non-violence to find a creative solution. Karre faces his own sister, not to beat what he hates but to save what he loves. Lop does the same, accepting the heavy burden to protect her world and try to save her adopted sister’s soul. F faces her own past trauma to rise above to save a village in need. TO-B1, Tajin, Dan, Ronin, Kara, and Tsubaki all have that piece of the Light Side inside of them.
Even a darker story like “Akakiri” is still very Star Wars. Tsubaki might have fallen to the Dark Side. But the difference from, say, Anakin and Padme’s relationship is that Misa is alive. As long as she’s still there, her love for Tsubaki is there too. There is still hope for Tsubaki to be saved.
Visions has familiar Star Wars storytelling as well. Found family has always been a big focus in Star Wars. Visions is no different by giving us so many different kinds of this story. TO-B1 rallies around his fellow droids to avenge his fallen father figure and stop the evil Inquisitor. Kara comes together with other rogue Jedi to start her journey to find her dad. Star Waver travels around as a group and protects each other when Boba Fett shows up. The entire point of “Lop and Ochō” is about how family is more than just blood relations. This is just one example of how Visions is so Star Wars in many ways.
It is also unapologetically anime. It has many of the classic storytelling methods of the medium. It celebrates callbacks to its history with “TO-B1” being a nod to Astro Boy. The over-the-top action of “The Twins” works just as well as the methodical pacing of “The Duel.” Visions is a stunning showcase of the entire medium and show what Star Wars can do under different creators.
It’s part of the reason I’m so excited for season two of Visions. We know it’s not just going to be anime this time around. StarWars.com has confirmed that these upcoming shorts are going to be from “creative teams in Japan, India, UK, Ireland, Spain, Chile, France, South Africa, and California.” What an exciting prospect to see so many different kinds of studios and styles from all over the world! I can’t even begin to imagine what a South African Star Wars will look like, and I’m dying to know. I can’t wait for Spring 2023.
Visions is one of my personal favorite pieces of Star Wars. It was everything I waited for in this franchise as a fan of anime. I can only hope this is just the beginning of many more projects like it to come.
Happy one-year anniversary, Star Wars: Visions. Raise a lightsaber for season two.
Star Wars: Visions season two is coming exclusively to Disney+ in Spring 2023.