The anime anthology series ‘Star Wars: Visions’ premiered earlier this week to generally favorable reviews (you can read ours here). With seven studios developing nine shorts between them, audiences were due for lots of variety in what concerns to tone, animation style, and overall feel for each of the episodes. Even the two repeating studios (Studio Trigger and Science SARU) managed to deliver immensely different projects, making this first batch of Visions (hopefully) feel fresh with every page turn.
With each short being its own thing some clearly stand out, and even though ranking art of any sort sometimes feels a bit wrong, here is a ranking of our most enjoyable episodes:
8 – 9
With Star Wars being all about family, both the one you are born into and the one you find along the way, both The Village Bride and Lop & Ochō offer us different perspectives on such matters. Ultimately doing right by what you believe in, and not complacently accepting the ground rules you are presented with. Even if that means fighting your family or meddling in issues not your own. What both these episodes seem to lack is a sense of wonder, which makes you want to know more about the characters and locations we are shown.
The mystery ambiance is quick to grab the attention of the viewer, as we are left to wonder what sort of evil might be around the corner for the Jedi protagonists. The action set pieces aren’t all that inspired and thematically we left with the exploration of what the Prequels expanded upon, the smugness and lack of vision the Jedi demonstrated, something that allowed for a long-lost evil to resurface. It’s a pretty straightforward episode, one that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, past its ending.
Feeling like a snapshot taken from a crazy Dragon Ball Z episode, The Twins gives us God-like force powers in Karre and Am (the Twins), where one can split an entire Star Destroyer using just a lightsaber. The entire episode is focused on their battle and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Sadly, a lot of the emotional heft gets lost in the crazy spectacle which makes this episode feel a bit less special than the rest.
What’s not to like about a Jedi that decides to go into hiding only to try and turn himself into the biggest rockstar the galaxy has ever seen? Keeping in mind the tradition that all anime series should come with a kickass opening track, we are presented to a musical act hardly ever seen in the Star Wars universe. With special appearances by both Jabba The Hut and Boba Fett, we realize that music can ultimately save the galaxy. It may not be the best episode of the season but inarguably is the best representation of what Visions could be, unique perspectives and all.
One of the darker Star Wars: Visions shorts, Akakiri takes inspiration from Kurosawa‘s The Hidden Fortress, something Lucas also did in the late 70s when developing the first chapter of the Skywalker Saga. The ominous (but brilliant) soundtrack and animation style help to present the viewer an epic tragedy that echoes Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace, with a likewise heartbreaking end.
In terms of visuals alone, this was the most intense episode, with its charcoal drawing look, that managed to bring to life the franchise’s Kurosawa DNA in an extraordinary way. This combined with the hints of brights lights and the dynamics of lightsaber fighting made for what is surely the poster child of the entire project. The story behind the main character only referred to as Ronin, can be further explored this October in its own novel written by Emma Mieko Candon.
Star Wars isn’t just the cool lightsaber fights, the technology, and aliens. While most of this is present in T0-B1, the feeling of pure happiness, the sense of wonder, hopefulness, and discovery, all distinctive Star Wars features, is what makes this particular episode stand out. Astro Boy and Le Petit Prince are both very much present in the exploration of the Star Wars universe we are taken on, personified in the title character.
Turning lightsabers into mood rings has never seemed like a better idea. Sure, it’s not exactly how we’ve learned lightsabers to work but the way it allows for a wonderful narrative to develop is not something to sneeze at. One of the biggest tells this was my favorite episode is that it’s, of all 9 of them, the one I wished could be continued in some shape or form.