Jake: A lot of people love Star Wars, and a lot of people love anime. So, Disney had a thought: why don’t we just put them together like peanut butter and jelly or whatever the opposite of toothpaste and orange juice would be and made Visions!
Dan: Star Wars is an IP that has so much potential with how it’s set up. There are so many types of stories that can be told in the galaxy. The strength of Visions is that it isn’t weighed down by “canon” and all that junk. Disney basically handed the IP to a bunch of big anime studios and told them to go wild. In my opinion, it was the best choice they could have made because Visions absolutely slaps. Making this an anthology series with different stories and teams on each makes it something truly special.
Exploring the Galaxy Far Far Away with a Renewed Hope
Dan: It’s taken you about 20 something years to get me to finally find an anime I enjoy. I just had a stubborn youth and I now know what works and doesn’t work for me in Anime. There is so much here that 3/4th of these episodes could be their own mini-series. I want to start by focusing on the abandoning of “canon” to tell extremely cool and fresh stories. Even though I think “The Duel” was my least favorite of the batch, it had one of the coolest uses of lightsaber tech. A lightsaber umbrella was just such a cool visual and use of the Star Wars stuff we know to do something radical. Every episode feels like a fresh take on the Star Wars universe and approaches it from different angles. There are episodes about Jedi, droids, and all the other odds and ends of the Star Wars universe.
Each episode has a score that stands out as feeling familiar in the vein of John Williams but never strays into feeling like carbon copies. Each has its own style that lends to the style of the episode. Nobuko Toda and Kazuma Jinnouchi’s score for “The Ninth Jedi” stands out for me personally as does the episode.
Jake: Anime is good and more people should have an open mind, and I think this series is a great sampling of what anime has to offer people.
This series is so fresh with ideas of what Star Wars is and what it can be. Some of these are great interpretations and others are great additions to the mythos.
The Animation Domination
Dan: Jake, you know more about these studios than I do, how did these episodes hold up to other anime’s these studios have done?
Jake: Well, that’s a bit hard to say because some of these studios are legends in the industry. Also, it’s important to note which directors were involved in each studio’s piece.
Production I.G that did “The Ninth Jedi” is responsible for animating the cyberpunk classic, the original Ghost in the Shell, and Psycho-Pass. I think for a short one-episode story they really brought their A-game!
Then there’s Studio Trigger, founded by Gurren Lagann director Imaishi Hiroyuki, that did two episodes, “The Twins” and “The Elder,” both being very different pieces. Imaishi did the “The Twins” and it has big Gurren Lagann drill energy with the color choices of Trigger’s film Promare. I thought that was all big energy, big action, and lots of heart. “The Elder” was very different in pacing and style. It’s director, Otsuka Masahiko, doesn’t seem to have much directing under his belt but he did a great job.
Science Saru, known mainly for its Netflix releases of Devilman Crybaby and Japan Sinks 2020, bringing us “Akakiri” and “T0-B1.” ”T0-B1” reminded me of Astroboy and Megaman added into the galaxy far far away, and spiritually it lives up to their Devilman remake. “Akakiri” also lives up to it more thematically.
The other studios all did great work as well, I don’t think any of them didn’t deliver their best work. Kamikaze Douga, did “The Dual” and it very much is in line with their work on Batman Ninja. Gave us the brilliant style of “Tatooine Rhapsody” which seems way different than their other works that I’m familiar with like A Whisker Away. Kinema Citrus did great work bringing with “The Village Bride” bringing their own style out compared to their catalog of adaptions. Geno Studio’s “Lop and Ocho” makes me excited for what appears to be a pretty young studio with only a handful of work under their banner.
Dan: So before I get into the best episode, I need to talk about “Tatooine Rhapsody” because it feels like someone working on this series was doing this for me. Essentially the plot is a rock band in the Star Wars universe and Jabba the Hutt is in it. I love Jabba the Hutt and somehow this series made Bib Fortuna very cute instead of looking like something that crawled out of George Lucas’s nightmares. When I saw this episode, all I could think was that we need 20 more seasons of Visions because this is the absolute best use of Star Wars.
Now I am going to say something that may turn some heads, I think “The Ninth Jedi” is my favorite Star Wars thing since Rogue One. The concept is brilliant, the storytelling and character are brilliant, and it could easily spin off into its own series with the wonderful concept that was set up in a short 20-minute window. It uses the tropes of Star Wars that we all know and rely on when watching, reading, or consuming Star Wars concepts and flips them in interesting ways.
Overall, I think Star Wars: Visions may have knocked Mandolorian out of my post-Rogue One favorite spot. It doesn’t rely on nostalgia like Mandolorian does in some ways. It takes things we know like the ideas, objects, and themes but never reuses them in a way that could be lazy to get some quick cheers. It stands alone as its own unique version of the Star Wars universe. If you were on the fence, jump off and ignite your lightsaber because you’re going to need it with all the wild ideas this throws at you.
Jake: I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments about “The Ninth Jedi.” I really enjoyed the way it portrays lightsabers and their colors being loose and more of a reflection of their owner and their connection to the force. Also the colorless lightsaber was such a cool concept! Like it wasn’t just a which light it was just semi-visible energy.
Visions is something I want more of and there are some of these episodes that I would love to see developed further into even just one or two more episodes. A few of them really left their ending open to further adventure and I want to see those adventures!