The biggest names in anime has heeded the call of The House of Mouse and have come together to create an anthology of short anime Star Wars films and, as it is an anthology, I am going to take a look at each one of the installments one at a time.
In “The Duel,” a traveling warrior known only as Ronin witnesses some stormtroopers raid a peaceful village and, against his better judgement, is drawn into the conflict.
I loved this installment because it, to me, appeared inspired by the style of The Seven Samurai which, in turn, was an inspiration for the original Star Wars, so this presentation brings Star Wars purposefully full circle.
“The Duel” could practically take place in Space Japan with the clothing styles and customs — even the R2 unit wears a straw hat. This installment is culturally rich with an appropriate aesthetic to tell a tale inspired by the movie that inspired the movie that inspired the short. More than that, it has a pretty neat reveal that shows that the world of Star Wars doesn’t have to be as black and as white as the animation that presents it.
Definitely one of the highlights.
The shorts in Star Wars Visions usually fall on the goofy side or the serious side and “Tatooine Rhapsody” is firmly on the goofy side.
It tells the tale of a young Padawan named Jay who is taken in by a rock band shortly after the Jedi Purge. Years later, one of the band members, a Hutt named Gee, is captured by Boba Fett and taken to Jabba to be tried and executed and it’s up Jay and the band to save their friend… with the power of music!
Yes, really. It’s a story about a rock and roll Jedi.
You know what else? It’s honestly not that bad. Goofy, yes… but no more or less goofy than anything we’ve seen in Star Wars before. The animation is bright and colorful, Temuera Morrison returns as Boba Fett, and I loved the way that the story parallels the fight for Gee’s freedom with Jay giving himself freedom to use the Force in a way that unleashes him from the strict Jedi order he was raised in. In this story, the Jedi aren’t the heroes, it’s a kid finding himself and using the talents that the universe gave him in a way he wants to.
Two dark side twins, on the verge of test firing a planet destroying superweapon which the Empire seems awfully crazy about, come into conflict when one has a vision of the other one’s death and goes to extreme means to prevent it.
While this story is supposed to be a serious one, it comes off more goofy than anything else thanks to some awful writing and voice acting. I will say that the animation was spectacular and delivered some jaw-dropping action, but any time a character had anything to say, the stilted dialogue and delivery killed it.
I do like that Visions is taking the time to tell Sith stories and not just Jedi stories, and I am quite enjoying how it’s graying up the lines between light and darkness. The dark characters can be honorable and caring about others and don’t have to be straight up evil all the time. It gives them a welcome dimension that the movies and TV shows rarely give them.
The Village Bride
On a planet attuned to nature, years after the Jedi Purge, a female Jedi named F must decide to intervene when bandits threaten a young bride.
I’ll be honest, there were some Visions installments that could not hold my attention and this was one of them. I really don’t even think that it was “The Village Bride’s” fault, but more that we had already seen a Visions episode that told a similar story, but told it better in almost every regard.
For this reason, I found the episode lackluster, but probably less so had it not been upstaged by “The Duel.” Overall, however, it is not a bad episode, but it could have been improved with simple communication and coordination between the studios.
The Ninth Jedi
Without a doubt, this is my favorite installment of Star Wars Visions.
Years after the Jedi are wiped out and the secrets of the lightsabers are lost, a sabermaster has created the first lightsabers in generations and invited six masterless Jedi to receive them.
It amazes me that “The Ninth Jedi” managed to shove so much mythology into such a short time span without making it seem overstuffed, instead, this installment hits a perfect balance of backstory and story that was expansive and exciting. If this short was made into a series, as it seemed to be more of a pilot episode than a short, I would gladly watch every episode.
Without a doubt, this was my least favorite episode.
T0-B1 tells the story of an inventor and his droid, T0-B1, a childlike Star Wars version of Astroboy who daydreams and hopes to be a Jedi one day.
I’ll be honest, this one just wasn’t made for me. I found it more irritating than inspiring and I absolutely loathed the main character who came off as whiney and insufferable and, let’s be honest, gets its maker killed because he couldn’t stop screwing around for five minutes.
It’s sad because I’ve always wanted to see a Star Wars tale about a droid who wanted to become a Jedi, but not like this… not like this.
“The Elder” is probably the most Star Warsy of the Visions shorts. It tells a simple story of good vs. evil with the Jedi as the heroes and the Sith as the villains. Where most of the Visons shorts take place outside of continuity, this one could easily fit several places on the timeline. Simply put, this is the least adventurous Visions of the entire series which is absolutely fine. The familiarity of it is rather comforting.
The animation of “The Elder” looks great, the characters for as short as the feature is, are well developed, and The Elder was presented as a legitimate threat. I even enjoyed the Padawan character who, in less capable hands, would have come off as insolent and cocksure.
It may not have broken any new ground and it probably never intended to, but it told a good story and that’s good enough for me.
Lop and Echo
Oh look… The Jaxxor callback that no one was asking for.
On a planet occupied by the empire, a local man and his daughter take in a rabbit like alien girl who is raised as a member of the family. Years later, the girls are grown and consider themselves sisters, but when their father becomes involved in the rebellion, the human girl, Echo falls in with the Empire, going against her father while the alien girl, Lop — because she’s a rabbit — stays by her adopted father’s side.
This is another installment where you can really see the Japanese influences on both the animation and the story and, truthfully, any story where an adopted child is taken in and considered a true heir tugs at my heartstrings in ways that no one can imagine.
I do consider some of the influences annoying. While I actually don’t mind that Lop is a giant rabbit girl, her characterization was irritating and her sister, Echo, was even worse. In the end, it’s an acceptable story with some nice animation and emotion, but the screeching characters and lack of motivation holds it back.
Is it terrible that I remember next to nothing about this episode?
“Akakiri” is about a young Jedi who comes to the aid of a princess who’s been overthrown by a dark sider all while experiencing disturbing visions of a death.
This, unfortunately, was another episode that didn’t hold my attention or stick in my memory. The story was delightfully dark, but the animation was plain and lifeless. The narrative itself never elevated itself to anything more than anime going through the motions and the twist at the end couldn’t have been more obvious if it were equipped with a neon sign.
What’s worse is that the installment ends on a cliffhanger, much like “The Ninth Jedi,” but unlike “The Ninth Jedi,” this was a story I had no interest in returning to.
Star Wars Visions was a little uneven with some installments being busts while others were boons, but you have to enjoy the fact that Disney told these wildly different studio to go crazy in any corner of the universe they wanted. Star Wars is a franchise that rarely takes chances and, when it does, the fans go crazy and shout it down (The Last Jedi, anyone?) so Star Wars Visions is a welcome breath of fresh air… even if that breath as a little hint of halitosis.