On September 22, 2021, Star Wars: Visions was released on Disney+. It is an anime anthology in which seven Japanese anime studios (which are shown alongside the episode titles) created short episodes set in the Star Wars universe. The goal of this anthology was to present alternate takes on the Star Wars universe, and this is what made it special.
Ever since the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney in 2012, all of the Star Wars media that had been released since then, along with the mainline films and the animated show Star Wars: The Clone Wars, have all followed a single timeline with its own rules. Some examples of these rules would be that followers of the “Light Side” of the Force, or Jedi, are generally considered good, and followers of the “Dark Side” of the Force, or Sith, are generally considered to be bad. This is what we call “canon.” Since the Star Wars universe is a single timeline with its own rules, that means there are limitations to what people creating media in this universe can and can’t do. Star Wars: Visions bucks this trend. Many of the episodes are either non-canon or canon-adjacent. This means that while none of the shorts take place in the main Star Wars timeline, some of them could fit if they were part of canon. The fact that none of the shorts are considered canon means that the creators have a lot more freedom, and that they can bend or even break rules that have been placed in the Star Wars universe. The results have been very interesting, and I will talk more about them in the reviews. Like all reviews, the opinions here are entirely my own, and I will try to stay as spoiler-free as possible.
Episode 1: The Duel (by Kamikaze Douga)
This episode follows a lone warrior known only as “Ronin.” When he encounters bandits in the town that he’s passing through, he makes it his goal to defeat them, revealing a major secret of his in the process.
As far as first episodes go, this one was a really good introduction to Visions. It is obvious that this is a different take on Star Wars, but it isn’t weird enough to be off-putting. Viewers that enjoy fellow Star Wars show The Mandalorian, which also follows a lone warrior, will appreciate the similarities between them. The art style, which is black and white but contains colored lights, is also very cool and distinct. The episode also takes the opportunity to play with the idea that the Dark Side of the Force (commonly associated with red lightsabers and villains such as Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine) is automatically bad. I’m not going to explain how exactly, because that would be entering spoiler territory. If you want to find out, then please watch the episode, because it is very much worth your time.
Episode 2: Tatooine Rhapsody (by Studio Colorido)
This episode is centered around a rock band, the Star Wavers. When one of their band members, Gee, is captured and ordered to be executed by crime boss Jabba the Hutt, they strike a deal with him: One last song, and then they will turn him over.
This is definitely one of the lighter episodes of Visions, and coming off of The Duel, it can be pretty alienating. The tone wasn’t my problem with the short, though. I was excited when I saw that this episode was about “the power of music.” I thought we would hear some catchy songs that sounded like it could fit in the Star Wars universe. Instead, we got generic rock music that could have come from anywhere on Earth. I’m not sure how it sounded in the Japanese dub, but that’s how it sounded in English. Some episode details felt like an afterthought. For example, we’d learn something about a character, but nothing is really done with them. This isn’t to say I totally disliked the episode. The band member who was captured, Gee, turns out to be a Hutt, and considering that most portrayals of the Hutt family in canon turn out to be villains, it was nice to have a Hutt who wasn’t a villain for once. In the end, Tatooine Rhapsody wasn’t terrible, but it could have been so much more. If you plan on watching this, don’t watch it after The Duel. Rating: 6/10
Episode 3: The Twins (by Studio Trigger)
This episode is centered around twin Force-users raised in the dark side of the force. When one of the twins receives a vision where he sees his twin sister dying, he tries to stop it, which leads to the two of them getting into a fight.
Although there was an exposition dump in the beginning which explained that the twins were born to be superweapons for the Empire, along with a power source known as a kyber crystal, the main attraction of this episode was the fight between the twins, which was very over the top. There were plenty of things that didn’t make sense, but the visuals were so striking that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I personally thought it was okay, since long, repetitive fight scenes typically aren’t my thing. This was one of those episodes that favored style over substance, and that won’t be for everyone.
EPISODE 4: The Village Bride (by Kinema Citrus)
This episode is about a Jedi, known as F, and her companion as they explore a planet. They run into a village that is under threat by bandits. The village has given up the chief’s daughter and her husband to the Separatists in exchange for peace. When F finds out about it, she decides to fight them so that the village doesn’t have to turn them over.
Much like The Duel, The Village Bride also involves a wandering Jedi saving a village from a threat, but where The Duel questioned ideas about the Dark Side, The Village Bride reinforced ideas about the Jedi that were established in canon: that their job was to help people rather than keep to themselves. The episode also explored how war can impact the people that were caught in the conflict. The Village Bride also introduced the Magina, which is what the villagers use to refer to the Force. On the planet, it manifested in ways that I had never seen in canon, but was still plausible. This episode could easily fit into canon and if that happens, I would love to see more of F’s adventures.
Episode 5: The Ninth Jedi (by Production I.G.)
The Ninth Jedi takes place in a world where, until recently, lightsabers were lost to history. When the process of making a lightsaber was rediscovered, Margrave Juro, the leader of the planet Hy Izlan, decided to summon Force-users to a space station in the hopes of re-establishing the Jedi Order. Unfortunately, there are also people out there that want to restore the Sith, aka the Dark Side equivalent of the Jedi. When the lightsaber-smith, Lah Zhima, is attacked by unknown enemies, his daughter, Kara, is tasked with bringing the lightsabers to the space station.
Of all the episodes of Visions, this is definitely my favorite. In just twenty-three minutes, they managed to pack awesome worldbuilding and likable characters that resulted in an episode teeming with the potential for more. It helps that this is the longest episode in the series, which gave it more time to flesh out its world. The concepts introduced in the episode were very interesting, and given the amount of worldbuilding in this episode, I wouldn’t mind an entire series set in this universe. If you only plan to watch one episode of Visions, make it this one.
Episode 6: T0-B1 (by Science SARU)
This episode is about the droid (meaning robot) T0-B1 (pronounced tee-o-bee-one), who, despite being man-made, and therefore not a living thing by our standards, wants to wield the Force and become a Jedi. When he discovers a ship hidden in his creator’s basement, he ends up revealing a secret that could put them both in danger.
Like Tatooine Rhapsody, this is one of the lighter episodes, but in my opinion, it had better pacing and it was easier to connect with the protagonist. It also asks a question that is probably as old as sci-fi itself: How is one considered “alive?” The Force can only be wielded by living things, and T0-B1, being a droid, isn’t. The episode comes to the conclusion that as long as one can connect to the Force, it doesn’t matter. This episode wasn’t perfect, but it was very charming and is definitely worth a shot.
Episode 7: The Elder (by Studio Trigger
This episode follows a master, Tajin, and his apprentice, Dan, both of whom are part of the Jedi Order. When they learn of a mysterious elderly man presenting a danger to a small village, they discover that he is more powerful than they had expected.
Despite its short runtime, the episode made the bond between Tajin and Dan apparent, and shows the effect age can have on one’s power and skill. The fight between them and the mysterious elder was also impressive as well. Much like The Village Bride, this episode could have easily fit into the main Star Wars timeline. Although the episode didn’t exactly break new ground, it did what it set out to do very well.
Episode 8: Lop and Ochō (by Geno Studio)
This episode starts off with Lop, a runaway slave of the Empire, being adopted into the Yasaburo family by the head of the family and his daughter, Ochō. At the time, both Lop and Ochō were children, and they were excited to begin a new life together. Once they grew up, however, they found themselves split apart by their differences.
If you think the cutesy rabbit aliens means that this episode is childish, don’t. It explores how the Empire tore apart families and close relations, with the Yasaburo family as the main focus. I definitely didn’t expect this episode to be as good as it was. The voice acting for Ochō was a little over-the-top at times, but otherwise, this episode is definitely worth it.
Episode 9: Akakiri (by Science SARU)
This episode follows a Jedi named Tsubaki as he reunites with his forbidden love Misa, whose planet is being threatened by a Sith Lord. During their quest, Tsubaki is haunted by a vision of the future.
Out of the entire series, this episode was the one that confused me the most. There was a decision that was made at the end, and the decision felt rushed. In addition, I didn’t care that much for Tsubaki and Misa either. I understand that romantic relationships take a long time to develop, but even a montage of them falling in love would have been nice. Even then, the writing has to make the audience invested in the characters first, which this episode didn’t really do. Instead, we were told that they were in love, instead of the episode showing it to us, which was my biggest problem with the episode. Considering that this is the last episode of the series, it was definitely underwhelming.
Even though there were some shorts I liked more than others, one of the great things about Star Wars is that even if one project isn’t as well received as another one, there will still be some people who find something to enjoy in that project. In my opinion, Visions isn’t any different in that regard. Just because I liked an episode doesn’t necessarily mean another viewer would, and the same goes for episodes that I didn’t enjoy as much. I would say that Star Wars: Visions is very much worth a shot, and even though it was unexpected, I’m glad that it exists.