RELEASED: September 22nd 2021
DISTRIBUTED BY: Disney+
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Jacqui Lopez, James Waugh, Josh Rimes & Justin Leach
WRITTEN BY: Takashi Okazaki, Yasumi Atarashi, Hiromi Wakabayashi, Takahito Oonishi, Hitoshi Haga, Kenji Kamiyama, Yuichiro Kido, Masahiko Otsuka & Sayawaka
DIRECTED BY: Takanobu Mizuno, Taku Kimura, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Hiroshi Haga, Kenji Kamiyama, Abel Góngora, Masahiko Otsuka, Yuki Igarash & Eunyoung Choi
MUSIC BY: Keiji Inai, Yoshiaka Dewa, Michiru Ōshima, Kevin Penkin, A-bee, Keiichiro Shibuya, Nobuko Toda, Kazuma Jinnochi & U-zhaan
STARRING: Brian Tee, Lucy Liu, Jaden Waldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bobby Moynihan, Temuera Morrison, Neil Patrick Harris, Alison Brie, Karen Fukuhara, Christopher Sean, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Kimiko Glenn, Andrew Kishino, Simu Liu, Masi Oka, Kyle Chandler, David Harbour, Jordan Fisher, James Hong, Anna Cathcart, Hiromi Dames, Paul Nakauchi, Henry Golding, Jamie Chung, Lorraine Toussaint, Keone Young & George Takei
REVIEW: I’m not that big an anime fan, so when Star Wars: Visions was announced, I was intrigued, if not full on excited.
A collection of short stories produced by various anime studios, Visions is a new look at the Star Wars universe unencumbered by canonicity and the lore built up over previous films and series.
With free reign to do whatever they wanted with these properties, it’s unsurprising that many of the studios opted to do their own spin on the Jedi vs Sith conflict. In some ways, that does hinder the diversity of stories told – several of the episodes feature some lone Ronin-esque Jedi warrior coming to save a town plagued by Sith or bandits – but it’s the way these stories are told that make them truly stand out.
The Duel, The Village Bride, The Elder and Akkari were perhaps my favourites, with The Twins and Lop & Ocho being my least favourite – but even those ones were fun enough and a nice change of pace from the usual Star Wars content we get.
For the most part, that’s thanks to the animation being top-notch. There are some styles that take some getting used to, but the animation is strong and the aesthetics often dynamic and beautiful. From interesting character designs to resplendent background shots, the series is a real treat for the eyes.
On top of that, the majority of studios manage to really flesh out these new worlds they’ve created for their respective stories, and while some story beats were a bit over the top for me, and some styles not to my particular tastes, for the most part, they remained engaging little glimpses into hitherto unseen sections of the Star Wars galaxy.
Further, the stories and visuals are paired with some great, atmospheric music that seems like a departure from your usual Star Wars soundtracks, while retaining that hint of familiarity.
I can’t speak to the original Japanese voice cast, but the English dubs also boast an impressive array of talent. From Henry Golding and Simu Liu, to Alison Brie, Neil Patrick Harris, David Harbour, Lucy Liu and even George Takei, there are some great performances across the board. Alison Brie really hams it up as one half of a pair of Sith twins, while Lucy Liu delivers a sinister intensity as the villain of her episode. David Harbour captures the spirit of a stoic, Republic-era Jedi Master, while George Takei relishes in playing the jovial old fool across from Henry Golding’s tortured Jedi Knight.
Though it is a shame in some ways that several of the stories are ones we’ve seen several times before (even within the context of this series itself), the experimentation that comes with throwing Star Wars into a new and fascinating form of visual media is worthwhile, and at a rather breezy 15 minutes (ish) an episode, even the lesser episodes never feel like a waste of time.
All-in-all, Star Wars: Visions’ greatest strength is the freedom it has to be different. To try new things. And while I love foundations and the nostalgia that this franchise hold dear, sometimes something new can be the best thing of all.
For that, I give it:
Thanks for reading! Which animation style was your favourite? Let me know in the comments below!
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