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Review: Star Wars: Visions Broadens The Galaxy Far, Far Away

Since the launch of Disney+, Lucasfilm has announced a lot of new Star Wars content. Amongst live-action series Ahsoka, Obi-Wan and The Book of Boba-Fett; and the animated series The Bad Batch came an announcement for Star Wars: Visions. Perhaps a little lost amongst better-known titles, and you can be forgiven for not getting too excited about the first-ever official anime to come out of the Star Wars universe.

The majority of Star Wars canon is based on a healthy mix of genres and content that inspired creator George Lucas and is a testament to how big franchises can still be while inspired by other content. Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy was very much a sci-fi, Samurai Western that relied on the traditional good vs evil philosophy.

A lot of inspiration came to Lucas from the East. The Jedi way is a blend of Eastern philosophies like Buddhism and Taoism. So it makes sense that with Star Wars: Visions, the franchise takes viewers back to those cultures, allowing Japanese creators free reign to tell Star Wars stories in the style of anime. It’s almost as if the cycle of inspiration to creation has come full circle, giving us something we haven’t seen before.

The scope and story seen in Star Wars: Visions is vast, with season 1 being specific to the style of each of the seven studios that were given a chance to tell these stories. The unique creative visual styles make each episode much more exciting and entertaining. It’s an anthology series, so each episode tells a stand-alone story, some vast and grand in relation to the broader universe, and some more minor, more insignificant.

The subject matter ranges from conflicts between the Empire and its people and simple family dramas. There is plenty of saving the universe that plays into existing Star Wars folklore. It’s exciting, funny, sweet, and at times keeps you on the edge of your seat. Each episode focuses on a story in its own anime style, which captures each story’s atmosphere.

Episode one, “The Duel”, leans heavily on the Akira Kurosawa directed The Hidden Fortress, a movie credited as the source of inspiration behind Star Wars: A New Hope. The episode itself is in black and white, with only things that give off light being in colour, such as lanterns, blaster bolts and, of course, lightsabers. The episode is probably one of the series’ strongest and is the perfect way to kick things off, with a simple story about a village terrorised by mercenaries. The town finds its hero in a surprising lightsaber-wielding stranger.

Some of the episodes feature stories that take lovely tangents away from the Star Wars universe that we know, but there are plenty of details and plots in others that are just pure Star Wars. “The Twins” is centred around a set of twins born and raised in the Dark Side, coming to odds with their destiny, and “Lop & Ocho, also about twins who are raised on opposite sides of the Galactic Empire. Two episodes pit Jedi and Sith against one another, in classic Star Wars fashion. One even combines a Jedi story with Pinocchio’s, capturing everything ideal and relatable about Star Wars.

The English voice-cast for Star Wars: Visions is packed full of well-known actors, including Neil Patrick Harris, Alison Brie, Simu Liu, Henry Golding and David Harbour, amongst others. The performances are solid and feature great representation.

Most of the animation looks like more traditional anime, with some being more stylised. Fans of anime will enjoy the more conventional style, and I think this is an excellent introduction through stories from the Star Wars universe for those unfamiliar with anime. There are plenty of familiar themes and ideas, but the settings, culture and people portrayed are drastically different from the Star Wars we’re familiar with. This makes the series feel innovative and unlike anything that has gone before it.

Star Wars: Visions is a brilliant addition to the Star Wars franchise, with breathtaking visuals and accompanying stories that do not disappoint. It’s a must-see for fans of both anime and Star Wars and demonstrates just what is possible when Star Wars is put in the hands of the right creators, who are allowed to execute their unique visions, pun intended.

Star Wars: Visions is available to stream on Disney+ from September 22nd.

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