All nine episodes of Star Wars Visions released today on Disney+, and the show more than delivers in its promise to provide a fresh take on the galaxy far, far away – and in the process Star Wars fans are in for a real treat.
Visions is a first-of-its-kind anime series set in the Star Wars universe, and the idea is that the nine episodes – made by seven of the leading Japanese anime studios – would provide a fresh vision on the galaxy we know so well. The series isn’t considered canon, but that doesn’t matter here, because these stories are introducing all new characters (only one episode features familiar characters) and telling brand new tales. It stretches the imagination on the universe and in the process is a way of examining what lies at the heart of Star Wars.
In that regard it takes after The Last Jedi, serving as a means not just of entertaining audiences but also examining what makes Star Wars, well, Star Wars. But it also takes after A New Hope in the revolutionary nature of this storytelling and the ways it does so much galaxy building. And in many ways, this anime take on the galaxy is incredibly natural. After all, one of George Lucas’s biggest influences in making Star Wars was Akira Kurosawa and his film The Hidden Fortress, and there is so much about Japanese storytelling that is embedded in the franchise at its core, since the very beginning. So to see this series now, over four decades since the release of Star Wars, it’s a very cool thing to see how Visions honors the franchise, interacts with its heart, meaning, and legacy, and emerges with a thrilling and visually stunning series of episodes.
Each of the nine episodes is meant to stand alone, as they are not interconnected with one another. Thus this is unlike other Star Wars series, which focus on exploring a canon story through weekly episodes – this is a collection of episodes centered around similar themes yet meant to be taken individually. That can occasionally mean that when binge-watching them (like I did today) there are elements that feel repetitive, it’s easily forgiven – especially since these studios created the episodes independently. And I suppose that it’s the repetitive parts that we should really pay attention to, since those are things that a number of different studios and creators all picked up on in telling a Star Wars story. That’s incredibly significant, and it’s a way for us to therefore examine some of these core threads.
For instance, there are a lot of characters who have a bad feeling about something that’s about to happen.
The most notable example, however, is that each episode featured plenty of lightsabers and lightsaber combat – and some really interesting and creative new lightsaber designs. If you’re a fan of lightsaber combat (and since you’re here reading a Star Wars site I’d guess you are!), you won’t be disappointed by this series. There are some gorgeous and thrilling fight sequences with a lightsaber, and it speaks to just how iconic the weapon is: no matter what else is happening, when you see the blade and hear the sounds it makes, you instantly feel like you’re watching Star Wars. There’s other iconic Star Wars imagery that shows up throughout the series as well, but none more so than the lightsaber.
But the episodes also get into other things, such as the relationship between light versus dark, the importance and meaning of family, a sense of longing and a search for purpose, and so much more.
Like should be expected, there are certain episodes that I enjoyed more than others. In the coming days I’ll have a lot more to say about the individual episodes (whereas here I’m speaking more to the collection of episodes), but there are some that I really loved and others that I enjoyed watching but quickly moved on from. And the nature of this show means that I’m guessing everyone watching will have different preferences to which ones really worked for them and which ones they most enjoyed, which is pretty awesome.
I was really excited for this series, and it exceeded my expectations. Even though I’m obsessed with following the current canon, I’m all for more stories that are able to breathe and take creative license, giving us material that’s really enjoyable and thoughtful. In it, I think we are often reminded just why we love Star Wars in the first place, and that’s a good thing. Visions isn’t the best Star Wars series nor is it my favorite, but it’s a terrific series and one I hope we’ll get more of. It’s the most ambitious and different Star Wars project in a long time, and that’s a really good thing. And Visions is proof that even the most ambitious and different of projects can help expand, honor, and develop the franchise in some awesome ways.