Wednesday was a big day for Star Wars fans, with the release of Star Wars: Visions, a series of 9 anime short films from 7 Japanese anime studios.
As I previously discussed, due to not really knowing much about anime, and with the shorts all being outside of canon, I wasn’t sure that I would write about them, but having bashed through all the shorts in one evening (just the English dubs so far, though I want to find time to watch the Japanese language versions), I thought I would give a few quick thoughts on each short.
SPOILER WARNING: While I don’t intend to go spoiler-heavy, I may allude to some moments to give context to my thoughts, while trying to leave the details rather vague. I will also be including the runtime, summary (which can be seen on Disney +) and an image from each episode.
Produced by Kamikaze Douga, Runtime 13:01
A wandering stranger with a mysterious past defends a village from powerful bandits.
With such a unique animation style and a heavy samurai influence, The Duel is one short that I was looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint! While I don’t know if I could manage a feature-length show with this animation style, it was beautiful for a short like this, with a great level of detail for something that was largely black and white—with the saving of colour for lightsaber blades, kyber crystals, blaster shots and other lights a beautiful touch. The umbrella-like initial look of the villain’s lightsaber was a little over the top, and I wish we’d seen a bit more f the titular duel (there were quite a few cuts away from the action), but I look forward to watching this one over and over again, and now think I will have to look at purchasing the tie-in book Ronin.
Produced by Studio Colorido, Runtime 12:45
A band with big dreams must save one of their own from Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett.
So this was an odd one as I couldn’t understand why we were getting a story about a rock band playing a gig, but upon watching it and realising that this is just the wider setting for the story, it made a bit more sense. There were a couple of characters who I thought looked a bit off, and it may not be one that I watch back with any regularity, but it was better than I expected.
Produced by Trigger, Runtime 16:50
Twins born into the dark side clash aboard a massive Star Destroyer.
I’ll admit I was hesitant about this one from what I had seen, but I must admit that I came away disappointed. While the general premise of 2 twins born to serve the dark side but one of them turning towards the light sounds very interesting and something I’d love to see explored in canon, this short sadly wasn’t for me. As someone with very little experience of anime, I hesitate to use the word “basic” to describe the animation, but it didn’t feel right to me, with so many familiar appearances just feeling really off. Similarly this became far too fantastical for me, with characters able to survive in the vacuum of space—including on the nose of an X-wing travelling at lightspeed—while a lightsaber successfully cuts through an entire Star Destroyer, but also just cuts through the armour of a person without harming them? Sorry, not for me.
The Village Bride
Produced by Kinema Citrus, Runtime 17:09
A Jedi on the run takes in the unique customs of a remote village under threat by a warlord.
The Village Bride was such a welcome surprise for me. I hadn’t heard or seen much about this one in advance so there was nothing about my prior knowledge or it’s description that made me think I would love this one. While it certainly started slowly, this is actually so well-paced, as we build towards an incredible final third. I’ve only watched it the one time so far, but I’m sure I’ll appreciate the build-up even more on repeat viewings knowing what is to come.
The Ninth Jedi
Produced by Production IG, Runtime 21:41
The daughter of a lightsaber-smith is pursued by dark forces while on a dangerous mission.
Ahead of starting the series, I’d already heard Alex Damon of Star Wars Explained say that this was his favourite of the shorts, and while out tastes don’t completely align, I felt confident that this would likely be one of the ones I enjoyed more. Well, that certainly proved the case, with the longer runtime allowing a great blend of both action and character building, and some great reveals that I don’t want to really mention in case you haven’t watched yet. I must admit that I wanted the story to continue, while there was a clear potential storyline for a follow-up. If we get a Visions season 2, I hope we get a continuation of this story!
Produced by Science SARU, Runtime 13:17
A cybernetic boy, who dreams of being a Jedi, discovers a dangerous truth about his creator.
As great as it was to finally get a non-human lead, a droid with dreams of being a Jedi (think Pinocchio wanting to be a real boy) was not what I was really looking for. This one also felt really odd to me due to the one, at times it seemed very young and childish, with plenty of the animation feeling more kid-appropriate, but then the villain was also very dark and perhaps a little scary for some younger viewers. It wasn’t bad, but this was clearly not an story meant for me.
Produced by Trigger, Inc., Runtime 15:47
A Jedi and his padawan pursue a dark and powerful presence.
I thought this had potential from what I had seen in the trailer, but boy did it surpass expectations! The titular elder was truly creepy and the visuals great, with some fantastic use of weather to help set the mood. But where this short really hit the mark for me was the chemistry between Tajin Crosser and his padawan Dan G’vash. With the suggestion that this is set during the time between the “extinction” of the Sith and the Prequel Trilogy, I’d love to see more of these Jedi, either bringing them into canon, with a spin-off book or another story in a prospective season 2.
Lop and Ochō
Produced by Geno Studio, Runtime 19:35
A family is torn about what to do when the Empire encroaches on their planet.
The only other short to have a non-human as a lead, it’s a shame how many people seemed to automatically have an issue with Lop purely because of her species—I bet the complaints wouldn’t have been there if she’d been a Twi’lek or some other previously existing species. While I liked the general story behind this one, it really felt like this short was meant to rely heavily on the emotion and connections between Lop, Ochō and Yasaburo, and yet despite the longer runtime, it felt like that connection and emotion was somewhat missing, which I feel hampered the climactic final act.
Produced by Science SARU, Runtime 12:59
A Jedi returns to his forbidden love to help defend her kingdom from a Sith-like Shogun.
I must be honest, this was an odd one to finish on. While it had some absolutely incredible visuals, it felt like someone had been asked to condense a much larger story, but had kept too many of the wrong bits like the travelling to the location of the final act rather than helping us understand the characters better. The ending was great, but I think a better build-up would have made it hit much harder.
What did you think of the shorts?
Thanks for reading. May the Force be with you….