Saturday, October 9, 2021

Star Wars: Visions - Stunning Visuals and Unique Stories In Anime Form

STAR WARS: VISIONS, an anthology of nine anime shorts, is wonderfully creative and goes right into the emotional core of what the Star Wars is all about. Even though it is not canon, the series offers a thrilling alternate universe, while taking you back to the mega franchise's Japanese roots.

Star Wars has always drew ideas heavily from Japanese culture. In interviews, George Lucas mentioned that he is a huge fan of Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa. When you watch Kurosawa's 1958 black and white movie THE HIDDEN FORTRESS side by side with the original 1977 Star Wars movie, you will see the same story beats about a princess, a general, a pair of comedic peasants and the fight against a feudal lord.

Samurai lore and visual traditional Japanese aesthetic, like the ronin, lightsaber, Darth Vader's helmet and kabuki, are also embedded in Star Wars. Even in the sequels, you will find that the Japanese influences remain strong. In THE LAST JEDI, Rian Johnson paid homage to Kurosawa's RASHOMON by portraying the re-telling of young Ben Solo and Luke Skywalker's fateful incident at the training temple in three different versions. Also, Kylo Ren's repaired helmet in the last movie of the Skywalker saga is influenced by kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery.

The anime studios involved with STAR WARS: VISIONS are Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio (Twin Engine), Studio Colorido (Twin Engine), TRIGGER, Kinema Citrus, Science Saru, and Production I.G. When Red Dot Diva was binge-watching the series, it was evident that the production teams adored the Star Wars franchise, and threw their hearts into it by putting their own unique spin to their animated shorts.

It is easy to watch STAR WARS: VISIONS in one sitting. The episodes are short, ranging from 13 to 22 minutes. Admittedly, Red Dot Diva felt a few episodes were not as strong as some others, and towards the end, the episodes seem to become repetitive in their themes and lightsaber duels. However, there is a sweet, wonderful feeling watching the stories unfold in a Japanese-based world, and in Japanese spoken dialogue. It was as if Star Wars has truly arrived home.

Here are the episode titles of the series:
Episode 1: THE DUEL - Kamikaze Douga
Episode 2: TATOOINE RHAPSODY - Studio Colorido
Episode 3: THE TWINS - Trigger
Episode 4: THE VILLAGE BRIDE - Kinema Citrus
Episode 5: THE NINTH JEDI - Production I.G.
Episode 6: T0-B1 - Science Saru
Episode 7: THE ELDER - Trigger
Episode 8: LOP & OCHO - Geno Studio
Episode 9: AKAKIRI - Science Saru

It is best that you discover the eclectic STAR WARS: VISIONS episodes on your own. Red Dot Diva is pretty sure there is will be at least one episode that any Star Wars fan can enjoy. She too, has her favourite episodes, and here are her Top 3.

WARNING! There are some spoilers!


STAR WARS: VISIONS opens with this stunning, mostly black and white period drama called THE DUEL, that embodies the essence of a Kurosawa-style samurai tale. There is homage to SEVEN SAMURAI as well as YOJIMBO; the latter movie featured the inimitable Toshiro Mifune as a ronin.

A mysterious wandering Ronin stops by a small remote village, and requests a store owner to do some repairs on his straw-hat wearing astromech droid. The villagers have been continually besieged by a band of greedy former-Imperial bandits, led by a ruthless female Sith. They strip the villagers of their supplies and money, and have no qualms about killing those who try to stop them from doing so. Ronin decides to step in to protect them, and squares off with the Bandit Leader in an action-packed duel.

Ronin wins the day but there is a surprise though! He is actually a Sith, and has managed to acquire several red kyber crystals, presumably from winning duels with other Siths.

Red Dot Diva is absolutely intrigued by the Ronin character and his motivations. She also thinks that this particular universe where loner Siths do not totally align with "good" or "evil, is fodder for many interesting possibilities.

Well, TPTB has the very same idea. A novel published by Del Rey, entitled Ronin: A Visions Novel by Emma Mieko Candon is set for release on October 12, 2021.


THE NINTH JEDI is the longest running episode of STAR WARS: VISIONS, and when the story ends, it leaves you wanting for more.

In a Star Wars universe that echoes the era after Order 66, Jedi and lightsabers are rare, and sabersmiths are near to extinction. Zhima is one of these skilled lightsabersmiths. He is hiding out on a remote planet, and he has been commissioned to craft a weapon for Juro the Margrave. Juro has managed to collect a few kyber crystals and hopes to form a new Jedi Order to fight the Sith who are currently in power. After receiving a beacon seeking for Force-wielders, a small group gathers on an asteroid orbiting around a planet called Hy Izla.

The enemies learn of the location of Zhima's workshop, and before he is captured, he hands over the lightsaber to his daughter Kara and asks that she delivers it to Juro. Kara turns out to be Force-sensitive as well, and arrives on the asteroid just in time to help defend Juro, another being called Roden, and Ethan, a young warrior eager to become a Jedi. They decide to help Kara look for her father and rescue him.

There are so many familiar landscapes as well as creative world building in this episode. The exciting chase of Kara on her speeder across ice plains is like a frozen version of the speeder chase scenes in Endor. Red Dot Diva also thought there is genuine heartfelt emotion between the Zhima and Kara's father-daughter interactions. Plus, the segment about the lazy old pilot droid is simply hilarious.

There should be a Chapter Two for THE NINTH JEDI. Don't you think?


There are no lightsaber duels or any heavy exposition between the light and dark sides in TATOOINE RHAPSODY. In fact, it is one of the most anime episode of the entire series in terms of style and script. As the title suggests, TATOOINE RHAPSODY is a light-hearted foray about courage, family and the love of music.

Young ex-Padawan Jay is part of Star Waver, an aspiring rock band hoping to make it big. One day, the bounty hunter Boba Fett barges into their concert and captures his best friend Gee. It seems Gee has incurred some sort of debt with Jabba the Hutt, and has to meet his fate at the iconic Tatooine race track stadium.

Jay manages to plead for a chance to play one last song with Gee and his other band mates on stage. The crowd loves their music, but the execution is still scheduled to happen. Throwing his final gamble, Jay proposes that Jabba be the band's first sponsor and surprisingly, the Hutt agrees, kickstarting the beginnings of the band's success in the galaxy.

Red Dot Diva found it a novelty to experience Star Wars world with anime music. That itself was quite an assault to her senses, and not in a bad way. TATOOINE RHAPSODY is a fun, colourful piece, with just the right amount of nostalgia to warm a long time Star Wars fan's heart.

There are other episodes within the anthology that Red Dot Diva finds memorable, namely THE ELDER and THE TWINS. But, some fans may prefer to more novel stories told in episodes like T0-B1.

STAR WARS: VISIONS is a bold way of story-telling, as it offers more open-ended and innovative visuals other than those entombed in canon. Red Dot Diva hopes that the unexpected ideas envisioned by the Japanese production studios, are able to inspire future Star Wars shows to tread in more exciting territories.

The series is available to watch on streaming platform Disney+.

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