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'Star Wars: Visions' breaks free of canon and fully embraces the wild and weird
What if a set of Star Wars stories came along that was fully devoid of anything related to the Skywalkers? Not only that, what if the stories were completely unrelated to anything in Star Wars canon, and occasionally did things that are in direct opposition to set story points that have been around for years?
This is the case with Star Wars: Visions, a new set of nine anime tales set in the galaxy far, far away. As much as we love the interconnected “it’s all canon” nature of current Star Wars storytelling, the new series of nine shorts is an entire “what if” scenario all unto itself. The tales spun here deviate wildly from the norm, but because of deeply ingrained iconography, it’s all still Star Wars.
Thanks to the shorts being told through the lens of anime, they also provide some of the weirdest, wildest, and most bat**** fun moments that the franchise has ever seen.
Producer Kanako Shirasaki and Executive Producer James Waugh oversaw a slew of different anime studios to bring the stories to life. As said above, there are no Skywalkers, there is no High Republic, and, aside from two or three exceptions, there are no familiar characters. There is no firm basis in any timeline either; more often than not there are timeline contradictions, with a "republic" reference here and an "empire" reference there. None of that matters, because you know a lightsaber when you see one.
The famous laser swords, Jedi, and the Force feature in every story. An X-wing shows up in one, and familiar alien and droid designs run rampant. The designs are so iconic at this point that even though the stories being told are new and bizarre, it’s still familiar. Not only that, but some of the shorts use our pre-existing knowledge to subvert our expectations.
The Duel (made by Kamikaze Douga) displays this in the clearest fashion. A wandering Ronin walks into a village that is being troubled by bandits, and we're already in a familiar Star Wars scenario. It’s straight out of the work of Akira Kurosawa, and his work was a huge influence on George Lucas, The Clone Wars, The Mandalorian, and so on. The unnamed Ronin has an astromech droid with him who wears an overlarge straw hat, so that helps too.
Bandits attack, and their leader (dubbed in English by Lucy Liu) whips out what can only be described as an “umbrella lightsaber.” The blades are red, and even the villagers know what that means. “Red lightsabers! She’s a Sith!” utters a droid before the leader spins that saber up and lays everyone out.
When the Ronin (dubbed in English by Brian Tee) eventually intervenes, he displays a connection to the Force. The bandit leader assumes that he’s a Jedi, and we do too. He then draws a katana-esque lightsaber (direct from a sheath, no ignition), and it is red. “Unfortunately, I am not a Jedi,” he says. Their duel ensues.
Is he a Sith, or is he something else? There are no absolutes here, so we don’t know, and we don’t find out. An upcoming spin-off book (Ronin: A Visions Novel by Emma Mieko Candon) will flesh him out a bit more, but we’re left questioning everything that we thought we knew about anyone who wields a red blade.
The Ninth Jedi (made by Production IG) uses the red blade imagery in a different way, as it uses the image to clue its heroes (and the audience) in on the fact that a group of warriors are not who we thought they were. This short also includes a “sabersmith” who is one of the only people left who knows how to make the ancient weapon. Many Sith hunt many Jedi, the sabersmith collects kyber crystals (present in many of the shorts) with huge asteroid-grabbing trebuchets, and there’s a sassy boatman droid. Where does this fall in the grand Star Wars timeline? Who cares, it’s gorgeous. More importantly, it's fun.
Trigger created two very different shorts. The Elder focuses on a Jedi and his padawan (dubbed in English by David Harbour and Jordan Fisher) and they go up against a very old follower of the dark side (dubbed in English by James Hong). It is a fascinating look at the master/apprentice relationship as well as the nature of aging. Their other short, The Twins, is a crazy action romp where two twins bred for the dark side (?) battle each other.
Karre and Am (dubbed in English by Neil Patrick Harris and Alison Brie) duel on top of two conjoined Star Destroyers by the end of this one, and at one point Am grows six arms, each holding a red blade. Karre extends his own blade to the size of a planet and flies to fight his twin on the nose of an X-Wing. It has no connection to any prior story, but why would any fan not want to see this? It's brand new and has nothing to do with anything we've ever seen or heard in this galaxy, but it feels like it's always been there. It belongs.
On the lighter side of things, Tatooine Rhapsody from Studio Colorado (Twin Engine) is likely to charm fans as it features a Hutt (dubbed in English by Bobby Moynihan) who believes in the power of rock. His bandmates end up putting on a crazy show for Jabba the Hutt himself after they deal with Boba Fett (dubbed in English by Temeura Morrison). If their song “Galactic Dreamer” doesn’t top some chart, somewhere, we’d be surprised.
T0-B1 (created by Science SARU) features a Force-sensitive droid finishing the work of his cloud-bearded creator. Lop and Ochō created by Geno Studio (Twin Engine) once again leans heavily into the imagery of feudal Japan, though droids, a lightsaber, and Imperial imagery are added into the mix. Lop is a young bunny girl (based loosely on the infamous big green Star Wars bunny Jaxxon) and with a character like that at the forefront, you’d expect things to be a little silly. That's what we expected anyway, but the story of the bunny girl and her sister (who buys into the Empire's garbage) is heartbreaking.
The tale of Lop and her adopted family gets dark, and so does Akakiri from Science SARU, probably the bleakest of the lot. It’s a Jedi love story, and whether it’s canon or not, those are always doomed.
Even when darkness flows, the shorts are full of the Force. The Village Bride (from Kinema Citrus) gives us a mythic view on it that we’ve never seen before, and it also brings in a mysterious former Jedi known only as “F” (dubbed in English by Karen Fukuhara). We don’t know much about her or her history, but she is hiding her true self and is in want of redemption.
Most of the characters in all of these shorts are looking for the same; it may be redemption for themselves, or it may be for someone they love. Most attempt to walk the selfless path of the Force. Most of the shorts also feature someone uttering the line, “I have a bad feeling about this."
The Skywalkers are still there, and their saga isn’t going anywhere. The Mandalorian is still there. The interweaving books and comics are still ongoing, The High Republic isn’t slowing down, and a million new Star Wars shows (all of them canon) are still coming. General Veers is safe, canon isn’t going anywhere. We’re thankful for that, as we’ve said, but why not take the opportunity to leave all of that behind for a moment and seriously cut loose, footloose?
Sometimes we think we know everything there is to know about Star Wars, that we know what it can do and what it cannot do. How wrong we are, and this is why a series like Visions is such a welcome thing. It breaks our minds free and it lets them go crazy with possibility.
To quote an entirely different Lucasfilm project: “Forget all you know, or think you know.” Star Wars: Visions will take your certain points of view and Force-kick them to an entirely new plane of imagination. That is what adventures in the galaxy far, far away do best, and Star Wars: Visions is no exception. Have an open mind, buckle up, and let go, Luke.
Star Wars: Visions is streaming on Disney+ right now.