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Star Wars: Visions is here, and the galaxy far, far away has lit up with the power of anime. Seven major studios worked to create nine shorts, and overseeing everything for Lucasfilm was Producer Kanako Shirasaki and Executive Producer James Waugh.
The project is unlike anything we’ve seen from Star Wars before, so naturally, it proved to be a unique experience for both producers. Would it turn anime fans into Star Wars fans, would it turn Star Wars fans into anime fans, or would it do both? Which short best embodies the spirit that they were going for? Most importantly, can fans look forward to more shorts like these in the future? SYFY WIRE caught up with Shirasaki and Waugh to get some answers.
***WARNING: There are mild spoilers below for Star Wars: Visions. If you have not watched the shorts yet, go and do that first. You won’t regret it.***
Were you both seeing the scripts and artwork along the way as they were being worked on?
James Waugh: These studios each kind of crafted these stories from their own process and they really owned the vision of each short, but it was completely a collaboration from the start. Lucasfilm was in every step of the process. The difference, I think really, is that we weren't there to be obtrusive or to be prescriptive in any way. It was, they knew, I think that they always had an open dialogue as to kind of help excavate the best storytelling they could or what deep Star Wars reference could be used here. So we get to see it slowly form.
When you finally saw the completed shorts, did they surpass expectations? It's an unfair question, but I imagine they'd had to have done so.
Waugh: They did… we knew we were good hands. These were all craft, but then seeing it come to life, they really outdid themselves.
Is there a particular short that you think embodies what this series is all about?
Kanako Shirasaki: That’s always a very difficult question to answer. I think initial the pitch design for The Duel, it spoke a lot to us because it's a Ronin with a red lightsaber and droid right next to him. It was such an iconic image that we got in the very early stage. And then that will really we were in awe seeing the collaboration between the samurai and the Star Wars and that's what exactly we were looking for or that we are hoping to see. So I would say that was one of many iconic moments of this entire production, but in the early stage, I think I would pick that one.
Waugh: The second we saw the artwork for The Duel, which is how they kind of sold it in and brought us the concept… it was clear that it was going to be special. And also it was clear that it was exactly what Visions should be. Aside from that, I would say one that's near and dear to my heart is Tatooine Rhapsody because, and I was much more averse to it at first when I read the paragraph. The first pitch, my initial instinct was I don’t… I don't know if we could do a rock opera in Star Wars. Now we're getting crazy, now we're pushing this idea a little bit too far.
But as we talked to them, we really started seeing the honesty of the character work they wanted in the story. And that it was really a story that was about a found family and about friends sticking up for each other. And there's nothing more Star Wars than that. And you know, what the rock opera elements are what makes it Visions and special and the design style. So now that's easily one of my favorite shorts. I'm so happy we did that short.
It could theoretically go too far, but you already had the umbrella lightsaber in The Duel, so…
Waugh: That’s true.
All of these shorts tell full stories but many of them leave the door open for continuations. The Duel is getting an accompanying novel, but is there a chance that we may see some of these other stories continue?
Waugh: I think what's always been powerful about Star Wars is the broader ecosystem; the ability to kind of continue your storytelling in other ways, whether that's books or games or what have you. So I could definitely see that. We’re going to do some manga. There might be opportunities to kind of keep telling these stories in other spaces. If you're asking about animation… I think that's all still very much to be determined. There's nothing planned at the moment… you better believe that there'll be champions inside Lucasfilm asking for us to do more.
That was my next question, whether we can look forward to more or not?
Waugh: I mean, I think it's too early.
I apologize for having needing to ask, but what is the significance of the title Akakiri?
Shirasaki: So “Akakiri” means "red hate." So “kiri” means a haze or a nest. I'm sure the director has her own interpretation, but I would interpret that as the ambiguous atmosphere around the main character, as a Jedi whose own destiny is kind of set, going in this very one specific direction. So I think that's to imply his destiny in the short, but I'm sure every single person who watched the short has a different interpretation.
Would you say that this has the opportunity to make anime fans out of Star Wars fans, Star Wars fans out of anime fans, or a little bit of both?
Shirasaki: I hope, yeah, a little bit of both. I'm just hoping people start having a discussion between these fandoms. I'm sure lots of people overlap, like many anime fans love Star Wars, but I think that would be a great place to start a conversation. I think this is like a great opportunity for families to watch it together, and like exchange in dialogue, “Which one did you like?” This is like a beer flight. You can taste like different things, a little bit, you can see multiple different styles from different studios.
I hope this will be a great introduction for people who have never seen Japanese anime before, and for people who don't know much about Star Wars. I hope this will be a great introduction to the very wide galaxies that open up for you and there's a lot to catch up to.
Star Wars: Visions is streaming on Disney+ right now.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.