Star Wars: Visions Review: A Refreshing And Gorgeous Spin On A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Westerners love to take on Asian properties and regurgitate them (which often means dumbing down) for American crowds, but "Star Wars: Visions" innately understands the Kurosawa influence on George Lucas and the stories he tells. So this collection of anime shorts set in the "Star Wars" universe is more of a return to roots than a regurgitation. 

Exclusive to Disney+, "Star Wars: Visions" unrolls over nine standalone episodes. The anthology is produced by Lucasfilm Animation and joins hands with several Japanese animation studios for the venture — Kamikaze Douga, Twin Engine, Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G., and Science SARU each provide their own original spin on the world of "Star Wars." As fans know, this universe gets along well with animation, finding success with its "Clone Wars" series and, more recently, "Star Wars: The Bad Batch." The pedigree, along with the animation talent involved, sets the bar high, and "Star Wars: Visions" does not disappoint.

Let's break down each of the entries in "Star Wars: Visions," which range from good to spectacular. 

The Duel

Easily the strongest of the shorts, "The Duel" is Takanobu Mizuno's take on samurai lore. Animated by Kamikaze Douga, the story is the most direct nod to the work of Akira Kurosawa, telling the story of a defenseless village that hires guards to protect themselves from Sith-sponsored bandits. The simplicity of the story enables the storytellers to focus on what they find the most interesting, and here it's a balance between the stillness of self-awareness and the chaos of battle. 

At times, the lens understandably gazes upon Sith minions being lit up by the laser equivalent of a Gatlin gun, and each hit finds a visual disturbance to match, like a wireless gaming controller translating onscreen hits to a vibrating feedback. Other times, the focus is on a Sith hood wafting away in the wind, on the precipice of close quarters combat. Fans can further look forward to a fresh new formidable iteration of the lightsaber in this episode, comparable to General Grievous' multiple swinging lightsabers of the prequel film "Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith." 

The good guys are often told by formidable Sith representatives that their fate is already written, but there's a reason why it's uttered mostly by the baddies. For all of its talk about destinies and predetermined paths, "Visions" has a punk rock attitude that insists that we write our own futures and walk our own paths willingly, taking this or that omen as we will. 

Lop and Ochō

Directed by Yuki Igarashi and animated by Geno Studio (a subsidiary of Twin Engine) and set during the Galactic Empire's reign of horror between "Revenge of the Sith" and "A New Hope," "Lop and Ochō" also focuses on the lightsaber. But here, it represents the bond between a father and daughter and, eventually, the struggle between warring sisters. With Sayawaka penning thorough, tangible characters and Igarashi's stunning visuals, it's a perfect example of the contained whole-ness of each episode, potentially acting as a pilot for its own series, should the fans clamor loudly enough.

Tatooine Rhapsody

Directed by Taku Kimura and animated by Studio Colorido (Twin Engine), "Tatooine Rhapsody" is a 13-minute romp that tags along with an ambitious rock band whose gig is interrupted by bounty hunters out for one of their members. The ever-popular Boba Fett makes an appearance, as well as a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to the memorable players of Mos Eisley spaceport (including a recognizable Cantina bartender), but as with the other tales of "Visions," the story remains king and all canon is peripheral. This only bolsters the tale, which applies Star Wars sentiments on freedom and fate on a micro level to a universal fear — the desperate gig at a rough venue. Even Boba Fett bobs his head to the infectious beat.

The Twins

Studio Trigger has held the reins on a handful of impressive original anime series such as Yoh Yoshinari's "Little Witch Academia" and "BNA: Brand New Animal," so it's no surprise that their shorts are so stunning. "The Twins" is directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi and follows, like "Lop and Ochō," broken bread and broken alliances between siblings. The kyber crystal of the lightsaber makes another appearance, this time as a lynchpin for the titular twins' armor and the key to changing the course of events between the Empire and the Republic. Balance rules the day, with bifurcated frames and dual identities. 

The action moves laterally, positioning the warring brother and sister at odds on extreme thirds of the screen, giving visual interest to a many-times-told story. Most fascinating is the short's obsession with a single moment in "The Last Jedi," in which Vice Admiral Holdo (played by Laura Dern in full goddess mode) directs her ship to tear through an Imperial destroyer-like tissue paper. This moment is understandably given respect among "Star Wars" fans, and in the 2017 theater screening I attended, you could hear a pin drop as the ship suddenly and silently hyperjumps in a moment of great sacrifice and honor. The same moment finds new purchase in "The Twins," as a shorthand for a great act to be regarded with solemn awe. Again, we see macro moments in the films find translations into the micro, a sort of trickle-down effect of the series' overall themes, to great effect.

The Elder

"The Elder" might distract at first: a Jedi master, who looks jarringly like Keanu Reeves when drawn in profile, goes on a mission with his young and hungry Padawan pupil and runs into an imposing foe along the way. As the story plays out, though, it's in this Masahiko Otsuka-directed short (and "The Duel") where you'll find the most sharply staged action, with battlefield tableaus occupying extreme thirds of the screen and each moment of bloodletting getting a moment of consideration in slow-motion. 

The baddie, also the titular Elder, wields red-hot short blades in addition to a Sith lightning power, and it makes for some of the most gorgeous images in the whole series (courtesy of Studio Trigger). Through these stunning battle scenes, "Visions" demands your engagement with the fighting, and contemplation on the violence occurring.

The Village Bride

One of the more meditative episodes in the series, Hitoshi Haga's "The Village Bride" is also the most disappointing. A pair of traveling warriors observe as a bride-to-be treks towards her sacrifice to save her village, which is oppressed by pillagers. While composer Kevin Penkin's swelling score helps to underline the scope of the tale, the simple lines of Kinema Citrus studio's animation style don't do much for the panoramic views of the planet, an irreconcilable difference in a tale of a people deeply connected to their lands, reclaiming its resources from the bad guys.


Directed by Eunyoung Choi, animated by Tokyo's Science SARU (also co-founded by Choi), "Akakiri" presents a mission statement for the entire series. A character ponders about "...bringing peace and stability to this world, and what it would take to do it," which is essentially a thematic logline for every episode, each in its own way. 

Whether an exiled princess looking to restore order in her realm or a droid endeavoring to make their assigned world "a beautiful place," the through-line of "Star Wars: Visions" is a staunch optimism permeating every episode, insisting that the right people with the right constitutions can effect real change in the face of daunting opposition.


"T0-B1" is the most family-friendly of the episodes, following a droid and its professor Mitaka as they try to terraform a planet into something habitable. "We are going to make this a beautiful place," professor Mitaka says. The droid must find his own kyber crystal (more lightsaber expansion can be found in this episode) to become a Jedi as he desires, and soon his greatness is thrust upon him in an uplifting short that asserts that anyone, even a droid, can become a hero.

The Ninth Jedi

At 20-plus minutes, Kenji Kamiyama's "The Ninth Jedi" is a lengthy standout for its lovely appreciation for the craftsman. The story dives into the mechanics of the lightsaber, which Obi-Wan Kenobi called "an elegant weapon for a civilized age.," by following the harrowing tale of a hunted lightsaber craftsman, given a similar workspace and handiwork to Japanese swordsmithing. While the core "Star Wars" films held the Jedi weapon with reverence, "The Ninth Jedi" expands that reverence to the artists who made them with precision, finding intimacy in the handmade and inviting viewers to learn its history. 

Animated by Production I.G, the episode serves as a nice Lightsaber 101 primer for entering or crossover fans, keeping things peripheral to "Star Wars" but couching the mythos within a simple story. 

"Star Wars: Visions" ain't canon, it's heart.