When Star Wars: Visions was first announced at Disney Investor Day, Star Wars fans were overjoyed by the idea of an anthology that allowed new creative visionaries to give their unique perspectives on the galaxy far, far away. Visions does just that by ushering in a new era of Star Wars storytelling from seven of the best Japanese anime studios.
Visions is a nine-episode anthology series containing completely isolated stories that expand the Star Wars universe as we know it. Each episode runs between thirteen minutes and twenty-two minutes long, clocking in at around two and a half hours in total. While the vocal cast on the English dub is awe-inspiring, you should also watch it in the original Japanese format to get the full effect.
Whether you grew up loving anime like Cowboy Bepop, Monster Rancher, or Inuyasha or you have never watched anything more than an episode or two of Pokémon you will find something to love in each of the shorts. From the wide variety of awe-inspiring animation styles to the adept way that the storytellers have crafted stories out of the best elements of Star Wars, the beauty of Visions is that there is a story for everyone within it.
Studio Trigger, Kamikaze Douga, Studio Colorido, Geno Studio, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G, and Science SARU were given full access to the entire galaxy of Star Wars and each studio managed to take elements from previous ventures into the universe and lay bare the very core of what Star Wars is.
Ahead of Star Wars: Vision’s premiere, Wealth of Geeks got to chat with the series’ executive producer James Waugh and producer Kanako Shirasaki about the production.
When asked about how much creative freedom the studios had, Waugh explained, “One of the things that I think was fundamental to the vision of Visions was that we really wanted it to be their stories. We wanted to make sure we were doing everything we could to empower these really unique creators, who have become like masters of their craft, to feel empowered to tell their story.”
He went on to say, “We wanted it to be more of a celebratory expression of Star Wars, not necessarily timeline-focused or feeling like it needed to be part of the ongoing chronology and saga. We really offered an opportunity to have studios like Trigger to do ‘The Twins,’ which is completely like a remixed Star Wars. I think some of the themes that people came to ultimately are Star Wars themes that are about friends and family and masters and students because that's so inherent to what makes them a Star Wars story.”
The Twins (Studio Trigger)
Japanese Voice Cast: Junya Enoki, Ryoko Shiraishi, Tokuyoshi Kawashima
English Voice Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Alison Brie, Jonathan Lipow
It is hard not to think about Luke and Leia as you watch “The Twins,” which explores Star Wars’ well-known brother-sister trope — with a twist. When the short begins, the duo has already achieved great power in the dark side and they are making moves to be the ultimate rulers of the galaxy. Or at least Am has aspirations for ultimate power, Karre doesn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with his sister.
The Star Wars universe is no stranger to characters on the dark side breaking free of its thrall, but Studio Trigger does something different by exploring it through a sibling dynamic.
Lop & Ochō (Geno Studio)
Japanese Voice Cast: Seiran Kobayashi, Risa Shimizu, Tadahisa Fujimura, Taisuke Nakano
English Voice Cast: Anna Cathcart, Hiromi Dames, Paul Nakauchi, Kyle McCarley
“Lop & Ochō” also plays on sibling dynamics, but it also explores the notion of found families and how easy it is to fall to the Dark Side — or in this case, align ones’ self with the Empire. While all of the shorts felt like they have the potential to be the start of something larger, the ending of “Lop & Ochō” made me want to mount a campaign to beg for more.
There are only a few “bad” female characters in the Star Wars universe and somehow, in the span of only a couple of minutes, Geno Studio managed to make Ochō my new favorite villainess.
Akakiri (Science Saru)
Japanese Voice Cast: Yū Miyazaki, Lynn, Chō, Wataru Takagi, Yukari Nozawa
English Voice Cast: Henry Golding, Jamie Chung, George Takei, Keone Young, Lorraine Toussaint
Nearly twenty years ago, Palpatine tempted Anakin with the ability to defy death in Revenge of the Sith, and now in “Akakiri,” we see the costs of learning that ability. “Akakiri” also feels like a distinct homage to Akira Kurosawa’s film The Hidden Fortress, which inspired George Lucas’ Star Wars.
Both aesthetically and in the nature of the story being told, Science SARU creates a truly unique cast of characters in Tsubaki, Misa, and the intimidating Masago. As Tsubaki walks towards his new destiny, you will find yourself dying to know where the story goes next.
During my interview with James Waugh and Kanako Shirasaki, I wanted to know which of the shorts they were uncertain about when they were first pitched to them.
“I think that is going to be ‘Tatooine Rhapsody' because we were a little bit skeptical about the rock opera idea. The character designs in the pitch were also different from what we see now. It was a little more [of a] grunge type of look and now that [look] turned into more of a cute chibi style,” Shirasaki explained.
Waugh also shared his initial apprehensions about the short, “I was a big naysayer about [‘Tatooine Rhapsody'] at first. We got the pitch in and it was a paragraph about a rock opera and my initial thought was, “This is crazy. Let's not do this. This is going too far guys.” Then, of course, we read the first pass of the outline and I am so glad we chose that because it's amazing.”
When asked which short resonated the most with him, “Tatooine Rhapsody” ended up being Waugh’s pick. “I would say all of them, but ‘Tatooine Rhapsody’ does it for me, as far — not a favorite — but it's something that resonates with me. I think the idea of a dreamer is fundamental to Star Wars. It's Luke Skywalker looking up at those twin suns. I think the idea of found family is also fundamental to Star Wars. It's Ezra Bridger and Kanan and Hera. I think the idea of people helping each other is also just a totally Star Wars story.”
Tatooine Rhapsody (Studio Colorido)
Japanese Voice Cast: Hiroyuki Yoshino, Kōsuke Gotō, Akio Kaneda, Masayo Fujita, Anri Katsu
English Voice Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bobby Moynihan, Temuera Morrison, Shelby Young, Marc Thompson
While most of the shorts in Visions play with emotionally heavy themes, others harness the whimsy of the Star Wars universe. “Tatooine Rhapsody” turns “space opera” into a reality by bringing together a cast of unlikely characters to create the greatest band in the galaxy. There might be some edge-of-your-seat drama when they have to play to survive Jabba the Hutt’s ire, but the entire short is just an absolute delight to enjoy.
The Village Bride (Kinema Citrus)
Japanese Voice Cast: Asami Seto, Megumi Han, Yuma Uchida, Takaya Kamikawa, Yoshimitsu Shimoyama, Mariya Ise
English Voice Cast: Karen Fukuhara, Nichole Sakura, Christopher Sean, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Andrew Kishino, Stephanie Sheh
This is one of the shorts that puts the customs of Japan at the forefront of the story. A Jedi and a skilled sniper bear witness to the wedding ceremony between Haru and Asu and, much like the audience, get to experience the couple’s unique connection to the Force through their planet’s memory. The joy of the wedding ceremony is undercut by raiders who come to steal the bride away as collateral for the resources they intend to strip the planet of. While ‘The Village Bride” is a complete story within itself, Jedi F’s teased backstory is ripe for more storytelling.
Kanako Shirasaki shared which of the shorts resonated with her and it was ‘The Village Bride.’ “The ritual played by the village characters is influenced by the Japanese Animism idea of worshiping mountains or nature. So that feels very close to me. I also particularly love the music of ‘The Village Bride,’ ‘The Elder,’ and ‘The Duel’ because these three [shorts] are using Japanese traditional music. It's very interesting to see what people would say about that because you don't really hear that outside of Japan very often. So it's great to hear these sounds on this larger platform.”
T0-B1 (Science SARU)
Japanese Voice Cast: Masako Nozawa and Tsutomu Isobe
English Voice Cast: Jaden Waldman and Kyle Chandler
“T0-B1” is another short that has some very serious story junctures, but at the same time Science SARU has created an absolute joy of a character in T0-B1 — an endearing little droid with a dream of becoming a Jedi. He is an unbelievably adorable droid and has now surpassed BB-8 as the cutest droid in the galaxy.
The Elder (Studio Trigger)
Japanese Voice Cast: Takaya Hashi, Kenichi Ogata, Yuichi Nakamura
English Voice Cast: David Harbour, Jordan Fisher, James Hong
The titular villain of “The Elder” is a mysterious warrior and expert swordsman who poses a serious challenge to Jedi Master Tijin and his Padawan Dan. We have seen so many spectacular relationships between Padawans and their Masters in The High Republic and this short evokes so many of those same emotions. It’s also very different from Studio Trigger’s other short ‘The Twins’ playing with relationships on the light side of the Force versus the dark side.
Since the announcement of Star Wars: Visions fans have wanted to know whether these shorts are canon and James Waugh was able to answer that question for us.
“I think it's open to interpretation for a lot of these. There are some that fit perfectly within the timeline, like ‘Tatooine Rhapsody.’ There's no reason that that [short] couldn't have happened. Aside from the chibi style all of the integrity of the universe holds up in that story. I think ‘The Elder’ is also one that could fit within The High Republic completely seamlessly. Same with ‘The Village Bride’ [which] could fit post-Order 66,” Waugh continued. “We helped them get to those places throughout development. But then there are others that it doesn't it's not about that. ‘The Twins’ or ‘The Duel;’ those things [that] are celebratory expressions of Star Wars. We allowed for both in this framework.”
The Duel (Kamikaze Douga)
Japanese Voice Cast: Masaki Terasoma, Akeno Watanabe, Yūko Sanpei
English Voice Cast: Brian Tee, Lucy Liu, Jaden Waldman
“The Duel” has a wholly unique animation style that sets it apart from its peers and it fits the feudal Japan aesthetic of the story. It follows The Ronin, a traveler who comes to the defense of a remote village that has become the target of fearsome bandits. This short features the awe-inspiring umbrella-like lightsaber, wielded by the kick-ass high-heel-wearing Sith — but she isn’t the only one wielding a red lightsaber.
The story of The Ronin also sparked the upcoming spin-off novel. “It was always Kamikaze Douga's vision. That was one of the first ones that we developed with them. They built that from the ground up.” Waugh said, when asked about which came first. “Emma Mieko Candon came on to do the novel because we were talking to Del Rey about what we could expand on. We knew that the Ronin character had a lot more adventures under his belt and we wanted to see them.”
The Ninth Jedi (Production I.G)
Japanese Voice Cast: Chinatsu Akasaki, Chō, Shinichiro Miki, Hiromu Mineta, Kazuya Nakai, Akio Ōtsuka, Daisuke Hirakawa
English Voice Cast: Kimiko Glenn, Andrew Kishino, Simu Liu, Masi Oka, Greg Chun, Neil Kaplan, Michael Sinterniklaas
“The Ninth Jedi” plays with a number of concepts that we have seen in recent years from the post-Jedi era of The Sequel Trilogy to the secret lightsaber smithing at Savi’s in Batuu. Someone is attempting to raise the Jedi Order from the ashes, but things aren’t quite as they seem. This short is the longest and it certainly sets up a lot of really intriguing ideas that will leave you thinking long after the credits roll.
The real testament to the creativity employed in Star Wars: Visions is that audiences will care — and care deeply — about the characters that they are with for less than twenty-two minutes. There is so much potential in each and every short and they will undoubtedly launch a thousand new ideas and theories for fans.
Perhaps the biggest remaining question is: Will there be more Star Wars: Visions? Well, here’s James Waugh’s answer to whet your appetite.
“I think like everything with Star Wars, our plan is to continue our sort of cross-platform experience with some of these stories like [with] the novel. We're definitely looking into manga. There'll be other expressions,” Waugh teased. “I think like so many of these stories and characters you want to see them go on. I kind of want to follow that band around forever from ‘Tatooine Rhapsody’ But is there anything planned right now, as far as an animated series or film? The answer is no. But hopefully [on] Wednesday people love it and are begging for more Star Wars: Visions. Then I will have those conversations.”
You heard it Star Wars fans, make it known that you want to see more Star Wars: Visions in the future.
After you finish watching the nine episodes of Star Wars: Visions be sure to check out the nine episodes of Star Wars: Visions Filmmaker Focus on Disney+, a special series of behind-the-scenes featurettes discussing the shorts with the creative teams involved in their production.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Maggie Lovitt is a writer at Wealth of Geeks where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery.
In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild.