Star Wars: Visions Season 1 REVIEW – Eyes For Pain
Star Wars: Visions is possibly the most important thing Disney has done since 2012 when they acquired Lucasfilm. It’s not the best Star Wars media Disney has produced (I am still stuck between the first season The Mandalorian, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens), but it is the most exciting and original project Disney has ever brought to the IP. That’s something worth celebrating.
Anthology series is made up of 9 shorts, which range from 13 to 22 minutes long. It brings famous anime creators into the Star Wars universe. They can let their imaginations run wild with any stories they want, and ignore existing timelines. This absolute freedom is what leads to some of the most memorable and disappointing aspects of Visions.
Some stories are original and exciting, free from any Star Wars storylines or motifs. Others feel like repetitions of what we’ve seen in Star Wars films. It is disappointing that these stories don’t feel original.
Sometimes the shorts combine Star Wars lore with too many familiar characters or something completely new. Studio Colorado’s Tatooine Rhapsody, which basically places the anime subgenre in the Star Wars universe, is the worst.
Instead of focusing on musicians in the galaxy’s music, the story includes Boba Fett (appropriately voiced by Star Wars stalwart and Fett actor Temuera Morrison) and Jabba The Hutt. This all makes the story feel too similar to other characters and unimportant to the main story.
Production I.G.’s The Ninth Jedi, and Trigger’s The Twins are both free from any reference to specific characters or events within Star Wars, but they heavily draw on the existing (and often-repeated!) story beats. These stories are much more interesting than stories that follow the established storylines. However, the stories that they create from scratch or use existing themes and characters are the most compelling.
It is also disappointing that almost all the shorts are focused on humans. Star Wars is filled with existing alien species. Many of the shorts introduce new creatures. The fact that only two of these shorts have main characters other than humans, and one of them is an organic species (the second is a droid), is disappointing in terms of originality. Animation isn’t as concerned with creating and portraying otherworldly beings as live-action.
Visions want the audience to feel invested in their characters, and Visions is unable to do this because the shorts are too short to have an emotional impact. The ones that attempt to be are often embarrassing because they lean towards extreme melodrama anime. At least two shorts include characters shedding huge tears.
The biggest problem with Visions is its inability to explain itself. The shorts are too dependent on speech. This includes characters speaking to each other, expository voiceovers to explain things, and even characters talking to one another. This is a problem but it highlights how amazing the shorts are. Most of the voices are easily recognizable. The shorts also feature Morrison reprising his role of Fett. They also feature voice acting by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Neil Patrick Harris.
The narratives are not what really matters. Visions are not about the stories. It can make a short more enjoyable or less interesting for the viewer. But what makes Visions unique is the ability to view the Star Wars universe in new art styles. Each short is unique and even those created by the same studios (Science SARU, Trigger each contributed two shorts each), look very different. Even though the shorts are not very interesting narratively or thematically, they are still a delight for animation fans. The best thing about the anthology is the amazing backgrounds in which the stories are set. Many of these have traditional samurai film aesthetics. Kamikaze Douga’s The Duel goes so far as to overlay a film grain with scratches and blips.
Each of the shorts is more Star Wars-inspired visual art than an animated Star Wars story. They all look fantastic. The only problem is that some of them have difficulty blending their 3D and 2-D elements. This lends them a less irritating version of Netflix’s Berserk. Even then, the artwork and design for the characters and worlds are so great that it doesn’t feel like a major problem.
The visual differences in the shorts are not limited to the animation styles. Nearly all include fight sequences. Some are inspired by the prequel trilogy’s acrobatic fighting style, while others use more grounded (literally), fights that appear to be inspired by real martial art. Others embrace the fact that it is anime and present spectacularly brightly colored and flashy fight scenes that are nearly overwhelming in their visual assault.
You can also choose from a range of designs for lightsabers within the shorts. Some of them look similar to katanas. One includes a ring light that acts like a handguard while another adapts its color according to the wielder’s relationship with the force. The most intriguing is the familial saber, which includes an inscribed blade. The shorts can also be used to add motion blur and light trails to lightsabers during duels. This looks amazing.
There is also some variety, even though most of the action relies on lightsabers. The Duel is about halfway through. The Ninth Jedi recreates the Endor speeder bike chase from Return of the Jedi. The Ninth Jedi also transposes the action into beautiful snow-covered forests. This callback feels more like an homage than a retread.
Star Wars: Vision is an enjoyable movie. Even the shorters that I don’t like are still interesting and visually captivating. They expand Star Wars’ universe and give us new (you guessed right) views of the galaxy. While each short has its flaws and some are better than others as an anthology, these glimpses into Star Wars in the hand’s anime masters can create are stunningly beautiful and truly exciting. We hope that this second set of shorts will fix some of the group’s minor problems.