For a series that regularly takes us to a galaxy far, far away, it’s crazy that Star Wars has never journeyed to the much closer, equally mysterious land of Japan. Enter Star Wars: Visions, a new anthology series made up of shorts created by some of the most renowned anime studios in the Eastern Hemisphere (or so the official blurb tells me, anyway… I’m not a huge consumer of the genre so I wouldn’t know). Since Jedi are pretty much just space samurai with laser swords instead of katana and mystical powers instead of… well, non-mystical powers, the crossover was bound to go down as smoothly as a Mandalorian bounty hunter down the throat of a sarlacc. And it does, for the most part, although like all anthology works Visions definitely has some stinkers in the mix as well.
The animation across the nine episodes varies from fairly realistic (well, as realistic as anime ever gets, anyway) to almost painfully colorful and goofy, each style adequately matching the story that is being told. All the tropes of anime are there, from questionable physics (not that Star Wars was good with this to begin with) to wacky, impractical, and awesome weapons like the thing in the first episode that can only be described as a spinning lightsaber umbrella. The stories range from pretty cool to painfully bland, and some of them take much more advantage of the vast amount of storytelling potential the universe has to offer than others (the episode about the rock band in particular could have been set pretty much anywhere if you changed a word or two in the script). And while some episodes seemed to be geared more towards older fans like me, some were clearly written with children in mind, although none of them are "adult-adult", by any means. Star Wars: Visions is a series you can and should watch with your kids if they are burgeoning Sci-Fi/Fantasy geeks (and if they’re not, well, you’re raising them wrong).
One conversation that has always existed amongst western anime watchers is whether you should watch a series in the original Japanese with English subtitles or if you should watch it dubbed over with English voice actors. I opted for the latter, as it was the default, and I was too lazy to press a button or two to change it to the former. The English cast is stellar and includes some big names such as Neil Patrick Harris, Alison Brie, George Takei, Lucy Liu, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Simu Liu, and they all sound like they are having a blast, even if their dialogue is occasionally awkward to western sensibilities, as was the case with Harris and Brie (apparently overexplaining is a thing that happens in some anime, however, so I will allow it). Star Wars: Visions was clearly created with a lot of love and it shows.
With only nine episodes that vary from 15-ish minutes to 30, Visions is a quick, easy watch. And if you don’t like an episode, just skip ahead to the next one. What do you have to lose?
Star Wars: Visions (season one, perhaps?) is now available in it’s entirety on Disney+.