In recent years, Star Wars has made a big push to catch up with Marvel in Disney’s cast of all-star franchise universes. While Star Wars has always had an expanded universe with their “Legends” line of video games, novels, and more, those were always very lore-heavy and inaccessible. The new Star Wars universe would be easier to get into for people who most likely have only watched the 11 live-action films, if those. Lucasfilm’s initial roll-out plan seemed to be one Skywalker Saga film every other year with a “Star Wars Story” spin-off sandwiched between them, Rogue One and Solo being the only films from that initiative that saw release, as both the planned Boba Fett and Kenobi movies were retrofitted into ventures for Disney+, something that has made up a large portion of Disney’s new Star Wars material. During the presentation of their future projects last winter, Lucasfilm revealed that among their live-action spin-offs and continuations, they would be creating a rather unexpected show, an anime anthology series titled Star Wars: Visions.
Right off the bat, Visions is made to be straightforward. Though it has some major lore implications sprinkled within its concepts, they never waste time lingering on those implications. Only one episode features pre-existing characters and while people will no doubt spend the next few months arguing about how canon Visions is, the series follows its own rules and logic and that provides the freedom for the seven anime studios involved to do what they’d like with it.
When the first look at the show was released a few months after its announcement, many were excited by the already stunning visuals. Still, some complaints made the rounds from people worried about the aesthetics of the show and how well they would “fit” into the established Star Wars style. If that’s your concern, it’s certainly a founded one, as the series paves its own way and is unlike anything in Star Wars before it. But by no means is it something that actually hurts the anthology, quite the contrary, it acts as to Visions‘ benefit. Many things are bigger, louder, and more dramatic in Visions than they would be in any of the movies. Characters fight each other on top of an on-the-nose double Star Destroyer, an Astro Boy-inspired droid strives to learn the force, and so on. Many stories are ones that haven’t been told before in Star Wars, and some are just an alternate take on popular ones that have been told several times over.
Many episodes cover the same ground, yet Visions is actually a testament to how much visuals, voice acting, and direction account for a story’s impact, potentially even more so than the script itself. Each entry stands on its own and lands entirely different than the ones before it. And since many of the singular narratives touch on these similar concepts, the show provides the unique experience of seeing how different anime studios handle them in different ways. And even if every episode differs in their own way, one thing is consistent, the animation always lands.
When Visions was first announced, one thing was immediately clear, it was going to make full use of the imagery of the vast worlds of Star Wars and would deliver some of the most dynamic fights in the franchise yet. In this regard, it fully delivers, as each of the many lightsaber duels in the show are fully gripping and have their own unique touches that keep them from feeling old. On the note of voice acting, the Japanese voice cast puts their all into landing the emotional beats. The English cast, however, tries their best but not uncommonly misses due to the lack of actual experienced voice actors in many roles.
Visions is also a show fascinated with the myth of the Jedi, though that doesn’t mean that it gets bogged down in the heavy lore of the Jedi Order. While few characters in Visions actually are Jedi Knights, every single episode has the Jedi involved in some way, most commonly as an ideal to strive towards. Additionally, lightsabers receive a new life in many instances, representing a wide variety of things within the individual tales. They’re a voice, a symbol of family ties, a glimpse into the soul. These fresh takes on the iconic weapons are a benefit of the series, and whereas the movies had previously contained these concepts, Visions plays them in a far more direct manner.
That said, the show’s resounding interest with the Jedi and their legacy does mean that certain parts of the Star Wars universe are left unexplored. The criminal underworld, bounty hunters, and space battles come to mind as things that are very prevalent in the Star Wars brand but left out of Visions almost entirely. You could say that the series is sticking to a Jedi-motif this season and may focus on the rest of these corners in a hypothetical follow-up, although it’s more likely that every studio was eager to put their spin on the visuals that come with the Force and lightsabers and ended up putting the whole anthology in a box of sorts.
Despite sometimes touching on repetitive notes, Star Wars: Visions is everything that an anthology should be, working a concise story into its fairly short runtime and using that time effectively to build likable characters, interesting situations, and, of course, lead into gorgeous visuals and dynamic battles. Each chapter puts an interesting twist that will leave you eager for the next.