As entertainment franchises expand out of live-action movies to include animated series, there is none that do it as well as Star Wars. From Star Wars: Rebels, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the most recent Star Wars: The Bad Batch, fans have fallen in love with the animated shows just as much as they did with the movies. Now, the galaxy far far away is exploring a brand new animation format and style with its latest release, Star Wars: Visions.
Visions has everything fans love in the Star Wars universe, and marks the franchise’s first anthology series, as well as its first anime series – at least, in the Disney era. Helmed by seven different anime studios, each episode of Visions is a unique take on the Star Wars universe with a touch of Japanese influence, and it’s like seeing the Force with a new set of abilities.
Without revealing too much, the first episode, The Duel sees a Kurosawa-styled, Star Wars meets Ronin story, where a seemingly Force sensitive individual saves an entire village from a Sith. Episode four, Tatooine Rhapsody, is a musical tale on friendships and sees the protagonist attempting to save a friend from dying at the hands of Jabba the Hutt. On the other hand, episode six The Village Bride has subtle romance undertones where a woman is forced to marry an enemy despite having someone she loves, so as to save her village from being destroyed.
From here, it is clear as day that Visions serves diversity in each sitting, with each episode focused on different themes and stories that have yet to be explored in the franchise. Visions gives fans a different way to love, understand and explore the Star Wars world and any fan would easily gobble that up – us included.
The characters in these episodes are also new, though there are familiar faces, such as Boba Fett making appearances here and there. It is absolutely refreshing to watch a Star Wars series with a clean slate, especially since past series often deal with existing characters. Whilst the breath of fresh air is welcomed, certain characters in some episodes are not as fleshed out as others and while the universe is the same, loving new characters is easy when they’re well-written, and when they aren’t, it makes a 15-minute episode feel much longer than it is.
Yes, each episode of Visions runs short, averaging around 13 to 17 minutes per episode. For the more enjoyable episodes, 15 minutes is definitely not enough and will leave you wanting for more, but for some of the less enjoyable episodes, it can be an absolute snoozefest.
Visions boasts an incredibly long list of voice actors ranging from well-known stars like Temuera Morrison, Henry Golding, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Neil Patrick Harris, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Harbour and more as the English voice cast. For the Japanese dub, veterans of the industry including the actors behind such iconic characters as Goku, Gon Freecss and more are easily identifiable by anime fans.
Content and star power aside, the biggest difference between Visions is clearly the art style. Taking on an anime visual style as compared to the go-to 3D animation seen in Rebels, Visions is visually appealing to fans in the East and fans who have a particular love for anime. It’s the best of both worlds for anime and Star Wars fans and something refreshing for Western audiences and non-anime viewers. As previously mentioned, each episode is helmed by different studios so viewers get to enjoy different art styles, colours and animations each time. It gives you the experience that you’re watching a brand new film-short each time, so viewers leave each episode with different impressions and a unique episode that either holds strongly on its own or is seen as a flop – subject to viewer’s preferences.
As an anime series, the Japanese elements are definitely interesting, like a lightsaber hilt looking close to a samurai sword and costumes taking inspiration from Japanese samurais back in the day. Of course, this isn’t Star Wars’ first time borrowing from Japanese culture so whilst certain new elements are entertaining, it’s not entirely fresh or awe-inspiring.
Whilst the different styles and lack of overall theme is a lot to get used to, it makes Visions the kind of series that you can drop in and out to watch whenever you want to during your free time. This serves as a perk for busy fans who don’t have the time to watch all nine episodes at one go or for those who want some Star Wars content without committing to an entire series. Unfortunately, that means retaining viewers is difficult as Visions is not the kind of series that you will binge-watch in one sitting, regardless of how short each episode is.
It is also neither a series you would return to if it doesn’t successfully win you over during the first two to three episodes, or a series that would inspire you to create conversation over, unlike say, the Disney+ shows from Marvel Studios, where fans would argue, anticipate and discuss spoilers.
In all, Visions is undoubtedly Star Wars experimenting with how the franchise can be explored on a service like Disney+ where possibilities and creative endeavours are endless, but it fails to realise that what keeps fans and viewers retaining and returning to the Star Wars animated series time and time again. After all these years, the love that fans have for the franchise is also based on the deep nostalgia and familiarity associated, so something drastically different might not always be embraced.
While Visions is keen to supply something new each time, with new characters, new visual style, and new pacing with each episode, the lack of consistency can be quite off-putting. In the past, Star Wars has managed to serve variety with each episode (look at The Mandalorian for example) and still keep viewers hooked, be it with a greatly written character or the nostalgia associated with the time period in which events are set in.
That’s not to say Star Wars: Visions isn’t a good watch. It’s worth the watch if you’re a fan of anime, are itching for something unique from a beloved franchise and want to explore the world through a non-canon lens, but it lacks the nostalgic touch that keep Star Wars fans coming back five, 10, 20, or heck, even 40 years later.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Star Wars: Visions is the best of both worlds for anime and Star Wars fans, but lacks the nostalgia that is often key to having a successful Star Wars series.
Story - 6/10
Direction - 7/10
Characterisation - 6/10
Geek Satisfaction - 5/10