Spoiler Review – ‘Star Wars Visions’ Reimagines The Galaxy
This week Star Wars Visions arrives on Disney+ on Wednesday, September 22. Star Wars Visions is an anthology of animated shorts celebrating Star Wars through the lens of the world’s best anime creators and storytellers. This non-canon series features nine episodes from varying Japanese animation studios reimagining our favorite galaxy far, far away in the way that only anime can. These studios include: Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio (Twin Engine), Studio Colorido (Twin Engine), TRIGGER, Kinema Citrus, Science Saru, and Production I.G.
I was able to get a first look at the entire series, and Star Wars Visions is absolutely awesome. It is a true balance of the Force with all the elements of what I love about Star Wars and anime. It features stories of love, war, friendship, loss, and most importantly hope – in a new, refreshing way. Fans will walk away from this series with not only new favorite characters and stories, but an excitement of what is possible from storytellers when they are able to explore past the outer rim of what is expected in the Star Wars universe.
Want to hear more about the episodes and what to expect?
***SPOILER WARNING! The next section will be a detailed review of each of the nine episodes in the series.***
E1 – The Duel – Runtime: 14 minutes
The first episode of the series is a black and white, Akira Kurosawa-inspired film from studio Kamikaze Douga that features Master Ronin. You might recognize the name as the character that will be in the upcoming novel, Ronin, to be released on October 12th.
The episode introduces us to Ronin (Brian Tee) and his R2-lookalike droid entering a village on a distant planet. The village is under attack from the bandits from the other side of the mountain. As Ronin stands by observing with his droid, a boy identifies himself as the Village Chief (Jaden Waldman) and steps forward to face the bandits, and a battle ensues. A group of village guards consisting of droids, a trandoshan, and other creatures take on the bandits, but are overpowered when the Bandit Leader (Lucy Liu) reveals herself and her deadly lightsaber weapon.
“It’s been a long time since I killed a Jedi.” – Bandit Leader
This is the point where Ronin steps in and takes on the Bandit Leader revealing that he is not a jedi, but actually a sith. It’s a shocking revelation as throughout the episode it is assumed that Ronin is a Jedi. The episode ends with him defeating the sith and giving the kyber crystal to the Village Chief to ward off evil.
This episode was a great way to kick off the series. The animation style drew inspiration from old westerns, but made it action-packed with the pops of color from the weapons. The music by Keiji Inai created a true cinematic experience despite it only being 14 minutes. I think Lucy Liu truly shined in this short, her voice work was perfect for the savage Bandit Leader.
E2 – Tatooine Rhapsody – Runtime: 13 minutes
The next episode is presented by Studio Colorido and explores a new story about a Star Wars band that travels to familiar places. Our main character Jay (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is introduced via a flashback of his time as a young padawan. He falls into a ship when running away from battle droids and finds himself face to face with a Hutt named Geezer (Bobby Moynihan).
Flash forward to present day where Jay and his band Star Waver are playing a concert. They’re rocking out to an audience of creatures and aliens when everyone’s favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) arrives to take Geezer back to Jabba. Yes, that Jabba.
A fight breaks out and the band attempts to flee, but Boba ultimately wins and leaves with Geezer. Jay is heartbroken, but he and the rest of the band including K-344 (Shelby Young) and Lan (Marc Thompson) pull together a plan to save their friend.
Get ready to be hit by nostalgia! The band finds their way to Tatooine where they have convinced Jabba to allow them to play one more song before Geezer is executed. They are led to the stage at Mos Espa Grand Arena by Bib Fortuna where they proceed to play one more song as a group. During the song, you’ll see lots of easter eggs including a bantha, the Mos Eisley Cantina (including a funny shot of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes sweating while viewing the concert), and even a glimpse of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s homestead on the cliff. The story ends with Jay convincing Jabba to sponsor the band and the friends getting to continue to rock out.
This short was one of the most fun ones of the series. It’s lighthearted with deeper emotional moments of Jay reconnecting with his past as a padawan. There were a lot of familiar faces and places in this one, and it was hard not to smile at Jabba tapping his tail and Boba Fett nodding his helmet to the songs. The overall look of this animation style reminded me of the Star Wars Egg Attack figures, with their smaller bodies and bigger heads, and it worked for the playful story created.
E3 – The Twins – Runtime: 17 minutes
Next up is an episode presented by Trigger. It opens with a reveal of Empire starships connected with a hypercannon. The cannon looks similar to the super weapons we’ve seen on both Starkiller and Crait.
We’re introduced to two twins – Am (Alison Brie) and Karre (Neil Patrick Harris) – who were created through the dark side to take over the galaxy. The two have spent their lives building an army and weapon to fulfill their dark side destiny. However when the time comes to use the power core and ignite the hypercannon, Karre has a change of heart and steals the power core. He confronts Am and removes his dark armor to reveal an outfit that looks inspired by our canon heroes Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.
“We will bring order to the galaxy – this is our mission as twins created through the power of the dark side.” – Am
When Am refuses to let him leave Karre jumps into an x-wing with his trusted droid R-DUO and tries to escape. He’s held back by Am using the force to hold the ship in place. After a failed escape attempt Am and Karre battle it out on the surface of the starships. They split the power core similar to what we see with the lightsaber between Kylo Ren and Rey in The Last Jedi. Karre tries to reason with Am, but she is overwhelmed by her need for power and takes a piece of the power core to upgrade her armor. As the power begins to consume her, Karre teams up with R-DUO to use a jump to lightspeed and “Holdo maneuver” his way to cutting his twin free of the crystal’s power. It works and Karre wakes up on a distant planet with R-DUO saying he knows his sister is out there.
This was one of my favorite shorts of the series. I liked how it explored the dark side twins story and the dynamic of a family caught in a power struggle. The droids, R-DUO and B-20N (Jonathan Lipow) were clearly inspired by R2-D2 and C-3PO, but they worked so well within the story. I really enjoyed how they used actual R2 sound effects for R-DUO. I could definitely watch a whole movie or series of these characters, and loved how the ending left you wondering what comes next.
E4 – The Village Bride – Runtime 18 minutes
For episode 4 of the series, presented by Kinema Citrus, we meet F (Karen Fukuhara) and Valco (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) on a distant planet. They are observing a local couple – Haru (Nichole Sakura) and Asu (Christopher Sean) – who are to be married as they take part in an ancient ritual with the spirit of the planet.
While observing the couple, F learns from Valco that separatists stripped the planet during the war and left behind a large army of battle droids. The local gang, Raiders, reprogrammed the droids and are now using them to take all the tribe’s resources. In an effort to protect her people and elderly father who is the chief of the tribe, Haru decides to sacrifice herself as collateral to the Raiders. They will be arriving in the morning to take her.
“That’s all that war is, nothing but loss.” – Valco
The next morning Haru goes to meet the leader Izuma (Andrew Kishino) and the raiders, but is surprised to see her sister Saku (Stephanie Sheh) attempt to fight back with a thermal detonator. She is almost shot, but the blaster bolt is held back by F, and then redirected at the raiders. This leads to one of the best exchanges in the series with Izuma asking “What are you some kind of a monster?” and F replying with, “I am a Jedi.”
She defeats the raiders with the help of Valco and his rocket helmet. The tribe is safe and able to run to their lives without fear. F leaves the planet in her ship and continues on her journey in the galaxy.
This episode was a perfect example of creating a new story while blending in themes and moments from canon Star Wars. I liked how F was a very mysterious character at the beginning of the episode and not really wanting to get involved, but when the time came she did the right thing and used her Jedi skills to protect the tribe. I would love to see more adventures with her in the future, and need to know more about her superpowered high heels. They were awesome.
E5 – The Ninth Jedi – Runtime 22 minutes
The next episode is presented by I.G Presents. The story begins with a hologram message sent out to the galaxy by Master Juro (Andrew Kishino). He puts a call out for Jedi to travel to the outer rim to join him to restore peace to the galaxy. He promises them the gift of a lightsaber upon their arrival.
We meet a group of Jedi who have answered Juro’s call and are waiting for his arrival at the aerial temple. They are greeted by the Steward droid who says that Juro and the lightsabers are on their way.
Meanwhile below on the planet, we’re introduced to Kara (Kimiko Glenn) who lives with her sabersmith father Zhima (Simu Liu). While Kara practices with one of the lightsabers and discusses next steps with her father, they are attacked by Jedi hunters. Zhima gives the lightsabers to Kara and tells her to run. Zhima is captured, but after a speeder chase and battle with one of the Jedi hunters, Kara makes it to the aerial temple.
At the temple it is revealed that the Steward droid is actually Master Juro and the group of Jedi are Sith. Only one member of the group is a Jedi, Ethan (Masi Oka), and he joins forces with Juro and Kara to fight the Sith. After the Sith are destroyed, Juro convinces Roden (Greg Chun) to join them on the light side and he agrees. The group decides to travel together to find Kara’s father and restore the Jedi to the galaxy.
This was my other favorite short of the series. I think this story is set up in such a way that it just kept me wanting more. Kara reminded me a lot of Rey, and the music by Nobuko Toda and Kazuma Jinnouchi had glimpses of her theme throughout the episode. I think the speeder chase and lightsaber battles kept the story fast-paced and exciting, even though it was the longest of the series with a runtime of 22 minutes. And of course I can’t forget how cool the moment at the end was when the temple flipped to reveal the hilt of a lightsaber.
E6 – T0-B1 – Runtime 14 minutes
Next up is the hopeful story of T0-B1 presented by Science Saru. This adorable droid was built by Professor Mitaka to help create life on their desolate planet. While T0-B1 helps the Professor with his experiments and projects, he truly dreams of traveling the galaxy and being a Jedi.
After realizing how important this dream is to him, the Professor sends T0-B1 out in search of a kyber crystal. He is welcome to search across the planet, but the one rule is to stay out of the basement. When his curiosity gets the best of him, T0-B1 goes into the basement and discovers a spaceship. While playing around in the cockpit he sends out a transmission, and accidentally attracts the attention of The Inquisitor who is hunting down Jedi. When The Inquisitor is on his way, the Professor reveals he is a Jedi and places T0-B1 in a hiding spot with an unfinished lightsaber.
“I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.” – Professor Mitaka
When T0-B1 comes out of hiding he discovers the homestead has been destroyed with all the other droids, and the Professor has been killed. T0-B1 vows to finish the Professor’s mission to create life on the planet. When he achieves this goal, he cries from happiness revealing a kyber crystal. He finally is able to build his own lightsaber, but unfortunately must prepare to fight when The Inquisitor arrives again. The Professor appears to T0-B1 and tells him to “don’t be afraid”, then knights him to become a Jedi. Now going by the name of Tobi, he battles with The Inquisitor and uses his droid friend CO-3 to morph into a super version of himself, and is able to defeat him. Tobi then takes the Professor’s ship and blasts off into the galaxy to help other planets because, “that’s what Jedi do.”
This episode felt very short and wasn’t my favorite of the series. The character development felt rushed, and I didn’t have an emotional connection to the characters like I did with some of the other episodes. I thought the animation style was beautiful and childlike, which matched T0-B1/Tobi perfectly. I would have liked to learn more about the Professor.
E7 – The Elder – Runtime: 16 minutes
Trigger is back for this next episode, which starts with Jedi Master Tajin (David Harbour) and Padawan Dan (Jordan Fisher) traveling to the outer rim in their ship. They are discussing their trip when Tajin senses darkness and evil like never before. He insists that they must land on the nearest planet to inspect the energy he senses.
The pair discover that an Elder had arrived earlier on the planet and that he went into the mountains on his own. Dan proposes to split up and he goes to the mountains, while Tajin stays to observe the ship. When Dan arrives in the mountains and discovers a killed animal, the markings resemble a lightsaber cut and Tajin says “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” He orders Dan to return, but Dan is confronted by The Elder (James Hong).
“Let’s not speak with our mouths, but with our blades.” – The Elder
The Elder proceeds to pull out two red sith lightsaber blades and battles Dan. Dan is struck down by The Elder as Tajin rushes to assist him.
When Tajin and The Elder fight, Tajin destroys one of The Elder’s blades making him use force lighting. Before he can attack Tajin, Dan uses the Force to throw his lightsaber at The Elder as a distraction, giving Tajin the chance to kill him. The two Jedi reflect on the fight with The Elder and his ultimate downfall.
“Do not forget your training and your kindness,” Tajin says to Dan, as the two continue on their journey.
This episode had one of the best villains of the series. The Elder was ruthless, savage, and absolutely creepy. There is one point where his eyes look so sunken into his head, showing how dark this Elder has gone. Tajin and Dan reminded me a lot of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan with their relationship, and it was fun to see those hand communicators from the prequels being used. I think PT fans will rank this short as one of their favorites.
E8 – Lop & Ocho – Runtime: 20 minutes
In this episode, presented by Geno Studio, we travel to the planet Tao which has been occupied by the Galactic Empire. A rabbit-like creature named Lop (Anna Cathcart), is on the run through the city with her droid TD-4. She runs into Ocho (Hiromi Dames) and Yasaburo (Paul Nakauchi) while trying to steal food and survive, and they both decide that she will join their family.
Seven years later, Lop’s sister Ocho is fighting with Yasaburo on an Imperial ship. She argues that she stands with the Empire and the right choice is to join them, however Yasaburo disagrees.
When Lop and Ocho arrive home they are confronted by an Imperial Officer (Kyle McCarley) who offers for Ocho to join them. Lop pleads with Ocho to stay with the family, but Ocho cuts off her hair and joins the Empire.
Later Lop is reunited with Yasaburo and begs him to help her save Ocho. She explains how it’s his own daughter, and they are supposed to be a family, but Yasaburo says it’s too late. He gifts Lop the family lightsaber and she goes off to find Ocho.
When she finds Ocho, sporting a very Orson Krennic style outfit, a fight breaks out between her, Ocho and their father Yasaburo. Yasaburo loses an eye and asks for Lop to save her sister. Lop challenges Ocho with the family sword, to which Ocho responds that it doesn’t belong to her because she is adopted.
“Inheritance has nothing to do with blood – there is so much that matters more.” – Yasaburo
Lop defeats Ocho by knocking her off the ship, but is surprised to see her rise on top of another ship and escapes. Lop picks up TD-4 who was destroyed during the fight, as the droid plays a hologram of the once happy family.
This short left me with a lot of questions. What happened to Ocho? Will Lop see her again? What happens with the planet Tao, does the Empire continue their occupation? I feel like we only got a glimpse of these characters and the overall story of this planet. I think this episode had some of the most imaginative characters, costumes, and scenery in the entire series. Loved seeing the cherry blossoms!
E9 – Akakiri – Runtime: 13 minutes
The final episode of the series is another short by Science Saru. It focuses on a Jedi named Tsubaki (Henry Golding) who has returned to a planet after a Sith has been revealed within the royal family.
He meets up with the exiled Princess Misa (Jamie Cung) and two guides named Senshuu (George Takei) and Kamahachi (Keone Young). The crew has a plan to sneak into the kingdom to surprise Masago (Lorraine Toussaint), but are captured and their plan fails.
Tsubaki confronts Masago, who is the king’s sister and kills him to take over the throne. A battle ensues between Tsubaki and Masago and Tsubaki accidentally kills Misa who was disguised as a guard by Masago.
“Without power, you can change nothing.” – Masago
Masago then tells Tsubaki to join her to rule the galaxy as her apprentice, and she’ll bring back Misa (Hmm, this sounds familiar?!). A defeated and heartbroken Tsubaki agrees and pledges his allegiance to Masago. She brings a shocked Misa back to life, to face a broken Tsubaki. He pulls up his dark hood and proceeds to follow Masago onto her ship to leave.
This was the most heartbreaking episode of the series. Even though it was one of the shortest, it was able to create such devastation in 13 minutes. It was so depressing to watch the fall of Tsubaki, but let’s be honest, this is a story we’ve seen before. This time our hero was able to save the woman he cared for, but at what cost?
Star Wars Visions is an innovative, exciting way to explore the Star Wars universe. It’s an example of the unique characters and adventures we’ll get from diverse storytellers if given the chance. Across this nine episode series, there is something for every type of fan from lightsaber battles and action, to family conflict and personal triumph. I hope that this is only the beginning for Star Wars Visions, because it’s a big galaxy out there with plenty of stories to tell.
Also, please check out our Spoiler review on Youtube as well:
Lacey is a co-host on SWNN’s official podcast The Resistance Broadcast. You can see and hear her Monday and Thursday recapping the news and having deep discussions with the rest of the TRB crew. When not podcasting, Lacey provides live coverage for events like Star Wars Celebration, New York Comic Con, and more! A Star Wars Fan since 2nd grade, she has always been drawn to the characters and adventures in a galaxy far, far away. You can usually find her either watching The Force Awakens for the 100000th time, or looking for art, toys and collectibles to add to her ever-growing collection. Geek out with Lacey on Twitter and Instagram – @laceygilleran.