The idea behind the latest Disney+ series “Star Wars: Visions” is simple: what if Star Wars was a Japanese anime? The show is a nine-episode anthology created by several different animation studios. Each episode tells its own unique story with a distinctive visual style.
“Star Wars: Visions” is one of the few things Disney has done with the franchise that isn’t creatively bankrupt. So much Star Wars content is boring, recycling the same stories and characters over and over again. I never want to have to see the fight between the Rebellion and Empire again and much of the Star Wars content over the past several years has been retreading the same story that concluded in 1983. The sequel trilogy is just a worse remake of the original movies. Every spin off movie has been a story no one asked for that also recaps the same story or same characters we’ve seen already.
Thankfully, “Star Wars: Visions” throws those familiar ideas in the garbage. The series prides itself on its uniqueness, creativity and originality. Essentially, the different animation studios were given free rein to do whatever they wanted; there weren’t any limits involving the pre-existing continuity. Some episodes are like a samurai film, some are cute anime characters doing their thing and some are just over the top action.
If you’re a fan of animation, then the series will not disappoint. Most of the episodes have great art design, fluid motion and expressive characters. The best-looking episode was the eighth one: “Lop and Och?” with its stunningly detailed backgrounds.
As much as I can praise the series for being unique and original, it is still not perfect. Because it is an anthology, none of the episodes connect to another. Since there is no overarching story, the presentation and quality of each episode alone have to be the hook for the viewer to keep watching. Unfortunately, not every episode is equally good. In fact, half of them end up being lackluster overall. One episode will be subtle and complex, while the next will be a dumb story about a rock band. While that variety is a strength, it makes it hard to get through the whole series.
Episode seven, “The Elder,” is particularly bad. The episode is frankly dull and lifeless, and the characters have stilted conversations until the episode culminates in an anti-climactic fight. This episode represents the problem with the series: despite its cool visuals and ideas, some episodes just feel like a waste of time.
The show also tends to recycle its own ideas. There are at least four different episodes that use the “wandering samurai” trope. A Jedi will come across a village being terrorized by bad guys only to save them by the end, and most likely flight a Sith, too.
The best way to watch the show is not to watch each episode, but only the ones that look intriguing to you. My personal top three goes as follows. The best episode is the first one, “The Duel.” It builds a great sense of tension and anticipation. More than that, it is the most stylistically bold episode, with a grainy old film aesthetic reminiscent of classic Japanese cinema. The second best is the above-mentioned episode eight. On top of the beautiful visuals, it is a fun story with a likeable protagonist and decent family drama to carry it. The third best is the ninth episode, “Akakiri.” It feels the most experimental out of the series with dark themes and a forbidden love story.
The best episodes give a glimpse of just how good the show could have been if the rest held up to that quality. There are actually much better animes that tackle the concept of an anthology series set in space such as “Cowboy Bebop” and especially “Space Dandy.” “Star Wars: Visions” could have been great if it had followed the mold set by better series of the same vein.
Despite its shortcomings, the series still offers a lot of great stuff. It is the only thing of interest the franchise has offered in a while. Companies like Disney rolling the dice on bold new creations is something I respect and want to see more of. So, give “Visions” a shot and see what episodes you end up liking the most.