What kind of year has 2022 been for you so far? For me, it’s been a very Star Wars-ey year. This started when Mrs. J-List and I were flipping channels after the end of the Kohaku Red-and-White Song Battle music show, scanning through the various live music performances that are a big part of New Year’s TV programming in Japan. One we found was a classical music concert by a Japanese conductor who had studied under John Williams, performing the main theme to Star Wars. I then spent the slow New Year’s holiday relaxing and playing Star Wars video games, then realized that I hadn’t properly watched the Star Wars ‘Anime’ shorts on Disney+, called Star Wars Visions. What a terrible fan I am!
I resolved to fix this situation by giving the new Star Wars anime series a try, and boy was I glad I did.
I Had a Bad Feeling About the Star Wars Anime At First…
One of the themes of 2021 was that the companies behind anime shifted around quite a bit, flexing their considerable muscle behind the scenes. Sony completed its purchase of Crunchyroll giving them a huge amount of control over the international anime world, and Disney announced that they’d be commissioning original anime works for their Disney+ streaming platform. While more money being thrown at Japan’s animators is certainly a good thing all around, some fans expressed fears that the anime we all love could get “Westernized” like this…
Fans like to get defensive about the media they love and worry that it will be harmed or destroyed if this or that company has its way. But there’s no reason to believe that Sony will apply their famously stupid Playstation censorship policies to anime in general, or that any work commissioned by Disney for their streaming platform will remove all the features we love about anime storytelling.
My Lack of Faith was Disturbing: Disney Got Star Wars Visions Right!
When I watched the Marvel What If? animated series, I also approached it with caution. We’d had Marvel “cartoons” before, but they weren’t anything to get too excited about, certainly far below the level of the outstanding Batman: The Animated Series of the late 90s. Imagine my surprise when Disney told amazing alternate history stories from the Marvel Cinematic Universe which were thoughtfully written and thoroughly entertaining. Best of all, they paid big bucks to get nearly all the original cast back in their famous roles, giving the What If? series a “canon” feel it could never have had otherwise.
The voice cast in Star Wars Visions is also outstanding. I originally intended to recommend that fans watch the series with Japanese audio and English subtitles, to better capture the idea of Star Wars stories being told through the medium of Japanese animation. And while that’s still my recommendation, the fact that Disney hired such famous names as Tem Morrison, Neil Patrick Harris, and George Takei for the English voice cast means you might want to watch each episode twice.
Let’s go through each of the episodes and see what was cool about them!
The Duel, by Kamikaze Douga
The first episode of the Star Wars Visions is fantastic, a black and white production with many nods to Akira Kurosawa’s classic films. A lone wanderer known as Ronin and his droid sidekick must defend a village that’s about to be conquered by a gang headed by a Sith Lord. This is one of the best episodes for its bold tying of Star Wars to classic Japanese film.
Tatooine Rhapsody, by Studio Colorido
A young Padawan named Jay joins a rock band as a way to escape the Jedi Purge during the Clone Wars. The band is hunted by Boba Fett and must travel to Tatooine to convince Jabba the Hutt to spare the life of one of the members.
I got to have beers with an actual anime producer in Tokyo. Read what juicy insider information I was able to pick up in this blog post!
The Twins by Studio Trigger
A real gem by beloved Studio Trigger, this is the story of two twins named Karre and Am who are made artificially Force-sensitive by the Empire. A new superweapon has been created, but Karre has a vision that his sister will die if the weapon is used, so he steals the kyber crystal that powers the weapon. There’s nothing like seeing the animation style of Kill La Kill applied to the Star Wars universe!
The Village Bride by Kinema Citrus
The story of a village dealing with bandits who have reprogrammed old Battle Droids to serve as their soldiers. Daughter of the village chief Haru is going to allow herself to be taken hostage to the bandits, but her sister Saku tries to attack the villains. Can a fallen Jedi who’s passing through save the village?
The Ninth Jedi by Production I.G.
Famous animation studio Production I.G. brings us a great story about a sabersmith named Lah Zhima— one of the rare craftsmen who can still create lightsabers — and his daughter Kara. When an offer of lightsabers to masterless Jedi turns out to be a Sith plot, can Kara use the Force and defeat them?
T0-B1 by Science SARU
It’s great when you can immediately tell what original works the creators are making an homage to. T0-B1 is the Astro Boy-inspired story of a droid who dreams of becoming a Jedi to avenge the death of his creator, Professor Mikata. The animation is done in a style similar to Osamu Tezuka.
The Elder by Studio Trigger
Also by Studio Trigger, The Elder is set before the events of The Phantom Menace, telling the story of Jedi Tajin and his Padawan Dan, who encounter an ancient Sith Lord. But aren’t the Sith all dead?
Lop and Ochō by Geno Studio
One of the best episodes in the Star Wars anime series, this is the story of local clan leader Yasaburo and his daughter Ochō, who encounter a rabbit-girl named Lop who’s an escaped slave. Ochō begs her father to adopt Lop into the family so she can have a sister. Years later the Empire has occupied the planet and Ochō has joined their ranks, causing Yasaburo to choose between his blood Ochō daughter and his new adopted daughter Lop. Which girl should inherit his family’s ceremonial lightsaber?
Also, this one might just turn you into a furry. Lop is so cute!
Akakiri by Science SARU
The story of a troubled Jedi named Tsubaki who is suffering from visions of the death of someone dear to him, which turns out to be his old love Misa, who he slays accidentally. When Misa’s evil aunt Masago offers to heal Misa if Tsubaki will join the dark side, he has no choice but to agree.
I Can’t Believe Disney’s Star Wars Anime Was This Good!
Thanks for reading this post about the Star Wars Visions anime, which delighted me with the fresh and unique stories it told, all created by some of the best animation studios in Japan. Did you like the series? Post your thoughts below, or reply to us on Twitter!
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