I’ve always been captivated by the vast and unique universe portrayed by the movies of the “Star Wars” franchise. Then, Disney announced “Star Wars Visions,” a series of nine animated “Star Wars” shorts films, would be released on Disney+ on Sept. 22. I couldn’t wait to see them.
Each episode is animated by a different Japanese animation studio. Each short film tells its own separate story apart from both the movies and each other that ranges from 13-22 minutes long.
Episode I: “The Duel”
“The Duel” features a wanderer defending a village from bandits. Animated by studio Kamikaze Douga in almost entirely black and white, the short dramatizes specific sequences by showing color through light-emitting objects.
“The Duel” is a simple story told expertly. Everything from the sound, the visuals and the storytelling captured my attention. It’s a perfect example of “show don’t tell.”
The character designs are rugged and rough. They wear simple robes and clothing without much detail, which drew me to their faces, where the greatest details lie.
The short film contains few lines of dialogue, so the story was mostly told by the character expressions and their actions.
The black and white world made me focus on every little scene and appreciate every little detail the world had to offer.
Episode II: “Tatooine Rhapsody”
A band of musicians works together to rescue their comrade held captive by Jabba the Hutt, a leader in the criminal underworld.
What struck me first was the bright, explosive colors that were animated by Studio Colorido.
The character models weren’t too detailed, and everything seemed a little childish.
At first, the story seemed predictable and uninspired. The character designs and environment didn’t help change it.
But as the story progressed, it became more serious, with the threat of death looming over the characters.
The rescue was unique, having the band perform a light hearted, upbeat song that fit the story the episode tells.
It’s a light-hearted adventure that’s alien compared to the other episodes but is entertaining nonetheless.
Episode III: “The Twins”
Two twins battle it out for possession of a powerful crystal that can change the course of their universe.
The story, animated by Studio Trigger, is incredibly simplistic and nothing new.
But it’s very quick-paced and action-packed, so I never got bored for a moment.
The uniquely depicted battles made the episode stand out to me because I had never seen anything like it in the entirety of the “Star Wars Universe.”
Each battle was unpredictable and full of excitement.
But after a few minutes, it’s unpredictable nature turned for the worse.
It broke its own rules and became tiresome to watch.
Unlike the previous episodes, which got darker and more mysterious as time went on, this episode became more childish as time went on as an effect of overusing its unpredictability.
Episode IV: “The Village Bride”
Animated by studio Kinema Citrus, an isolated tribe of people seeks to defend its home from invaders.
This episode takes all of the flaws in the previous three and mushes them together.
Its slow-moving and unstimulating plot doesn’t get much help from the animation.
The characters, both villains and heroes, are simplified versions of all the ones in the previous episodes.
It breaks and reinvents the laws of the Force, the established power system, by creating a new explanation for the power system Magina.
Magina is all over the place and there are no proper rules.
“The Village Bride” attempts to juggle the concepts of the previous episodes and fails miserably.
Episode V: “The Ninth Jedi”
Nine magical beings of different alien races gather at the call of a mysterious king for a chance at a lightsaber, a powerful and ancient weapon.
My hopes were not high after the previous episode, but this quick-paced and story-driven adventure made me eager for more.
The animated environments created by Production IG left me in awe. Every scene was detailed and eye-catching.
The animation smoothed out curves and abstract details, making the animation flow for quick-paced moments, making it feel like the world was moving as the characters were.
Each character model is unique and unforgettable when fighting. The fighting choreography made me feel the power and skill of the combatants.
It was a great restart to the series and had me hoping that the quality would continue.
Episode VI: “To-Bi”
A cybernetic boy who dreams of being a Jedi, a magical warrior, discovers a hidden power and a hidden secret that he possesses.
Science Saru, the animation company behind this episode, did a beautiful job creating the detailed scenery, but I don’t feel the same for the character animation.
It lacks the same high quality the environment has.
The environment has bright colors and makes sure to add lots of details; The way lightning crackles at the sky or the shapliness of rocks in a desert.
But the character animation does not match the visual quality of the scenes. The characters are drawn as simplistically as cartoons, making it feel like they have no emotions.
I can see the small cracks in the rocky world.
The story starts off slow, to help us understand the protagonist and his universe, followed by an intense and well-deserved action scene.
The mystery behind the characters pulled me in and kept me there even after the big reveal. The terrific fight scene at the end was just a bonus.
Episode VII: “The Elder”
A Jedi and his apprentice discover and explore a powerful force on an isolated planet.
This episode starts with a simple concept, a master and an apprentice going on a quest, following a simple formula until the end, where it leaves the viewer with a thought-provoking question to answer on their own.
Animated by Studio Trigger, this episode did not disappoint in terms of visuals.
There were a few moments when watching rocks and valleys in the episode that made me feel as though it was almost real.
I almost wish that the entire season was animated by Studio Trigger because of how smooth and detailed it was.
Though the animation fits well with the characters and the scenery, it lacks a sense of uniqueness.
The best and worst part of this episode is the dialogue. On one hand, it offers a unique and intriguing perspective on what the standard universe led me to believe.
But on the other hand, it slowed down the episode by giving boring exposition and dull jokes that were clearly only added for extra time.
Episode VIII: “Lop and Ochō”
A ruling family endures a large-scale feud when facing the threat of an enemy empire.
Geno Studio did nothing to make the episode eye-catching, but its story was so compelling that I didn’t miss the high-quality visuals from the other portions of the show.
This episode stood out to me, not because of its quality but because of how it seemed like an emotional drama between two compelling sides.
The two sides are between two daughters, each contending to be head of the family, one side wants to embrace the empire, while the other wants to fight it.
But as the story continued, the family civil war developed a good versus evil scenario, making the episode mundane.
Episode IX: “Akakiri”
A Jedi helps his lover to take back her planet from a usurping aunt.
This episode’s most significant success is how detailed Science Saru made the background from every rock or crevice to a raindrop.
But this episode seems to have forgotten to save the best for last because it was definitely the worst.
The characters’ models seem out of place and passionless. Their expressions rarely change, which is an ironically accurate representation of how boring they are as characters.
The episode is slow and unimaginative, filled with lots of lazy and unimportant scenes that seem to be there only to extend the run time.
My overall rating of “Star Wars” Visions is 4/5. If you removed “Akakiri” and the “Village Bride,” it would’ve been a 5/5.
Those only seem to be in the lineup to increase the number of episodes.
I enjoyed the content and unique stories each episode produced. The highlight for me was the visuals in almost every episode; they basically never disappointed.
My favorite episode is “The Duel.” Everything from the action, the pacing, the storytelling, the visuals and the models screamed perfection.
I’d definitely recommend this series to all Star Wars fans, regardless of how much they know about the franchise.
I can’t wait to watch the next season when it’s released.