Star Wars: Visions (2021)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 10/17/21

Contains nine episodes

The original "Star Wars" movie took a lot of inspiration from Japanese cinema, so it's only fitting that Japan would have their own take on the people and places in that galaxy far, far away. Much like "Batman: Gotham Knight" (2008), this is a Japanese anime anthology of short stories inspired by the "Star Wars" universe. Roughly half of the episodes are good, while the rest are a bit disappointing. The animation styles vary wildly, but thematically the stories are all very similar. Essentially, The Galactic Empire is a corrupt government body that oppresses and exploits the people, while the Jedi are a group of individuals that rise to fight against the system. While these stories of rebellion and good vs. evil strongly resonate and make me want to fight our own corrupt leaders, they also make me feel utterly helpless to have any impact against The Man and The Machine. Heroes are truly extraordinary individuals who are able to act when the people cannot, and I am not a hero. I am a coward, and a simple cog in the enemy's machine.

"The Duel" is probably my favorite episode, simply because it's the most visually arresting story in the batch. In it, a wandering ronin defends a village from a band of marauders led by a renegade Sith. It's classic samurai cinema juxtaposed with a science fiction setting, and it's glorious. Several episodes have a strong samurai influence, and the Jedi are often portrayed as wandering ronin who fight for the common people. While most of the stories are biased towards "the light side" of these galactic conflicts, "Lop And Ocho" makes it a point to give The Empire equal representation by portraying a family torn apart by opposing ideologies. "TO-B1" is a bizarre retelling of the "Astroboy" story that is overly sweet and silly, but intensely violent at the same time. "Tatooine Rhapsody" is about a struggling rock band and is easily the lamest story of the bunch, which is frustrating because it's arguably the best animated. It's also the only story that features existing characters like Boba Fett, Jabba The Hutt, and Bib Fortuna, and they look fantastic. The biggest disappointment is probably "Twins," mostly due to its complete outrageousness and the fact that it utilizes the reviled "Holdo Maneuver" from "The Last Jedi" (2017).

Overall, the series is a mixed bag, but definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of both "Star Wars" and anime. Admittedly, the trailer is pretty awful and made me cringe, but taken in context, each of the stories work in their own unique way. The Japanese voice acting is very good, while the English dub is lacking and fails to capture the anime flavor of the material.