This post will contain spoilers to Star Wars: Visions.

I was ecstatic when I heard that Star Wars was to receive an anime treatment back in July this year. The news was announced on social media by the folks at Lucasfilm/Disney that this stellar endeavour (pun intended) will comprise nine short stories helmed by Japanese anime studios – two of which, Studio TRIGGER and Production IG, I am excited to see. From the teaser trailer, we could see that the stories are left to the studios to write, and even from the brief snippets, I could see strong Japanese elements form the core to the imagery, superadded to the lore that George Lucas created. One segment of the trailer (which was later known as taken from an episode entitled The Twins) showed an animation style that was clearly TRIGGER as it was so reminiscent to that in Kill La Kill although on hindsight it was more akin to Promare – which I still haven’t watched.

When the nine short stories were finally streamed on Disney+ a fortnight ago, I surprised myself as being somewhat nonchalant about it – so much so that on waking up on the morning of the premiere, I reached out for my iPad and bleary-eyed went on straight to watch The Twins. I didn’t even plug in my headphones.

And then I watched the first three stories (The Twins was the third story) properly on telly, and later on in the week, I finished the remaining six. One other thing surprised me other than my nonchalance – that, while I was excited at the prospect of the collaboration of my two favourite media of anime and Star Wars, Star Wars: Visions (or stylised as スター・ウォーズ:ビジョンズ in nihon-go) was actually a mixed bag when it comes to the quality of the stories.

Bearing in mind, these are short stories lasting about 15-odd minutes each. Therefore, the convention one expects in a longer story may not be there. The writer may choose to leave the story with an open ending, and for geeks like myself who love the details in anime and Star Wars, the only details one should expect in these short stories will be in the artwork and animation more than the detailed lore of the short stories themselves.

But I have to add, the orchestral music score in these shorts is pretty epic, in my opinion.

At the time of me typing this post, I had seen some of the stories twice. And I have done so by watching them in the Japanese dub. Yes, this is Star Wars, and if I am the sort that will insist in watching an anime that is set in Europe with the Japanese dialogue switched on, imagine Star Wars with Japanese aesthetics – I will watch this in Japanese. I’ll try the English dub later when I feel like it.

Four of the nine episodes stood out for me.

The Twins (ツインズ) had a nice premise to the story of twin siblings, Am and Karre, that were created using dark side tech where the brother, Karre, decided to leave after having a Force vision of the future which involved the fate of his sister. The teaser had shown an integral component of this story although its context is obviously realised on watching the whole thing. While I was geeking out on the episode purely from my fascination with the work of Imaishi Hiroyuki – certain elements in this short were somewhat of a downer for me, and I wonder if this was due to the writing. Apart from the Holdo manoeuvre manifesting almost wholesale in this short, I wonder why Karre had an X-wing to fly on, just because he was the “good guy” (he and his sister, Am, were full-on instruments of the Empire/First Order, or what is left of it).

The Duel (デュエル) was very Kurosawa Akira. You’d think that Star Wars has now come full circle, from the time Kurosawa’s Kakushi toride no san akunin (The Hidden Fortress is the English alternative to the title). The animation was in black & white and stylised like a comic/manga – with the Sith lightsabers the only elements showing the colour red. The setting of the village looked very Shichinin no samurai with the ronin displaying Mifune Toshiro’s characteristic reminiscent of Sanjuro and Yojimbo. This was one episode that clearly needed to be seen in Japanese.

The Ninth Jedi / Kyūninme no Jedai (九人目のジェダイ) was surprisingly good. In the short span of the episode, you could see how Production IG had clearly invested time in creating the world of Hy Izlan. I was fascinated with the trebuchet-like catapult system used to collect minerals/crystals from the planet’s ring back onto the planet’s surface. The animation during the speeder bike chase was fluid, and the lightsaber fight in the third act was well done IMHO. It was in this episode when I realised all the studios involved in this collab would have had open access to all sound effect files from the Lucasfilm archives to make their Star Wars stories sound true.

The fourth short which I am including here is Lop and Ochō / Norausa Roppu to Hizakura Ochō (のらうさロップと緋桜お蝶). I wasn’t too impressed of this short’s segment in the teaser but this story about family was pretty poignant. The world in this short was very Japanese, with the costumes and world design were similarly jidai-geki-esque to The Duel. The animation and its style here looked very impressive – I’ve never heard of Studio Geno but it seems that they are a subsidiary of Twin Engine, and the other work of Studio Geno that I am aware of is Golden Kamuy – yet another anime that I need to complete!

As for the other five – I’m not saying that they were bad, but I just felt that they could’ve been better. Science SARU’s two shorts in the collab were not too bad – I thought the environment-centred short of T0-B1 (the main character of the same name was voiced by Nozawa Masako, who is well known as the seiyuu who voiced Goku in Dragonball) was endearing to say the least. Despite the cutesy approach to the story and character design, this was a well-written story with an unexpected redeeming arc seen to conclude the short. Akakiri (赤霧 means red fog) was all right – the short includes two characters that are somewhat reminiscent of the peasants Tahei and Matashichi (who themselves were the original inspiration for R2-D2 and C-3P0 – is this meta or what) from The Hidden Fortress. Heck, with princess Misa and her Jedi guardian, Tsubaki (this is another short which is so into Japanese lore that you can’t really watch this in English LOL) – this could well be the nearest short to look like The Hidden Fortress – until that Revenge of the Sith ending to it.

While I was wowed by TRIGGER’s The Twins, The Elder (エルダー) was the other TRIGGER contribution that I wan’t too impressed by – it almost gave me an “is that it?” feeling at its conclusion. The Elder was directed by Ōtsuka Masahiso who did FLCL (yet another one that I haven’t watched) which possibly explains the different style of the overall look despite this being a TRIGGER anime. Tatooine Rhapsody (タトゥイーン・ラプソディ) and The Village Bride / Mura no hayanome (村の花嫁) were my least favourite of the bunch. Rhapsody which tells the story of a padawan who escaped Order 66 to end up in a rock band had an endearing (kudo’s word of the day) cartoon-y feel to it which may seem a tad CGI in parts – but there’s Boba Fett! The Village Bride didn’t invoke in me any sense of awe and wonder – as it merely entailed a Jedi, likely fallen from grace, redeeming herself by a quick act of saving the titular character from the bad guys. The Duel was a bit like that but was told much better.

The shorts are not meant to strictly adhere to the Star Wars universe. However, if the audience can’t figure out which phase of the timeline some of the short belongs to, there are clues in the story to help you – like The Ninth Jedi is set post-episode 9. If one can’t be bothered, there’s always the internet.

I found it amusing reading the responses from fans who are either into anime but not into Star Wars as well as the converse – both having these seemingly “impress me” or “nah, not gonna watch this” attitudes. I love both and I thought this collab was a pretty good idea. I am unclear as to who triggered this idea but if it came from Lucasfilm Animation, I do wonder if, subliminally, this is Star Wars giving back to Japan after borrowing a conspicuous amount of Japanese lore.

As for the possibility of a second set of collaboration (not that I am aware that there will be one), I would, of course, welcome it as a fan of both – but keeping these nine as a standalone project would make this set a bit more special. Looking forward for the blu-ray to be released for my little media library in buangruang3.

Go watch it, o fans of either.