Most of the spinoffs, sequels, and reboots that have become de rigueur in modern pop culture have failed to stand out as anything other than nostalgia capitalizations. Star Wars: Visions, on the other hand, blows all expectations out of the water. The new series, a collection of nine animated shorts from some of anime’s biggest names (Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio, Studio Colorido, Studio Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Science SARU and Production IG were all involved), is a breath of fresh air, proving all that is possible when creators have the freedom to break the rules rather than stick to an established pattern.
Each short film tells a different story, from that of a droid aspiring to be a Jedi to a rock band Tatooine struggling to be famous. Some big themes overlap – a few of the short films involve villages under Empire rule – but the visual styles and narrative goals distinct (a vagrant helping townspeople struggling over a conflict between members of the family on how to deal with the occupation, for example) keep Visions to feel repetitive.
On a purely visual level, Visions is breathtaking. These shorts show us the Star wars the universe in a way we’ve never seen it before. The court The dual, for example, is almost entirely in black and white, until the lightsabers are drawn, and the characters are rendered so elegantly (with hatchings and superimposed film grain) that it almost feels like watch an old samurai movie. It is impossible to imagine Star wars film taking such risks with its visuals, not to mention the shenanigans that ensued with said duel. One of the characters wields a device that splits the beams of their lightsaber, turning it into a sort of deadly umbrella. In another short film, a character is able to wield his lightsabers like whips. That is, these artists take full creative license, playing fast and freely with the Star wars the tradition of the universe in favor of telling a story as dynamic as possible.
In a world where recognizable characters and IP are all the rage, Visions is all the better that he tries little to flatter in this direction. Although he does not retreat completely from the known quantities (one episode presents some large Star wars names), the series largely explores the unknown, finally taking the plunge to explore a giant universe whose films have only shown us a shine. The apparent lack of precision about what is and isn’t canon is exactly what makes Visions so convincing and such an anomaly. After all, Star wars is a franchise that actively “corrected course”After Rian Johnson dared to try and tell a story that was even slightly different from what fans apparently expected. Allowed, Visions has no real stake in the scenario presented by the Star wars movies, but at least it still feels like a rebuke to the problems other Disney spin-offs have—WandaVision, Loki, etc. — have encountered, for example, that even though they start in an experimental space, they are bound to fall back into a larger, more poised story.
That is to say that these spin-offs have so far encountered strict limits. Visions, on the other hand, feels limitless. The brevity of each episode (the shorts all hover around 15-20 minutes) means they don’t have time to go too far, but they don’t have to. The primary meaning to watch Visions is that of possibility; these shorts are so striking, so visceral, so thrilling, that although the shorts contain stories in themselves, they seem to promise countless other worlds in a universe that otherwise felt relatively strict. Same The Mandalorian, one of the most popular series in recent memory that seemed to follow a similar playbook at first, has finally hit its limits, with its Season 2 grand finale planting it firmly in familiar territory rather than exploring outwards.
The shorts are different enough that viewers will likely get different mileage from each, but it’s always difficult to pick a favorite. The dual is the most visually stunning; T0-B1 is the cutest; Lop and Ochi presents the richest worldbuilding; Wool hangs his hat on a thrilling fight. Every court has something to offer and something to stand out. From start to finish, it’s a totally remarkable series, and a strong case for taking big risks can result in some of the most interesting art.