By Nick Ratliff
“Star Wars: Visions” is a new anime anthology series consisting of nine episodes, each made by a different animation studio. I recommend watching these episodes in Japanese with English subtitles, as the English voice acting gets a little choppy and awkward at times. Some episodes have better animation than others but overall, most of them were well-realized and aesthetically pleasing. It’s important to note these stories are not canon in the “Star Wars” universe. Therefore, throughout the episode, we see some very interesting ideas on display, with some crazy episodes as well as some just plain weird ones. In terms of ranking them, here’s my list, from worst to best.
The worst episode in the series is most definitely the sixth in the anthology. The art style is overly cutesy, making the episode look like an episode from a bad kid’s show. In addition, not only is the storytelling poorly done but the story also breaks fundamental rules of the “Star Wars” universe. The fact that a droid becomes force-sensitive makes no sense; the force flows through all living things, and a droid is not technically living and therefore cannot become force-sensitive, however you slice it. Add to that the fact that T0-B1 somehow beats a Sith Inquisitor without any training, and even as a non-canon side-story, this episode is fundamentally flawed.
The two worst episodes, episodes six and nine, were made by the same animation company. One of these episodes’ biggest weaknesses is their unappealing, overly-busy art styles, which at times become headache-inducing. That said, the storytelling in “Akakiri” is somewhat improved over “T0-B1.” The story follows a princess whose family loses the palace and throne to her Sith aunt. A Jedi in love with the princess seeks to help her retake her kingdom. However, the aunt tricks the Jedi into killing the princess and then gives him a choice: either join her and use the power of the Dark Side to bring his love back or reject her and let the princess stay dead. The Jedi, having lost all hope, chooses to join the Sith, leaving the palace with the aunt to begin his training. The ending is ultimately where this episode falls flat, as there is no actual resolution to the problem, no final conflict or resistance on the part of the Jedi. That said, I see the parallels between this episode and “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Anakin ultimately turns to the Dark Side to save the one he loves. These similarities are one of the few aspects I appreciate about this story.
7. “The Twins”
Episode three was unique in that the entirety of the episode is a dramatic duel between a brother and sister. These siblings are raised to be Sith, but as time goes on, the brother desires to defect. As part of his plan, he steals a massive kyber crystal intended to power an Imperial superweapon and attempts to sneak away before anyone notices. However, his sister, ardently loyal to the Dark Side, learns of her brother’s plan, kicking off the bombastic duel that makes up the majority of this episode. This sequence included some of the most over-the-top moments of the anthology, including the brother’s lightsaber becoming a giant laser beam that he wields while riding on the front of an X-wing through space. That said, there is no real plot or substantial storytelling, as the whole episode is essentially one big fight scene.
6. “Lop and Ochō”
Eighth in the series, this episode has a good story arc that touches on themes of tradition and inheritance. A family living under ever-encroaching Imperial rule adopts Lop, a small girl from a bunny-like race of aliens. As the episode progresses, she grows up to become a teenager. Meanwhile, the father and his biological daughter Ochō become increasingly distant because of their differing views on the Imperial regime: the father believes the Empire is oppressive, while the daughter thinks its rule is good for the city. Ochō ends up joining the Empire, and the father decides to give her inheritance to Lop. This inheritance includes a lightsaber with an inscription on the blade, which I thought was a unique touch. Overall, this episode is good but does not evoke as much emotion as some of the stronger episodes on this list do.
5. “Tatooine Rhapsody”
This episode follows a punk rock band trying to make it in the “Star Wars” universe as they navigate the everyday difficulties of being in a band: trying to find a good gig, working through interpersonal conflicts, and eluding capture by an intergalactic crime lord’s bounty hunter. Punk rock is a completely different style of music than anything we’ve seen in the “Star Wars” universe, expanding the musical culture of this franchise. The English dub of this episode also features a cameo by Temuera Morrison voicing Boba Fett; Morrison originally played Jango Fett in “Attack of the Clones” and more recently portrayed his son Boba in “The Mandalorian.” Also in this episode is Jabba the Hutt; the band ends up performing for him in the same podracing arena where Anakin Skywalker won his race in “The Phantom Menace.” This episode’s strength stemmed from its many references to established “Star Wars” characters, places, and lore.
4. “The Elder”
“The Elder” gives us one of the more action-oriented episodes. A Jedi Master and his Padawan feel a dark presence on a planet in the outer rim. When they arrive, they feel his presence in the mountains. The Padawan journeys into the mountains to try to find the source of this presence, leading to another lightsaber duel. This episode is fairly average for the series. We do not get any thrilling action or gripping storytelling in this episode. That said, the animation is really good for an anime episode, and I enjoyed watching it all the way through.
3. “The Village Bride”
The third best episode, “The Village Bride,” shows us a unique culture we haven’t encountered before in the “Star Wars” universe. We witnessed part of a wedding ceremony in a tiny village. As the ceremony progresses, it is soon revealed that this is the bride’s last day with her groom. We learn that, after the Separatists were defeated, a group of raiders on this planet reprogrammed the droids to use them to oppress this tiny village and that they’re coming to take the bride as “collateral.” When the oppressors come to collect, however, we get another fight scene with a very climactic ending. The storytelling in this episode was solid, making it one of the best in the series.
2. “The Duel”
The first episode in the anthology opens the series with a bang. “The Duel” involves a village that is being raided by a female Sith and her band of soldiers. The village tries to fight back but is eventually overwhelmed by the Sith’s prowess and ruthlessness. Meanwhile, another force wielder, who appears to be a Sith as well, visits the village to get his droid fixed. Eventually, these two Sith engage in one of the best-choreographed and most polished fight sequences in the series. This episode’s animation is also unique from the rest of the series, making the setting, the characters, and their movements stand out. There were also a few comedic moments, such as the mechanic hasty repair of the Sith’s droid, that balanced out the action nicely.
1. “The Ninth Jedi”
This episode feels the most quintessentially “Star Wars.” With a great introduction that explains the current state of the galaxy, this masterpiece of an episode has flesh-out storytelling and thrilling action to spare, partially thanks to it having the longest runtime of any episode in the series. Along the way, it introduces some cool ideas, like special lightsabers that change colors based on who wields them. Most importantly, this episode gives takes us on an emotional journey with its main character, the force-sensitive daughter of a lightsaber smith. At first, she is not able to control the color of her lightsaber, meaning her connection to the force is not that strong. She barely escapes capture by Sith Inquisitors and delivers newly crafted lightsabers to a group of supposed Jedi, only to have most of them turn out to be Sith when their blades turn red. This reveal genuinely surprised me because the whole episode made me believe that they were Jedi. A fight breaks out between the two Jedi and six Sith, with the daughter caught in the middle fighting with a colorless lightsaber. As she gains confidence, however, her lightsaber slowly turns green, indicating her growing connection to the force. This plot element involving the lightsabers changing color was a unique aspect that enhanced the story.
I recommend watching through the episodes a few times to fully appreciate them. I think some aspects could have been better, but most of the storytelling and art styles were phenomenal. These are some episodes I will rewatch for years to come, and even in the weakest episodes, there was never a dull moment. That said, if Disney had decided to make this project canon from the outset, I think the stories would have felt more meaningful. The animation companies would have to use ideas already in the “Star Wars” universe instead of the ideas they came up with. In the end, the non-canonicity of these stories is a mixed bag. While we received cool innovations on the rules and lore of this universe, some of the time it simply did not feel like “Star Wars.” Overall, “Star Wars: Visions” is a cool project that I enjoyed watching.
“Star Wars: Visions” is now streaming on Disney Plus.
Nick Ratliff is a Junior business management major. He enjoys playing volleyball, basketball, and video games.