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Star Wars Visions: Episodes 1 through 3 Review

Star Wars: Visions debuted this past Wednesday on Disney+ and it has quickly become some of the best Star Wars content around! The project between Lucasfilm LTD. and seven of the biggest anime studios in the world ( Kamikaze Douga, Studio Colorido, Geno Studio, Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G, and Science SARU) is an anime-style anthology series made up of nine self-contained vignettes. But how do the individual episodes fair? We’ll be breaking the series down for dissection across three different articles focusing on three episodes each. Let’s jump in and take a dive into the first three episodes. Spoiler warning for these episodes!

 

The Duel

The Duel is perhaps the best way to ease viewers into the anthology series. The film grain and atmosphere are very reminiscent of classic Kurosawa films. The reason this is so fitting is that Star Wars itself (particularly A New Hope) is heavily influenced by The Forbidden Fortress, one of Kurosawa’s most acclaimed films! This particular vignette was made by studio Kamikaze Douga.

This episode is very upfront and direct with it’s influences. Everything is very Japanese from the samurai-inspired storm trooper armor down to the straw-hat on the protagonist’s droid, Arduo. The main character, simply known as Ronin (voiced by Brian Tee A.K.A. Takashi from Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift) arrives at a village as it comes under assault by a band of brigands led by a female sithlord (voiced by Lucy Liu) wielding an umbrella styled lightsaber. While we are led to believe that Ronin is a jedi, he unsheathes a red lightsaber much to everyone’s shock as he coolly states he is not a jedi. The use of color here is actually very important as it serves a purpose in distinguishing jedi from others, as jedi never use red lightsabers. Other than blasters and sabers, everything else is depicted in black and white.

Is Ronin a sith? Perhaps a dark jedi? We don’t really know as the episode ends with him killing the female sith and him revealing his collection of red lightsaber crystals. We are left with more questions than actual answers. This makes sense in a way though, as per Japanese tradition wandering warriors (like the aptly named, Ronin) are samurai who have betrayed their oath or who have no master or allegiance. That said, the episode makes a strong first impression and serves a s a proper introduction to the rest of the anthology.

Tatooine Rhapsody

Tatooine Rhapsody is easily the most heartfelt and “fun” of the first three episodes. With a diverse cast of characters and alien species, it is the one episode that I would love to see expanded into a mini-series. Tatooine Rhapsody was animated by studio Colorido.

This story starts off with a young padawan named Jay (voiced by Joseph Gordon Levitt) who in his haste to get away from the carnage of the Clone Wars stumbles upon a hutt named Gee who takes him in and joins his band, Star Waver. Fast forward a few years to the time of the empire and Star Waver is struggling to get itself off the ground. During a gig of theirs Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison returns to do the voice over) crashes the party and captures Gee as his cousin, Jabba, wants to execute him for refusing to join the crime family officially.

It is at this point that the story could have gone the cliché path of making Jay and his friends rescue Gee violently with the use of his lightsaber and the force, but Jay is far more clever than that. He appeals to Jabba’s business sense and does one last big performance for the Boonta Eve crowd and the gamble pays off with the audience going crazy. Jabba acquiesces and stops the execution and sponsors Star Waver.

Left to right: Kurti, Jay, and Lan.

What I loved about this episode, besides the crisp clean art and animation, is how fun and wholesome the story is! We rarely ever get to delve into the musical side of Star Wars outside of the classic cantina band. This story about a childhood jedi who has found his place in the galaxy among friends jamming out in a band is so much fun. What’s more I loved the symbolism of how he crafted his lightsaber into a microphone, cementing the willful change from jedi to lead singer! The lazy predictable way to rescue Gee would have been a perilous and bloody rescue mission, but they opted to go with something more lighthearted and creative. That’s how you subvert expectations!

The Twins

This was the episode I was looking forward to seeing the most! From all the trailers and footage we saw prior to release, The Twins was shaping up to be the most amazing episode of this anthology. Unfortunately that’s only partially true. The dialogue and plot comes off as corny and a bit generic here, which is a shame as the other episodes so far are must tighter. This episode came off as more of a technical showcase rather than a proper attempt at telling a satisfying story. Let’s get into the story a bit.

The Twins starts off with two dark side user siblings named Am (voiced by Alison Brie) and Karre (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris) who are created through sith alchemy by the remnants of the First Order. The brother and sister captain a Gemini-class star destroyer and are about to unleash a planet destroying weapon on board onto the fledging New Republic. Right up until the weapon’s core, a kyber crystal, goes missing. Am immediately figures out that Karre is responsible and confronts him to retrieve the weapon. Karre reveals he has had a change of heart after a force vision reveals that following through with the plan will result in Am’s death.

Karre attempts to escape in his X-Wing only to be forcefully and violently brought back down by Am’s tremendous force pull. The two fight over the crystal resulting in it shattering into pieces. Each sibling then uses a piece of it to go on the offense with Am using it to power her exo-suit and looking like a deranged version of General Grievous with multiple lightsaber whips. Karre uses the crystal fragment to make a massively wide lightsaber beam. In a last desperate effort, Karre uses his X-wing to pull off a “Admiral Holdo maneuver” that destroys Am’s fragment while also splitting the Star Destroyer down the middle. The attacks ends him hurtling through space where he ends up on a desert planet and thoughtfully plans on finding and saving his sister.

The lack of black outlines in favor of colorful borders is one of Trigger’s signature techniques that helps set them apart.

Of the three episodes this story felt the weakest to me. I know twenty minutes isn’t a lot of time to setup a great story, but the first two episodes did a much better job of establishing a coherent and enjoyable tale in the same time constrictions. Thankfully The twins leans enough on its vibrant art style and beautiful animation sequences that the weak narrative doesn’t hamper it too much. Studio Trigger is at home here and put out beautiful scenes that will no doubt become iconic in the future! The use of soft pastels, that distortion 3D effect, the explosive action sequences, the use of all these effects are Trigger’s signature style.

Closing

Agree or disagree with my review so far? Sound off in the comments below and I’ll likely respond. Expect two more reviews like this for the rest of the series, so if your favorite episode is later in the series I will get to it soon. For more Geeky content bout Star Wars, Video games, or anything else keep it here on GeekNewsNow!

 

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