The most recent addition to Disney +’s “Star Wars” content is not actually an addition to the greater “Star Wars” galaxy, and that’s a good thing. “Star Wars: Visions” is an animated anthology series of nine episodes from nine different Japanese animation studios. Each of the nine episodes is a standalone story, and each has its own unique animation style. Officially, each of the nine vignettes are not connected to the greater “Star Wars” canon, yet each still has core themes of any “Star Wars” story. While there are no direct connections to a particular “Star Wars” film, the themes in each story are clearly reminiscent of the Skywalker Saga beyond just the use of lightsabers.
The episode “T0-B1” which follows a droid (Masako Nozawa) who wants to be a Jedi is a great example of deviating from the canon but maintaining a “Star Wars” narrative. While in “Star Wars” canon a Droid could never be a Jedi because they cannot use the force, this episode ignores the established canon and shows the titular T0-B1s journey to becoming a Jedi. Professor Mitaka (Tsutomu Isobe), T0-B1’s creator, was a former Jedi and serves as the droid’s mentor until he is killed by a Sith Inquisitor. T0-B1 later becomes a true Jedi knight and fights the Inquisitor. This storyline is clearly similar to that of Obi-Wan and Luke, with a Jedi mentor dying by the hand of a Sith and his student becoming a Jedi Knight and later facing the one who killed his mentor. There may be no “I am your father” moment or a death star, but T0-B1’s story still has similar elements to the traditional “Star Wars” narrative.
Another episode “Akariri” clearly resembles another theme of “Star Wars,” falling to the Dark side. This episode involves the Jedi Tsubaki (Henry Golding) returning to his forbidden love Misa (Jamie Chung) in order to help her defeat her world’s Sith ruler, Masago (Lorraine Toussaint). From a basic knowledge of the Star Wars prequels, the audience would be aware that attachment, specifically romantic attachments, are forbidden for Jedi. Much like how Anakin’s love for Padme eventually leads him to fall to the Dark side, Tsubaki’s need to save Misa eventually leads him down a dark path that ends with him becoming a Sith Apprentice in a similar way to how Darth Sideous gets Anakin to become Darth Vader.
There are also little details that connect each episode to “Star Wars” films. In “T0-B1,” there is a mural in the background depicting the events of the original trilogy and what looks like a Jedi fighting a four armed opponent most likely Obi-Wan fighting Grievous. Other episodes are able to put their story in familiar timelines, but not necessarily connect them to a particular film. For example, “The Village Bridge” is about a Jedi known as F (Karen Fukuhara), who hides her appearance and Force abilities, but reveals them when fighting a group of bandits that took over abandoned Separatist battle droids. The use of battle droids and F’s reluctance to reveal herself clearly sets this story somewhere after Order 66 and the events of “Revenge of the Sith.” The overall story does not directly connect to any part of the Skywalker Saga, yet still places the events within a familiar timeline. Other episodes make reference to things like Order 66 or place the Empire as the main villains that give the audience a familiar setting within the “Star Wars” universe without having to rely on or adhere to canon. This way, the episode still feels like it’s “Star Wars,” but has enough freedom to tell new stories.
However, while each episode brings something new and exciting to watch, there are a few minor flaws in certain episodes. One episode in particular, “The Twins,” is a perfect example of trying too hard. The plot involves a duel between genetically engineered Force sensitive twins over a planet destroying weapon in a classic Dark side versus Light side clash. The animation by Studio Trigger is stunning and beautiful, but it’s also a lot. The Darkside twin Am (Ryôko Shiraishi) uses her six lightsaber whips to fight with her Light side brother Karre (Junya Enoki) in a visually spectacular fight sequence. However, rather than having the impact of an epic confrontation the episode as a whole feels rushed. Unlike some of the more simpler stories, “The Twins” tries to do too much “Star Wars” at once. It wants to have an epic lightsaber duel and destroy the planet-killing weapon all at the same time, and it’s just too much for one 18-minute episode.
Meanwhile, episodes like “The Elder” focus less on spectacle and more on atmosphere. “The Elder” follows a Jedi and his Padawan as they face an elderly Dark side user. Despite the relative simplicity of this episode’s narrative, it is by far the most suspenseful and well crafted episode among the nine. Ironically, this episode was also produced by Studio Trigger, but has a completely different visual style to that of “The Twins.” The lack of a rushed overly complex narrative results in a much more calm and focused episode that builds up tension before the final fight with the titular Elder. The final confrontation is similarly simple yet fluidly animated in a way that “The Twins” could just not achieve.
“Star Wars: Visions” is an amazing addition to “Star Wars” as a whole. Its departure from the “Star Wars” canon is perhaps its greatest strength because it permits unique stories without adhering to an established continuity. Even still, each vignette is clearly crafted with great reverence to the “Star Wars” universe and maintains core aspects of “Star Wars” narratives but presents them in new and exciting ways. In a world where the most popular film franchises like “Star Wars” and the MCU require a vast interconnected canon, “Star Wars:Visions” shows that you don’t need to connect to a greater universe in order to tell a good “Star Wars” story.