All nine episodes of Star Wars: Visions drop on Disney+ on Wednesday, Sept. 22. Below is a spoiler-free review.
Every Star Wars property is made of the same basic ingredients: a touch of Western flair, a bit of influence from Japanese history, and all the complex mechanics that build a sci-fi world. Visions uses many of the same building blocks, simply rearranged in a new order. The collection of nine episodes — each featuring an independent story and design style from six different anime studios — is the Star Wars we all know and love, but one that grants a refreshing new experience to viewers like myself, who are looking for something different.
My one major critique of the series is that after nine episodes, most of the stories started to blend together. While each is perfectly enjoyable on their own, the overwhelming amount of similarities — like lightsaber duels fought by brave heroes — did start to wear me out. Don’t get me wrong, I love an incredibly choreographed sword fight as much as the next person, but after a while, there were few instances in the show where I found myself enjoying the repetitive duels. The world of Star Wars is vast and after some of these episodes, I was left wanting to see more stories geared toward regular people living in the universe and fewer epic battles between good and evil, Jedi and Sith.
Star Wars: Visions Images
The good news is that there’s an easy solution: just don’t watch them all in a row, despite the fact that Disney+ is dropping them all at once. Not unlike Disney’s Fantasia movies, the best viewing experience of Visions is not a marathon but one at a time, with breathing room in between. In this format, the episodes are allowed to shine for what they are and not get lost among the rest, suffering by comparison.
In a franchise that’s seen an explosion of new content in recent years, it was a delight to watch something that felt substantially unique, bolstered mostly by the breadth of visual styles. As a graphic designer and illustrator here at IGN, design in animation is one of my favorite topics of conversation and Star Wars: Visions delivered over and over again in that area. While some of the episodes didn’t take my breath away, they are all exceptional examples of design in animation.
For a series composed of vignettes instead of one overarching narrative, I thought it best to break it down episode by episode. I promise I'll keep it quick!
1: The Duel
- One of my favorite episodes and a strong start to the series.
- I loved that this took place in a Star Wars setting heavily inspired by feudal/medieval Japan, a theme that can be seen in almost every episode that follows; it felt like a clever way to mix together traditional and science fiction filmmaking in a way that still felt true to the franchise.
- Top marks for incredible costume design (check out those stormtroopers!) and the gritty, hand-drawn textures that made everything feel extra dramatic.
- Score: 9
2: Tatooine Rhapsody
- This episode really stood out as the kind of story we hadn’t seen told yet in this universe. An intergalactic rock band embarks on an impromptu adventure to save one of their members; it’s equal parts fun and bouncy, drawn in a style that matches with the story perfectly.
- This is one of the only vignettes in the series to feature established characters from the Star Wars franchise, which was a surprise.
- A complete departure from the previous episode, its lighthearted narrative and visuals helped make this one feel unique.
- Score: 8
3: The Twins
- This episode is another favorite of mine; I enjoyed it so much that I wish it was saved for the finale. When it ended, I was left wanting an entire series with these characters.
- The artistic choices in this one were astounding. Orange stormtroopers, a deep red background, and the contrast of the perfectly circular blue stun rings evoke a sense of a graphic novel. The animation in the fight was incredible and the last shot of the episode made me audibly cheer.
- Score: 9
4: The Village Bride
- This episode gave me Avatar the Last Airbender vibes, with a village plagued by an evil that needs to be stopped by an unassuming hero. I enjoyed that this episode revolved around a little planet and their specific customs; one of my favorite aspects of the Star Wars universe is exploring the eccentricities of different planets and cultures.
- The art as a whole didn’t astound me, but it was in no way lacking.
- Score: 7
5: The Ninth Jedi
- Like the previous episode, the art in this one didn’t blow me away. Even though there was nothing particularly wrong with it, it just didn’t grab me the way the others did.
- The story followed a similar sentiment. I love the idea of someone smithing lightsabers for a new generation of Jedi during the reign of the Empire and the chaos that follows, but I found that I favored the droid drinking tea over the actual plot.
- Score: 7
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- If you ever wondered what Astro-Boy would look like in Star Wars, I have good news for you: it’s this episode and I mean that in the best way possible.
- This one was so pleasant to watch. The visuals were sweet and soft like a marshmallow, and it warmed my cold heart.
- In contrast, the story felt like it was running at a breakneck pace. A lot happens in this short episode — lots of character development, a lightsaber battle, massive jumps in time — but I still enjoyed every minute of it.
- Score: 8
7: The Elder
- This is the only vignette in the bunch that does not take place in the Imperial Era. I love the juxtaposition of a sweet, soft padawan and their “cool guy” Master, but the pacing was a little slow.
- The duel in this one was cleverly choreographed and the choices the animators made pulled me into the scene.
- Score: 7
8: Lop and Ocho
- The story was solid, but not astounding, and the same can be said for the visual style. This vignette suffers in its spot in the series; after seven episodes all ending in lightsaber battles, it didn’t offer anything new.
- This episode, with its anthropomorphized bunny lady main character, is for someone, but that someone is not me.
- Score: 6
- This episode as a standalone piece is incredible, but as the last entry in the series, it felt a little underwhelming.
- I adored how different the art style was in this episode; it reminded me of Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers. In particular, the way the characters' faces were drawn and the colors used felt really different from all the others. I especially liked how the protagonist’s visions looked almost painted, which added to that wobbly nature of the rest of the designs. All the characters were drawn so smoothly and simply as opposed to the aggressively angular styles many of these shorts use.
- This should have been episode 8 instead of 9. Or better yet, just watch it on its own.
- Score: 8
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Star Wars: Visions is an action-packed jaunt through the Star Wars universe that puts a new spin on the well-worn franchise. With breathtaking animation in a wide variety of visual styles, Visions should please both avid anime watchers and casual fans. The plots may start to blend together if viewed all at once, but they’re still highly enjoyable. Maybe just split up the episodes and watch one on your lunch break or as a pre-show to your Friday night viewing of Empire Strikes Back.