Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

Star Wars: Visions is the best thing to happen to the franchise since Baby Yoda

Not every franchise can find ways to feel fresh after more than 40 years. But that’s part of the magic of Star Wars, which has frequently reinvented itself in one way or another over four decades. The anime-inspired anthology series Star Wars: Visions is the latest experiment in filtering the sci-fi franchise through a new lens, and it offers up a vision of Star Wars that feels fresh, innovative, and original while remaining faithful to the tone and themes of Lucasfilm’s beloved saga.

Scheduled to premiere on the Disney+ streaming service on September 22, Star Wars: Visions is a series of nine animated short films produced by six Japanese animation studios. The anime-style films are set throughout the Star Wars timeline and feature original stories based on characters and events from the franchise. The films are voiced by a cast of both Japanese- and English-speaking actors.

A scene from Star Wars: Visions series episode titled The Elder.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Star Wars: Visions packs a lot into each brief film, with the longest installment of the series, The Ninth Jedi, clocking in at an efficient 22 minutes. Most episodes average around 15 minute, and each tells a satisfying, complete story positioned at various points in the saga’s fictional timeline. While some feel like the sort of canonical adventures that would have a comfortable place in the official Star Wars lore, others present themselves as alternate-history fare, offering a new perspective on familiar characters, events, and iconic locations.

The series gets off to a great start with the first film, The Duel, which channels the aesthetic of legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in all the right ways for its tale of a mysterious, lightsaber-wielding stranger who’s recruited to defend a village on a remote planet from bloodthirsty raiders. Its monochrome palette pushes the samurai-film feel of The Duel even further. The first entry in Star Wars: Visions is easily one of the series’ best.

A scene from Star Wars: Visions episode titled The Twins.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The studios’ varied, distinct approaches to each Star Wars stories only add to the colorful tapestry of Visions. The series delivers a playful spin on a childlike robot’s Jedi aspirations in the episode T0-B1, which takes plenty of cues from the work of Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka, as well as a darker tale about aging and old grudges in the episode The Elder. Although all of the short films are aimed at the general audience of Star Wars fans, some are edgier than others, giving each entry a unique, stand-alone quality within the anthology.

As with most anthologies, not all of the entries stand on even ground, and some films within the Visions series are better than others. The Village Bride and Lop & Ocho, for example, both take ambitious swings at the Star Wars lore but fall short of hitting the high marks set by the episodes around them. Lop & Ocho in particular is brimming with potential, and its story of a family divided by the Galactic Empire’s presence on their planet occasionally shares some visual and narrative elements with Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it never quite sticks the landing with the multigenerational tale it tries to tell.

A scene from the Star Wars: visions episode titled The Ninth Jedi.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The successes in Star Wars: Visions far outnumber the less-satisfying entries in the series, though. The musical Tatooine Rhapsody delivers an adorably cute adventure that puts a long list of familiar characters through some fun, funny moments likely to elicit a smile from both younger and older fans, while The Twins offers up the most Dragon Ball-esque entry in the series thanks to its wild, larger-than-life battle scenes bursting with bright colors and frantic action. And for Star Wars fans craving a story that feels firmly set within the saga’s timeline, The Ninth Jedi provides a brief — but surprisingly epic — story about some of the remaining Jedi Knights after the events of 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Japanese animation encompasses a wide range of visual and dramatic styles, and Star Wars: Visions serves as a reminder of that fact, while also demonstrating the tremendous flexibility of the franchise to exist within a wide range of storytelling formats. The reasons for the enduring appeal of Star Wars are as varied as the franchise’s fan base, but one thing Star Wars: Visions makes abundantly clear is that there’s no fixed format for telling a Star Wars story, and no limit to what that story can be if there’s a great storyteller (or storytelling team) behind it.

All nine episodes of Star Wars: Visions will premiere September 22 on Disney+.

Editors' Recommendations

Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
Disney shifts release dates for Marvel movies, Star Wars films, and Avatar sequels

The writers' strike has lasted about one-and-a-half months so far, and it doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon. And now, Disney is making some major schedule changes to almost all of its upcoming franchise films. Avatar fans are going to feel it the most. Avatar 3 has been pushed back a year from December 2024 to December 19, 2025. The other sequels, Avatar 4 and Avatar 5, have been delayed to December 21, 2029, and December 19, 2031, respectively. That's a three-year delay for both titles from their previous release dates.

Marvel's 2024 slate is also getting a big shake-up, with Captain America: Brave New World moving away from its summer opening slot on May 3, 2024, to July 26, 2024. The Thunderbolts movie is shifting from July 26, 2024, to December 20, 2024, the former release date for Avatar 3. That will make it only the second MCU movie to be released in December after Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Read more
From Khan to Beyond: All the Star Trek movies, ranked from worst to best
Kirk and Picard stand in Star Trek: Generations.

Star Trek is inarguably television’s greatest space adventure, captivating audiences with exciting, inspiring, and thoughtful stories since 1966. However, like most culturally significant pop culture franchises, Trek also has a long history on the big screen, supplementing its over 800 television episodes with 13 feature films. These large-scale adventures are often the gateways through which new fans find their way into the Star Trek universe, attracting mass audiences on a scale rarely enjoyed by their counterparts on TV.
However, as one might expect from a long-running film series that has had multiple casts and behind-the-scenes shake-ups, the Star Trek movies vary wildly in quality. The conventional wisdom amongst fans is that even-numbered Trek movies are much better than odd-numbered ones, an adage that still holds up if you slot in the loving parody Galaxy Quest as the unofficial tenth installment, which, of course, we do.

13. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

Read more
Wes Anderson’s Star Wars? All the AI Wes Anderson parodies, ranked
Darth Vader stands in a hallway in The Galactic Menagerie.

At this year's Cannes Film Festival, Wes Anderson just debuted his newest movie, Asteroid City. The acclaimed movie looks to be a typical Anderson project populated with eccentric characters, an all-star cast featuring Tom Hanks and Scarlett Johansson, and whimsical visuals. Asteroid City is sure to please audiences when it's released later this year, but it will also help fuel the latest trend that's sweeping the Internet: AI parodies.

With the rapid advancement of ChatGPT and AI-generating software like Midjourney, "regular folk" have taken these tools and applied their own creativity by utilizing the established works of artists such as Wes Anderson. The Anderson AI parodies are fun to look at but they also suggest a terrible trend of co-opting a director's distinct visual style and making something seem new while really being a fancy rip-off. Nevertheless, we rank all of the Moonrise Kingdom director's AI "tributes" and parodies, from the truly terrible to the surprisingly good.

Read more