The animated series is one of the franchise’s best titles in a decade

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[Editor’s Note: The following review is based on all nine episodes of “Star Wars: Visions” and contains spoilers for Episode 1.]

Star Wars: Visions”Is one of, otherwise the the best, titles – television, movie or whatever – to come out of the era of the sci-fi franchise under Disney ownership. It’s a beautifully animated and cleverly written tribute to everything fans love about “Star Wars,” as well as the rare kind of multibillion-dollar IP installment that doesn’t feel like it. to have been created by a committee or tested until all the art has been stripped down. If you’re a “Star Wars” fan who has grown apathetic towards lightsabers and the Force in recent years, “Visions” might remind you of what made you love the franchise in the first place.

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That’s a lot of extremely high praise, but “Visions” deserves it over the course of its nine brief episodes. The episodes of the animated anthology series are from seven Japanese anime studios and each installment features distinct artistic styles and tones. Almost all of the characters in “Visions” are original creations and, as with all hit anthology series, “Visions” excels in getting viewers to become emotionally invested in every character they come across despite their time spent playing. limited screen. This is all the more impressive, given the brevity of the series; the episodes are short – ranging from around 13 to 21 minutes each – and while some of them are bound to let viewers want to know what happens next, they all tell satisfying, self-contained stories.

Almost everything great about “Visions” is illustrated in “The Duel”, the first episode of the series (produced by Kamikaze Douga) and one of its most notable. The episode is a tribute to classic Japanese samurai films and proudly carries its influences, right down to the (mostly) black and white art style, with movie scratch effects, and the way it centers around a wandering warrior. . “What if a rōnin, but lightsabers?” Basically sums up the plot, and while the episode plays out more or less as one would expect from this synopsis, the instantaneous action, limited but effective dialogue, and stunning visuals are so appealing that the predictability is questionable.

“The Duel,” like most of the rest of “Visions,” does an admirable job of characterizing its key personnel and the places they inhabit via stellar animation and vocal work, rather than overly long exposure. The unnamed protagonist of “The Duel” (voiced by Masaki Terasoma in Japanese and Brian Tee in the dub) speaks and moves with a world weariness that gradually takes on more meaning as some of the tools in his possession are revealed, while the villain he faces (a truly sinister bandit boss voiced by Akeno Watanabe in Japanese and Lucy Liu in the dub) serves as an effective foil. The episode strikes the perfect balance between showing and telling enough to present an effective narrative while still keeping some details ambiguous enough to create a sense of wonder and allow viewers’ imaginations to run wild.

The Elder (voiced by Kenichi Ogata in Japanese and James Hong in the English dub) in & # x00201c; Star Wars: Visions & # x00201d;  - Credit: Disney

The Elder (voiced by Kenichi Ogata in Japanese and James Hong in the English dub) in “Star Wars: Visions” – Credit: Disney

Disney

The storylines of some episodes of “Visions” are more unpredictable – the music-oriented “Tatooine Rhapsody” (produced by Studio Colorido) explores a pretty crazy idea and is an absolute joy because of it – while others tell stories. comparables of “Star Wars” on Jedi and Sith. Most of the episodes fall into the latter category and revolve around Force users, but while “Visions” doesn’t always reinvent the “Star Wars” wheel, each of the individual episodes offers some sort of unique twist on the history of the Force. franchise that keeps things fresh. Other than a few catchphrases, such as the handful of characters who “have a bad feeling about it,” there’s not much that can be done to get audiences to fold or build a recycled world; “Visions” gets by easily thanks to its engaging stories and lived performances. In addition, the action scenes are phenomenal: There is a plethora of thrilling lightsaber duels featuring instantly memorable characters (“The Elder,” from production house Studio Trigger, has one of the franchise’s biggest) throughout the nine episodes which will leave “Star Wars” fans on the edge of their seats. Have you waited for the spiritual successor to “The Clone Wars? By Genndy Tartakovsky It could very well be that.

There have been discussions in critical circles, as well as objective reports, about the “Marvel-fication” of “Star Wars” in recent years. Like Disney’s giant superhero IP, “Star Wars” has evolved into a franchise designed to carry on (eight live “Star Wars” shows are currently in various stages of development). “Visions” would still be a stellar franchise installment if released without any “Star Wars” content, but there’s no doubt that part of the reason the series is so appealing right now is because it doesn’t come across as a series that has been exhaustively tested by executives at Disney and Lucasfilm to woo and retain Disney + subscribers or created primarily to produce additional spinoffs and merchandising opportunities. Whether this is actually true is unclear, but regardless, “Visions” plays out as a creative and passionately enthusiastic homage to “Star Wars” from a wide range of artists who have a genuine affection for the source material.

Disney + is releasing the entire season 1 of “Visions” at the same time and has provided screens of each episode to critics ahead of the series premiere. The release schedule and advanced screens are in stark contrast to how Disney has handled the rollout of its streaming service’s hottest titles, such as “The Mandalorian” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows. This could suggest that Disney expects “Visions” to be a relatively low-key version for the platform; I can only hope that Disney + subscribers will exceed all House of the Mouse’s expectations for the show. “Visions”, along with the animation studios behind, warrant the support. “Star Wars” will continue, and if there is any justice in the world, “Visions” and the creative teams behind will be part of that future.

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Season 1 of “Star Wars: Visions” premieres on Disney + on Wednesday, September 22.

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