Star Wars Visions at AnimeExpo 2021: What We Learned

Star Wars Visions @ AnimeExpo 2021

Star Wars: Visions Logo
Star Wars: Visions Logo

7/3/21: At Anime Expo Lite, Disney+ announced the names of the seven Japanese anime studios bringing their unique talent and perspective to “Star Wars: Visions”. “Star Wars: Visions” is a collection of animated short films from Lucasfilm that will stream exclusively on Disney+—and offered fans an exciting, inside look.

The anime studios revealed were Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio (Twin Engine), Studio Colorido (Twin Engine), Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Science Saru, and Production IG. Each studio will use its signature animation and storytelling styles to realize its visions of the galaxy far, far away.

Other than the anime-inspired Star Wars Resistance and a few fan-made YouTube videos, anime is relatively new territory for Lucasfilm. But that’s not to say there haven’t been anime influences in Star Wars along the way. For example, Ahsoka Tano’s look is taken from Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

The connections between anime and Star Wars aren’t solely on-screen. Lucasfilm Executive Producer/Executive Creative Director Dave Filoni was once a director on Avatar: The Last Airbender, an American animated series that combined American cartoon styles with anime.

Anime Expo Lite: Special Look

Lucasfilm’s Jacqui Lopez (Executive Producer), James Waugh (Executive Producer), Josh Rimes (Executive Producer), and Qubic Pictures’ Justin Leach (Co-Executive Producer) and Kanako Shirasaki (Producer) were on hand at the event to reveal each studio and give fans a unique look at the environment and concept art as they debuted the title and first details of each short.

  • Kamikaze Studios – The Duel: The concept art revealed for this short features Samurai-esque Jedi and Sith, an astromech droid with a straw hat, and more that embraces Japanese culture. “It was just irresistible,” said Lopez. “We were all overwhelmed when we saw this artwork.” The thing he was unequivocal on was that he “just wanted this to be a love letter to Star Wars,” Waugh said. “The core theme of this short ends up being such a Star Wars story.” So the tale is ultimately about someone who must choose selflessness, a core Star Wars theme. As far as visuals, The Duel will be told in black and white with splashes for color for certain elements — like lightsabers.
  • Geno Studio (Twin Engine) – Lop and Ochō:  Lop and Ochō feature a space bunny-person and her name is Lop. We love her already! “She is cute and expressive and completely unwavering in her devotion to good and family and loyalty,” Lopez said. “She’s awesome.” The design style on this short focuses on the collision between natural beauty and encroaching industrialization,” said Lopez, with the Empire representing the march of technology.
  • Studio Colorido (Twin Engine) – Tatooine Rhapsody: Told through a more Chibi art style, Tatooine Rhapsody is heading into uncharted Star Wars waters. “It’s a Star Wars rock opera,” said Rimes of the story, about a band with a dream to make it big. “We took a chance, and they just blew us away with the style and the characters and the tone, and the heart of what is best in Star Wars about found family and the dream.” It’s also one of the few shorts to feature classic characters, as our heroic band will run into Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt.
  • Trigger – The Twins/The Elder: The Twins “subverts the idea of Luke and Leia and imagines a brand-new set of twins born into the dark side, and how far the brother will go to save his sister,” Leach said. This bond is represented visually with a co-joined Star Destroyer. The Elder, however, takes a closer look at another kind of Star Wars bond. “The Elder is a homage to a classic Star Wars master and Padawan relationship,” said Shirasaki. “You’ll also find the dual meaning of the title after you watch the short.”
  • Kinema Citrus – The Village Bride: The guardian of peace and justice observes a local tradition in a far-off village through the eyes of a bride on the eve of her wedding day and an unexpected choice she must make to save her people. “It’s poetic, meditative, and romantically bittersweet,” Shirasaki said. “This short also approaches the Force in a unique and surprising way, too.”
  • Science Saru – Akakiri/T0-B1: “It’s a beautiful yet painful story about a princess,” Shirasaki said of Akakiri. TB-01, however, is more heartwarming fare. “It’s a cute and fun story of an adorable droid who dreams of being a Jedi.” Leach said, “I think it’s really interesting to see how the East and West influence each other, and there’s a cycle of creativity that goes back and forth”. It’s interesting to see her take on the classic [Akira] Kurosawa melded with the Star Wars mythology, then taking her own Science Saru expression and putting it all in this mix. It looks great.”
  • Production IG – The Ninth Jedi: “They are true anime pioneers, from Ghost in the Shell to the anime sequence in Kill Bill,” Lopez said. “They have an amazing pedigree as innovators.” But it began as two separate shorts. One, in a time when darkness threatens the galaxy, the Jedi return from legend. The daughter of a lightsabersmith seeks out the Jedi to deliver their weapons—the second from the point of view of eight warriors, learning if they are Force-sensitive and can trust each other. Ultimately, they decided to combine the stories to achieve something on a grander scale. “We brought those two tales together to create something epic and special,” Rimes said. “They had us at ‘lightsabersmith,’” added Lopez. The score was recorded at the famed Muza Kawasaki Symphony Hall, an acclaimed, modern venue.

Staying True to the Culture

As a first formal venture into anime, each “Star Wars: Visions” short bears a unique Japanese sensibility, which in many ways aligns with the tone and spirit of Star Wars storytelling. From the beginning, stories told in the Star Wars galaxy have counted Japanese mythology and the films of Akira Kurosawa among their many influences, and these new visions will further explore that cultural heritage through the unique animation style and perspective of each anime studio.

All episodes of “Star Wars: Visions” will be released on Disney+ on September 22, 2021.

For more on “Star Wars: Visions,” visit StarWars.com.

A Little About Me

My name is Eric Onkenhout, I live in Massachusetts, and Star Wars is my jam and has been since I was 6 or 7. Besides Star Wars, I also enjoy Marvel and Game of Thrones. I love to write, whether it’s fiction, reviews, or journalistic articles. I also enjoy long walks on the beach!
As far as movies, books, comic books, or tv shows, I tend to gravitate towards good writing regardless of the genre. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English-Creative Writing; I like sports like hockey, football, and soccer.

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