It’s been a while since Star Wars has been this good. This comment may be controversial, but after The Last Jedi, Star Wars has taken a bit of a nosedive in quality, trying to pander to as many fans as possible, which resulted in a film not many people enjoyed: The Rise of Skywalker. The Last Jedi threw all fan theories that audiences have been cooking up for the past two years online out of the window. The film preferred to challenge them on their perceptions of legendary figures instead, which sparked a significant backlash by a group of people who thought it wasn’t Star Wars. But it was–if audiences would’ve accepted that their favorite characters evolve and don’t stay legends forever. It was hard to accept for many people. Still, for those that did accept everything Rian Johnson offered its audience, it was a life-affirming and fulfilling theatrical experience with some of the very best Star Wars action ever choreographed.
This was the last time Star Wars felt worth watching. And while The Mandalorian was undoubtedly enjoyable, it felt too fan-servicey, as it was always trying to link itself to the expanded lore of Star Wars with endless references and/or characters from the extended universe. It’s grown increasingly tiresome with subsequent installments, such as The Rise of Skywalker and Star Wars: The Bad Batch. The latter acts as a backdoor pilot for endless spinoffs with characters from the expanded universe. On the other hand, the franchise’s latest TV series, Star Wars: Visions, doesn’t rely on The Skywalker Saga’s characters (except for two) and creates purely original stories with wholly original characters inside nine visually dazzling anime worlds.
Describing Star Wars: Visions without spoiling a single thing (you must go into this series as blind as a bat to be blown away) might sound like a daunting task. However, its different animation styles felt like an actual out-of-body experience, featuring some of the most astonishing Star Wars action ever. Admittedly, it sounds like an exaggeration, or overhype for that matter. Still, once you watch The Duel, which clearly celebrates Akira Kurosawa‘s Samurai pictures, featuring explicit references from Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, it won’t sound like overhyping anymore. A Ronin (Masaki Terasoma) fights a bandit (Akeno Watanabe) with an Umbrella of Lightsabers for about twelve minutes, and it’s just as incredible as you’d think the words “Umbrella of Lightsabers” would be. Twins Karre (Junya Enoki) and Am (Ryoko Shiraishi) fight for Kyber Crystals in open space. Karre is afraid the crystal could corrupt Am’s soul is as equally arresting as some of the most remarkable anime action ever made.
The series is never afraid to explicitly showcase its aesthetic inspirations, ranging from Mamoru Oshii to Satoshi Kon, while also exploring Katsuhiro Otomo and, surprisingly, Hayao Miyazaki‘s animation styles makes Star Wars: Visions a tribute to some of the greatest anime films of the past. It’s unlike anything Star Wars has ever made, both from a story perspective and a visual perspective. It’s amazingly refreshing to see original characters in visually exciting stories for the first time in a long (long) time, with the filmmakers’ task to bring these stories to life have pure creative freedom to craft whatever they want, even if Lucasfilm has confirmed it wasn’t a part of official Star Wars canon.
By not constantly relying on previously established Star Wars characters, audiences will be exposed to new and exciting worlds, with protagonists everyone would care about instantly. Its voice-cast wonderfully performs them, but above all else, beautifully represented by the series’ diverse animation styles, making their facial (and physical) expressions feel vivid and legitimately breathtaking, especially when they’re stuck in visually charged action sequences. For example, the moment Am gets possessed by the Kyber Crystal during The Twins is one for the ages. Director Hiroyuki Imashi isn’t afraid to assault the viewer’s senses for an unforgettable visual and aural experience.
It’s hard for Star Wars to become genuinely original since most of what’s been coming out from Disney’s Star Wars has been an underwhelming exploitation of previously established IP and constant references to the extended universe instead of purely original stories. Star Wars: Visions has the gift of being Star Wars‘ first legitimately original series and the best Disney+ show of the franchise yet, even if it’s considered non-canon. Its animation styles are excitingly kinetic and detailed, while its numerous action sequences are amongst the best conceived for a Star Wars title. For those that were disappointed in many of Disney’s offerings in the Star Wars universe, give this show a chance, since it may give you a new hope for the franchise’s future, with even more original (and exciting) stories to come in theaters and on the streaming service in the forthcoming months.