Disney unveiled an exciting project at Anime Expo Lite on Sunday, July 8, revealing a previously announced animated anthology series for Star Wars. Originally announced in December 2020, Star Wars Visions likely slipped the minds of most anime fans until this recent trailer. It was pitched as a project headed by “the world’s best Japanese anime creators.” It seems they weren’t putting it lightly.
Nine short films.
Nine talented directors.
Seven renowned studios.
Let’s break down the trailer, look at the staff involved in each film, and try to gather what each one will be about.
The Duel by Kamikaze Douga
The first film comes to us from Kamikaze Douga. You might recognize them as the studio behind the CGI openings to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, as well as some of the episodes of the Japan Animator Expo. I know them primarily from their work on the divisive Batman Ninja from 2018.
The director is Takanobu Mizuno, whose only directing credit is Tokio of the Moon’s Shadow, the 16th short from the Japan Animator Expo. So he’s no stranger to animated anthologies. Mizuno is joined by legendary character designer Takashi Okazaki, the man behind the characters of Afro Samurai and Batman Ninja.
Judging by the title, the story shouldn’t be too much of a mystery. Naturally, there will be a duel of some kind. There was no animation shown for any of the shorts. Only concept art and stills. The artwork for The Duel looks gorgeous, but it might not be the most accurate signifier of the style, as Kamikaze Douga is primarily a CG animation studio.
Nevertheless, with Okazaki’s designs, the story will surely channel the east-Asian influence that inspired George Lucas in the first place. Namely, Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films of yore.
Lop & Ocho by Geno Studio
Geno Studio is more recently recognized for their work on hits like Golden Kamuy, but I remember them from their first big project, Genocidal Organ. When studio Manglobe went bankrupt, the as-of-then still in production film was switched to this new studio.
Geno Studio is young but is gaining a reputation for itself through big hits like Golden Kamuy and more niche projects like Kokkoku. With a big property like Star Wars, this film is another big jump for the studio.
Not much can be gleaned from the trailer’s brief interview with director Yuki Igarashi. It seems that having a non-human protagonist was a big priority for Igarashi. Hence, he made the protagonist a cute bunny girl. As far as I’m concerned there aren’t many ways for him to screw it up.
In all seriousness, Igarashi’s credentials interest me as this seems to be his first directorial work. His resume includes key animation on Attack on Titan, Flip Flappers, Guilty Crown, Mob Psycho, and more. Seeing animators graduate to taking the director’s chair for a project is exciting, to say the least.
Tatooine Rhapsody by Studio Colorido
Perhaps the most succinct and enticing description of one of these shorts came from Director Taku Kimura about this short. He described it as a “rock opera.” Judging by the title, it seems clear that the story will be set on one of the franchise’s most popular hives of scum and villainy.
Kimura worked on Production Advancement for 2019’s Boogiepop and Others and was the Assistant Director on A Place Further Than the Universe. Kimura is another young director that could see a lot more exposure from this project, which is always nice to see.
The Twins by Studio Trigger
The powerhouse that is Trigger is producing two shorts for this anthology. The first one is directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, the man behind Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill, Promare, Space Patrol Luluco, and more. From the slew of art shown, it appears to be about two twins on opposing sides of the force.
Imaishi’s stories always tackle duality in some way through the lens of some thematic core at the center of the entire production. This story will likely be no different. Star Wars was practically made for a director like Imaishi. It’ll be interesting to see if Imaishi has anything to add to the already well-known light versus dark motif.
The Elder by Studio Trigger
Trigger’s second short comes from an industry veteran you may not have heard of. Masahiko Otsuka was a director on episodes of Diebuster, Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, and more. He also wrote episodes for Lagann, Panty & Stocking, and Little Witch Academia.
This work follows a master and apprentice as they come upon a foe that is likely the titular elder. It looks promising on its own, but the project has an extra sense of importance to it given that this will be Otsuka’s last work. One can only hope it will be a fitting sendoff.
The music for both of Trigger’s shorts will be done by Michiru Oshima, known for her work on Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Akagami no Shirayukihime, Little Witch Academia, and much more. (source)
The Village Bride by Kinema Citrus
Kinema Citrus of Made in Abyss and Shield Hero fame are creating what looks to be a decidedly more pleasant tale. Director Hitoshi Haga states an intent to “include the concept of the traditional Japanese culture of mountains.”
Haga’s resume includes Key Animation and Animation Direction on episodes of Star Driver, Soul Eater, Parasite: The Maxim, and Perfect Blue. That is to name only a few. Based on the concept art, the story seems to revolve around a wedding in the mountains.
The music will be done by Kevin Penkin, famous for his work on Shield Hero, Made in Abyss, and Tower of God. (source)
Akakiri by Science Saru
Like Trigger, Science Saru (Devilman Crybaby, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!) is producing two shorts for the anthology. Akakiri is directed by studio co-founder Eunyoung Choi. She’s had a hand in just about everything the studio has done.
Fun fact, she was also credited for the Script, Storyboard, Episode Direction, Art Design, Guest Character Design, Key Animation, and Story Drafting for the ninth episode of Space Dandy. That’s a lot of work and it’s the long way of me saying that she’s very talented.
Not much else is known about the story.
T0-B1 by Science Saru
Abel Gongora may not be a huge name in the anime industry, but I guarantee you know his work. He was the animator behind the opening to Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken; the opening that spawned almost as many memes as the first ED of Kekkai Sensen.
Gongora is the director of Science Saru’s second short film and he emphasizes that their goal was to keep vintage and retro influences alive and well in the design of the short. He references things like Astro Boy as one of the biggest influences on the style.
The Ninth Jedi by Production IG
Production IG, the studio behind Ghost in the Shell, saw fit to bring in that franchise’s best director (in my opinion at least) to produce the ninth short. Kenji Kamiyama directed Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, as well as Eden of the East and – more recently – Netflix’s Ultraman.
Kamiyama doesn’t speak much about the story, but talks about the importance of the lightsaber in the story and how it is the “stuff of children’s dreams.” With a title like “The Ninth Jedi,” it’s sure to be another foray into lightsaber fights, but with a distinctly Japanese flair.
Star Wars Visions will be releasing on Disney+ on September 22.