Star Wars: Visions Episodes, Ranked from Worst to Best - VRGyani News and Media

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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Star Wars: Visions Episodes, Ranked from Worst to Best

Star Wars: Visions is easily the most ambitious project in the Star Wars franchise since Disney took the reins in dictating the future of the series. Featuring nine short films from a bevy of directors ranging from newer faces like Science SARU's Abel Gongora to prolific mainstays like Trigger's Hiroyuki Imaishi, it really feels like there were no limits in the creation of these bold stories. Still, some of them are inevitably going to be better than others, as execution is just as important as vision; here are my rankings of the collection, from the biggest disappointment to the episode that will keep me coming back over and over again.

9.) "Akakiri"

It pains me to place such a unique, ambitious-feeling entry from this collection so low, but sometimes things simplly don't live up to their potential. That's definitely true of "Akakiri," the story of a Jedi named Tsubaki meeting up again with his old flame Misa to fight against her aunt, who has gone mad with dark side power. Star Wars loves the concept of destiny, and destiny is what haunts Tsubaki for the entirety of "Akakiri's" runtime; he fights against morbid visions of death and other mystical plots that stand in his way, waging a personal war to prove that he is his own master. Luckily, with Science SARU's naturalistic, expressive designs and animation, it is easy to get in Tsubaki's headspace and empathize with him. Yet despite all of this, Akakiri ends on a quite dour note, leaving Tsubaki at what must be his lowest point ever, the ever-present destiny he so passionately raged against made the victor for now. It feels like the very beginning of an interesting, tragic story, but without a continuation, it comes across as needlessly nihilistic and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

8.) "Tatooine Rhapsody"

There are a number of stories in the extended Star Wars universe about Jedi and their Padawan that managed, one way or another, to escape the initial culling of Order 66. Few are as lighthearted and fun as "Tatooine Rhapsody," the story of Jay, a young man who finds himself in an unlikely partnership with a Hutt to start a rock band. Each finds themselves struggling to find an identity in worlds that don't accept them, but unlike in many similar Star Wars stories, fighting is not the answer here. Instead, they win their enemies - and our hearts - over with some messy rock music. It's a novel enough premise in the context of Star Wars, but isn't especially inspired in production or plotting, so it doesn't end up standing out here.

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7.) "The Ninth Jedi"

When it comes to short stories, there's an art to the brevity and sense of purpose that makes them work. On the other hand, knowing you're writing for something as grand and sprawling as Star Wars, it's clearly hard to resist the urge to want to contribute to that. "The Ninth Jedi" is fighting between these contradictory goals, and the end result isn't particularly satisfying in either direction. The story of stray wannabe Jedi meeting in response to a mysterious message promising to restore the Jedi Order is intriguing and comes with fun twists, but its very premise sets up a potential story so much bigger and more interesting that it's hard to ignore. Many of these stories don't really "end", but even among them "The Ninth Jedi" feels more like a pitch for a larger story than one that is satisfied with itself as-is. The psuedo-mystery is fun to watch, and there are cute ideas and action setpieces - a speeder fight and lightsaber battle royale are welcome visual treats - but what's left is a woefully incomplete story.

6.) "T0-B1"

One of a few shorts in Visions that wears its influence on its sleeve, "T0-B1" uses its Osamu Tezuka-inspired characters and designs to tell the story of a young droid who dreams of being a Jedi one day. The plot is as simple as the soft Tezuka-style designs, with convenient plotting reminiscent of a children's anime, but it resonates because of how easy it is to relate to T0-B1's starry-eyed idealism; the way he sees the Jedi is how many fans might remember themselves seeing them as children, too. The team at Science SARU aren't afraid to make things feel bubbly and light for most of the runtime, expressing T0-B1's imagination through fun dreamlike sequences, and even a deadly fight against an Inquisitor at the end has a lovely sense of creativity to it, utilizing the short's style in every aspect of the production. Considering the tone and aesthetic "T0-B1" goes for, it's hard to fault it too much for lacking an engaging narrative, but that is really the only thing holding it back from greatness.

5.) "The Elder"

One of my personal favorite parts of Star Wars are the master-apprentice relationships seen in prequel-era media like those between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and later Obi-Wan and Anakin. "The Elder" explores that part of Star Wars lore with its own pair, the wise Tajin and his Padawan Dan, as they go on patrol in the Outer Rim and encounter an ancient Sith remnant. Dan's eagerness to prove himself constrasts nicely with Tajin's world-wisened caution, giving us a story about the dangers of unchecked power. It's not a new idea for Star Wars - the pursuit of power and its consequences is a huge part of the prequel trilogy - but it's an important one, and told well here. The action is also interesting; Tajin's simple combat style drives home the larger idea in "The Elder" that less is indeed more.

4.) "The Duel"

This "period drama" of sorts is the first episode in the collection and fittingly so, as it takes Star Wars back to its Kurosawa-inspired roots. The visuals here are striking; CG characters are overlaid with gritty stylization that gives them an a look one could be forgiven for believing is 2D animation at first. The black-and-white palette that covers most of "The Duel" is highlighted by select bright colors, drawing attention to the most interesting parts of the screen at any given time and giving extra drama to some mundane scenes, like an important pot of boiling water. The action, too, is understated but engaging, with only purposeful movements between the Ronin and the Bandit Leader in their titular duel. If only the story were more engaging - though much can be inferred, especially if you are familiar with the kind of films The Duel borrows from, we learn essentially nothing about the Ronin or the alternate Star Wars history he resides in, meaning "The Duel" doesn't leave much of an impression after it ends, but is so much fun in the moment I hardly mind.

3.) "The Twins"

While all of these shorts can be said to be homages to various parts of Star Wars lore, none is as loud and unapologetic about this than "The Twins." Propelled by Hiroyuki Imaishi's bombastic direction and Sushio's iconic character designs, "The Twins" is stylish and cool before anything else, embracing a level of camp that calls back to Star Wars' roots in ways that the franchise rarely allows itself. Lines like "must I remind you of the purpose of your birth?" are delivered with confidence and accompanied by fitting over-the-top visuals, making it easy to look past or even embrace the inherent absurdity of the story being told. It's a genuine love letter from a team that is having a great time, and that enthusiasm is contagious; like Imaishi and his friends, I, too, love Star Wars, and sometimes I want to see a giant lightsaber rip through a twin Star Destroyer, logic be damned.

2.) "The Village Bride"

Among a series of short films that carry wild, unique visual styles and stories that stretch the boundaries of the Star Wars universe, "The Village Bride" goes for a more simple, grounded approach. It follows a wandering Jedi, guilt-ridden after surviving Order 66 when most of her friends were not so lucky; instead of high-stakes action, her reflection on her place in the world after this tragedy carries most of the short. She finds herself on a world that is as far removed from that conflict as possible, a society that has a unique culture around the Force that challenges the franchise's usual ideas about destiny and what an individual owes to the world around them. In a franchise obsessed with grand narratives and world-ending battles, "The Village Bride" asks us to take a step back and appreciate that no matter what happens, life goes on, and that is refreshing. It's a story that could easily be told without any of the Star Wars baggage, but is made more meaningful when placed in relation to that history, which is exactly the kind of thing an anthology like this is best used for.

1.) "Lop and Ocho"

Geno Studios' "Lop and Ocho" may not stand out from a simple description. It features many of the hallmarks of these Visions shorts - a Japanese-inspired society, Imperial forces bringing strife to a once-peaceful world, and a surprise Jedi connection that allows the protagonist to fight back against injustice. Much credit has to be given to the benefits of solid execution, though, and that's what makes "Lop and Ocho" the most compelling episode in this collection. It explores themes of environmentalism, greed, and the consequences of imperialism, yet also shows how well-meaning people could end up on the wrong side of that conflict. The relationship between the family the short centers around is the most developed of any found here, and in a franchise obsessed with the importance of family, it is refreshing to find a story that understands and values the different forms family can take. Of course, this is all topped off with one of the most kinetic and exciting action setpieces in the entire anthology. "Lop and Ocho" does as much as possible in the runtime it is given, leaving us with characters that are easy to love, poingant themes, and a satisfying tale that is complete but could be explored more in the future - the platonic ideal of the Visions model.

KEEP READING: 'Star Wars: Visions' Producers James Waugh & Kanako Shirasaki on the Anime Anthology and Which Characters Could Return



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