tar Wars is an international phenomenon. It is a franchise that crosses borders, cultures, languages, and nations. And no other series exemplifies that better than Star Wars: Visions.
Released in 2021, Star Wars: Visions - Volume 1 gave seven anime studios from Japan a chance to make their mark on the franchise. It was also a chance for the series to return to its Japanese inspirations. It’s no secret that Japanese cinema heavily influenced George Lucas, especially Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films. And so, in a way, Star Wars: Visions - Volume 1 is a homecoming, as the series went to Japan for the first time ever.
Each episode of Star Wars: Visions is beautiful in its own way. And every second – every frame – of the series is a painting worth displaying. So in no way is this a definitive list. In no way does this represent the opinions of all of Youtini. But for the sake of discussion (and a bit of friendly debate), I’d like to rank every episode of the anime anthology series, starting with volume 1. This list reflects the author’s personal taste and will be organized from least favorite to favorite.
“Tatooine Rhapsody” is a bit of an odd one. It’s one that I feel will connect with some, but maybe not so much with others. That’s not to say, however, that the episode is bad or that there isn’t anything there to enjoy. The chibi anime art style and off-the-wall premise of a band performing in front of Jabba to essentially save their lives is an odd but welcome story for the franchise. Again, it’s a premise that some will love and that some just won’t jive with (and that’s okay).
Although, similar to volume 2 of Star Wars: Visions, even the “worst” episode isn’t that bad. The episode’s bombastic punk rock music and upbeat tone make it fun to rewatch and go back to. In fact, even though I’m ranking this episode the lowest on my list, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it. It’s that something has to be at the bottom, and while “Tatooine Rhapsody” was a favorite among some, unfortunately, it wasn’t one of mine.
“The Elder” takes the classic Japanese tale of an older, seemingly-feeble samurai warrior that appears frail and innocent but is actually extremely deadly and puts it into the Star Wars universe. It follows two Jedi – a master and an apprentice – as they track down the titular character in a secluded pastoral village.
Compared to the other episodes in the anthology, episode 7, “The Elder,” is much more reserved. For this reason, “The Elder” isn’t higher in the ranking. While I certainly enjoyed the slower pacing, with the more nuanced storytelling of action and emotion over dialogue, the episode doesn’t stand out as much compared to the other episodes. It is still a great episode, however, as this is probably the most accurate and faithful recreation of the style of Akira Kurosawa, especially in the more subtle final duel between the Elder and the Jedi master.
One of the great strengths of Star Wars: Visions is its variety. Because there are very few creative limitations put on the studios, they’re free to tell whatever stories they want. And out of this, audiences get to watch unique and dark stories rarely seen in Star Wars, as is the case with “Akakiri,” the ninth and final episode of Visions - Volume 1.
“Akakiri” is interestingly placed in the series as it’s the final episode in the anthology. It has a rather dark and foreboding ending. In the final few scenes of the episode, the protagonist Jedi actually joins the Sith. He does so in order to try and resurrect his old love, who he mistakenly killed while under the influence of the Sith. Because the episode bookends the series, it leaves an odd and unsettling feeling in the viewer, which makes it surprisingly and completely unique from the other episodes.
“T0-B1” is a personal favorite of mine. “What if Pinnochio was in Star Wars?” is essentially the premise. It’s the story of a robot boy who forms a close relationship with his creator — his “father” — and dreams of becoming a Jedi. But his ambitions get his maker killed, as T0-B1 inadvertently alerts an Inquisitor of their position. T0-B1 finds out that his creator was originally a Jedi and that his maker made T0-B1’s heart out of a kyber crystal. The gift his father bestowed on him helps T0-B1 defeat the Inquisitor.
“T0-B1” is emotional, heart-wrenching, and beautiful all at the same time. The “father and son” dynamic pulls a lot of heartstrings. And the beautiful art style that hearkens back to Rocket Boy and late 80s/early 90s anime helps sell the nostalgia factor of the episode. The fact that this episode is below the halfway mark suggests the strength of the series as a whole.
Episode 1 of Star Wars: Visions - Volume 1, “The Duel,” is a pure homage to Akira Kurosawa. It’s an apt first episode to the series, harkening back to one of the biggest inspirations of Star Wars and showing love to one of cinema’s greatest directors. But it’s also unafraid to put its own spin on Kursowa’s style.
Many distinct elements make up Kurosawa’s filmography. From the black-and-white images to the wind-swept landscapes and the epic one-on-one faceoffs, “The Duel” features all of them. Yet, it’s also not afraid to play and break from those norms a tad bit, as the episode also plays with color and adds the dramatic, high-flying action fans may expect from a Star Wars duel. It’s a great introduction to the anthology series and also a great introduction to the works of a filmmaking legend. If you’re interested in a story along the same vein as this episode, be sure to check out our review of Ronin: A Vision Novel written by Emma Mieko Candon.
Episode 5 of Star Wars: Visions - Volume 1 is a favorite among many. In a lot of ways, “The Ninth Jedi” feels almost like the first episode of an entirely different, brand-new series. And I totally wouldn’t mind if it were.
“The Ninth Jedi” is set at a point where Jedi are almost extinct, and lightsabers are hard to come by. In the episode, the daughter of a sabersmith must deliver lightsabers to a group of Jedi located in a temple orbiting a planet from space. Upon reaching the temple, the daughter learns that all the Jedi she’s supposed to meet are actually Sith in disguise. But upon helping to deliver the lightsabers, defend the temple, and fight off the Sith, the daughter learns that her journey is just beginning as she looks to free her father from the Sith and start her journey of becoming a Jedi. If Visions ever goes back to past studios that helped work on the series, I hope Production I.G gets a chance to continue this story.
“The Twins” is 100% pure non-stop anime action. It’s wild, zany, and pure, unadulterated fun. Following twin siblings, the male sibling decides to turn from the Dark Side, realizing that continuing down that road will kill his twin sister. In contrast, the female sibling remains adamant about the power of the Dark Side and fights her brother for betraying their cause. Those willing to turn off logic for a moment and enjoy the crazy action are in for a wild ride.
At one point, the twins literally battle it out in space, with no spacesuits on and with ship-long lightsabers, fighting atop X-Wings and Star Destroyers. Does it make sense? No. Is it fun? Absolutely. Those who are fans of Dragon Ball, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Studio Trigger’s work, including Kill la Kill, and are willing to dive head-first into screaming “shonen” action will probably enjoy this the most.
I use the word “beautiful” a lot to describe these episodes. Even then, it’s hard to describe episode 8, “Lop & Ochō,” without calling it “beautiful.” Focusing on the rabbit alien Lop and her adoptive sister Ochō, it’s a tale about the Empire dividing the two sisters and their family apart, yet Lop continues to fight to keep her adoptive family together.
It’s an episode that, while featuring aspects entirely different from the rest of the franchise, still feels wholeheartedly like Star Wars. The theme of family, colonialism, and tradition versus modernity are all integral to Star Wars. Yet, “Lop & Ochō” gives these themes an interesting and fresh twist. An interesting aside detail I’d like to point out about this episode is its use of film grain. This small detail – adding film grain – makes it feel nostalgic, old, and retro and hearkens back to classic Star Wars. It’s another example of how handing the keys of the franchise over to different cultures can help give us new insight into a series that we all know and love.
Episode 9, “The Village Bride,” is everything I wanted from this anthology series: A modern anime art style; A classic “wandering samurai” story; an Integration of Japanese culture; Breathtaking visuals; A superb soundtrack. All of it works to create my favorite episode of Star Wars: Visions - Volume 1.
Sometime after Order 66, a female Jedi secluded from others is reluctant to fight but must come out of hiding to protect a village and a young affianced couple from a group of bandits seeking to raid the village. What makes this my favorite episode is it blends perfectly Star Wars with Akira Kurosawa, classic samurai films, and modern anime, without either one of those elements overbearing the others. It’s got the classic influence of Kurosawa, including the one-hit-kill slash, but it’s not a homage to him. It’s got a modern anime style of something like The Legend of Korra, yet still reserved and simplistic, nothing too over-the-top. And it’s got the same samurai trope of a broken hero that comes out of isolation to help, yet, blends it so well with the overall melody that is Star Wars. It’s a shining example of how creators combine their influences to make something greater and more unique than the sum of their parts. What could be more Star Wars than that?
Star Wars: Visions - Volume 1 is a wonderful exploration into the cultural impact of Star Wars and how so many different and unrelated influences help shape the media and culture we experience. Without the works of classic Japanese cinema, art, and anime, Star Wars may not be the same today. It’s only right, then, that Star Wars: Visions gave these studios from Japan a time to shine – and shine they did.
Stay tuned to our website for more future content on Star Wars: Visions, including a ranking of all the episodes of Volume 2. Also, feel free to check out our other articles on Star Wars animation, including a guide on Star Wars: Rebels. Be sure to join the community in our Discord server, where we discuss all things coming from a galaxy far, far away.