Pretty much every major Star Wars fan knows by now how George Lucas was heavily inspired by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films, and that influence also found its way into Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. Legendary animator Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars also pays homage to anime, which you can see most clearly in the iconic Akira bike slide moment with Obi-Wan.
The point is, Star Wars is inextricably tied to Japanese culture, and after 44 years, the series has finally come home to roost, with an ambitious cross-cultural production that’s only been a fan pipe dream for years; Star Wars Visions, an anthology of nine animated Star Wars short films, directed by a handful of CRAZY TALENTED people in the anime industry.
If the phrase “Star Wars anime” doesn’t tickle your fancy, let us fix that for you. There will be homework, but you have until September. Let’s go down the list of who we’ve got on Star Wars Visions, and why you should be keen! Starting with my favourites, because I have the best taste… Editor’s Note: It’s true!
TAKASHI OKAZAKI (AND KAMIKAZE DOUGA)
Where this guy’s name appears, watch closely, because it’s a mark of quality! Takashi Okazaki’s most notable works are character designs on Afro Samurai, Batman Ninja and Summer Wars. Okazaki’s style oozes… well, style. We saw on Afro Samurai how he effortlessly fused ancient samurai aesthetic with early 2000s hip-hop, with monks covered in bling, sporting gold teeth and massive headphones, and a ronin with a robotic mask reminiscent of the Dropout Bear from Kanye West’s first three studio albums, especially off the cover of Graduation (illustrated by another Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami). Okazaki’s designs for Visions are looking just as nice.
His work on Batman Ninja was even more impressive, a film that saw Batman and several of his allies and enemies transported to Edo-period Japan, with new looks to match. Batman in Shogun armour is something you might not think you need, until you actually see how cool it is. NOT TO MENTION, the short that Okazaki is working on, The Duel, is animated by Kamikaze Douga, who will be doing the only 3D film in the anthology. As well as animating Batman Ninja, a GORGEOUS film, they are also responsible for the first four JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure opening videos! And I won’t spoil it, but it was Douga’s idea to do that special thing in the last Stardust Crusaders intro, the part where everyone lost their minds; that was all them. This is your PSA to watch JoJo’s.
HIROYUKI IMAISHI (AND STUDIO TRIGGER)
Imaishi being picked for this project absolutely solidifies what’s going to be great about Visions; it’s really going to celebrate the individuality of the creators. Creative freedom was the best aspect of The Animatrix, an anime anthology based on the Wachowski sisters’ Matrix series. Whether it was a short about an athlete pushing his body so hard that he challenges the Matrix through force of will alone, a group of kids abandoning a “haunted” house (glitches in the Matrix), or a band of survivors in the war that turn one machine good; it was the freedom to express any ideas within the established Matrix universe that made each short so compelling.
Imaishi is most likely going to bring his unique element of absolute chaos to the Star Wars universe, something that might otherwise clash with the very strict rules established in the world; but here, in this context, it’ll be perfect. In Imaishi’s best stories, Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill, Promare, feelings are what dictates the story, realism and logic be damned. His film looks to be a very personal story about “twins of the Dark side…”. Given his previous works, we can expect some fast-paced, awesome action, and a really emotionally evocative story.
TAKU KIMURA (AND STUDIO COLORIDO)
It’s really awesome to see the diverse range of stories that can be told within the Star Wars universe, beyond just war and space samurais, and Kimura’s and Colorido’s short is demonstrating this potential perfectly, as it’s a ROCK OPERA set on the desert planet! Colorido has been absolutely KILLING it recently with their Pokémon stuff, including the brilliant Twilight Wings shorts, and their short film Dreaming Tsubomi (it’s only in Japanese but just look at those visuals *chef’s kiss*), and they look to be injecting the same sense of youthful joy from those projects into their Star Wars Visions film, Tatooine Rhapsody!
ABEL GONGORA (AND SCIENCE SARU)
The last one I want to focus on for you soon-to-be-anime-fans is T0-B1, one of the Science Saru shorts, directed by Abel Gongora. Now if you’re an Adventure Time fan, you may have already seen some of Abel Gongora’s work without even noticing! He animated some of the cuts in the episode Food Chain, guest-directed by the great Masaaki Yuasa! And now that he’s been given his one film for Star Wars Visions, he’s going old school, drawing from the “retro, vintage” Astro Boy as one of his inspirations, with the main character being a cute little droid.
You’re lying if you don’t think they look adorable.
There’s no doubt that all nine films in Visions are gonna be something special, but if this is your first foray into the wide world of anime, these are the ones we think you should be excited about!
All pics via YouTube