Anime Expo Lite 2021 & Aniplex Online Fest 2021
Anime Expo Lite 2021: Sneak Preview of Star Wars: Visions
by Christopher Farris,
Star Wars: The ever-present pop-culture juggernaut has found itself before branching out to mediums like manga and other projects from Japanese creators. But modern franchise-owner Disney is now making an earnest push for some genuine Star Wars anime content with the Star Wars: Visions series of short films, in an effort to bring some fresh interpretations of the galactic mythos, as well as bolster the options on their Disney+ streaming service. Promising a collection of notable creators and studios contributing to the project, Lucasfilm was on-hand at Anime Expo Lite with a collection of their producers offering a sneak preview of the series set to debut later this year.
One of the main emphases of the project was on how the creators involved were given a wide berth in terms of applying their style – their 'visions' if you will – to the shorts they produced. There's a full spectrum of style and voices on display, emphasizing the idea that Lucasfilm specifically sought these creators out for what they each would bring to the table. It's an amount of creative freedom that seems fair, given the influence that Japanese media already had on George Lucas's original Star Wars films; as executive producer Josh Rimes noted, those classic movies drew much from pieces like The Hidden Fortress. The producers were also sure to note their own appreciation for anime as a medium, including, of course, name-checking Cowboy Bebop.
No actual animation from the shorts was yet shown off in this sneak preview. Instead, we're presented with concept and character art for each of the shorts titled, offering snippets of the stories they might entail, while detailing the studios and some of the staff involved. This does include a robust resume of recognizable talent, introduced with studio names showing the people making this presentation were aware of the prestige carried by who they'd gotten to sign on for the project. First shown off was 'The Duel,' produced by Kamikaze Douga. Apparently set to feature a style mostly in black and white with splotches of color, it will be directed by Takanobu Mizuno, with Takeshi Okazaki contributing character designs, including an Astromech droid wearing a hat! Next shown was Geno Studio's 'Lop & Ocho'; directed by Yuki Igarashi, this short was said to be rooted in wabi-sabi style, will depict a story of encroaching industrialism, and feature a positively adorable bunny-girl as the lead.
Studio Colorido's 'Tatooine Rhapsody' was noted as one of the first pitches the team had received, and was initially met with some hesitation. A 'Star Wars Rock Opera' with a notably chibified character design style, this will apparently also be one of the few shorts to utilize established characters from the broader franchise mythos, featuring appearances by Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett. Trigger, meanwhile, was one of the studios evidently so prestigious to have signed onto this project that they will be contributing two shorts: 'The Twins' being (very obviously) directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, while Masahiko Otsuka will be handling 'The Elder.' Michiru Oshima will be composing the music for both shorts. And speaking of music, the revelation of Kinema Citrus's 'The Village Bride' specifically highlighted Kevin Penkin as the composer! Having previously worked with them on Netflix's Eden, this project sees Penkin apparently bringing more Japanese instruments into his compositions, even learning to write new kinds of sheet music for them.
Science SARU is the other studio producing two different shorts for Visions. Eunyoung Choi will be directing 'Akakiri,' which apparently takes heavy inspiration from the aforementioned The Hidden Fortress, rounding Star Wars right back to its origins. 'T0-B1' meanwhile is directed by Abel Góngora, featuring some notably Osamu Tezuka-styled character designs. Finally, the last shown off short was Production I.G's 'The Ninth Jedi,' directed by Ghost in the Shell's very own Kenji Kamiyama. This story featuring lightsaber-smiths and a secretive sect of Jedi apparently started as two separate story pitches before being brought together as a single piece. It will include both Nobuko Toda and Kazuma Jinnouchi composing music. Notably, co-executive producer Justin Leach had previously worked with both Production I.G and Lucasfilm, and was excited to be brought back together between the two companies.
With all that shown off, the producers confirmed that the spread of styles and voices in Star Wars: Visions should hopefully appeal to anime fans who perhaps aren't deep into Star Wars, and vice-versa, Star Wars fans who haven't given much anime a look. The series was finally confirmed to be coming to Disney+ this September, though no exact date was given.
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