Samurai and lightsabers! Star Wars meets Japanese anime in ‘Star Wars: Visions’
All Star wars a fan worth his Craitian salt would know that one of George Lucas’ greatest inspirations for the film was the iconic 1958 film by legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa The hidden fortress.
This isn’t the only time the Star Wars franchise has drawn inspiration from Japan. Samurai-influenced elements of Darth Vader’s Helmet and Jedi Honor Code, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s final one-shot duel with Darth Maul in Star Wars Rebels, the entire Star Wars franchise is peppered with influences from Japanese culture and films.
But what if it was the other way around? What kind of stories Star wars inspire Japanese filmmakers, especially anime producers, to do?
This is the main concept behind Star Wars: Visions, an anthology of nine anime episodes produced by seven different Japanese animation studios, each bringing their own narrative and visual style to the board. These include Production IG, best known for the iconic Ghost in the shell, and Kamikaze Douga, known for his work on JoJo’s bizarre adventure lively.
According to Star Wars: Visions executive producer James Waugh, anime is something that has always influenced everyone behind the Star Wars franchise.
“We are all huge fans of anime. This is something that has really influenced a lot of us… you can see it in a lot of the work that has been done at Lucasfilm, ”he said in a recent video panel interview with regional media.
“The whole point of creating the Visions framework was to allow this kind of fun and festive storytelling to exist alongside any of our proven animations, ”he added.
According to producer Kanako Shirasaki, who previously worked on Netflix Eden animated series, Visions It’s not just about Japanese filmmakers creating Japanese Star Wars stories, as each studio also has filmmakers from different cultures.
For example, she explains, The dual by Kamikaze Douga has a very “Kurosawa movie aesthetic” and is a “Samurai Meets Star Wars short”. Other episodes, like that of Eunyoung Choi Akakiri, is the Korean director’s take on Japanese cinema, animation and Star Wars.
“Abel Góngora (who directed the droid-centric T0-B1) is a Spanish director who creates Japanese anime in Japan!” She said. “You can see a lot of different cultural aspects (in Visions) … so these are their interpretations of Japanese culture, ”she said.
While the episodes are available in their original Japanese dialogue (and English subtitles), it’s worth watching them in English as well, as the series features a stellar vocal cast that includes the likes of Temuera Morrison (who play Jango fett in the Star Wars prequel films and Boba Fett in The Mandalorian and the next one Boba Fett’s book), George Takei, Simu Liu, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Neil Patrick Harris, Lucy Liu, Karen Fukuhara and even the Malaysian Henry Golding.
Lucasfilm is notoriously strict when it comes to every aspect of the Star Wars franchise, from the continuity of the stories to the number of buttons on Darth Vader’s chest, but for Visions, they gave free rein to the anime studios to do whatever they wanted.
“We approached Visions of a very festive place. It was a setting for creators to explore whatever element of the galaxy they love and tell their stories in their medium, ”says Waugh.
He adds that the studios’ initial brief was that they weren’t looking for “deep stories” that tell the origin of a specific character or a defining story about a known character, but more original stories.
“We wanted to know what they could do if all bets were off, and they could just use whatever Star Wars elements they wanted!” he said.
Ultimately, Waugh said, they selected a diverse group of studios that have been successful in showcasing the breadth of anime as a medium for filmmaking.
“We selected these studios in a place of love because we are really fans of a lot of their work. They all did something a little differently. (Some) told quieter stories or more heartfelt stories or more romantic stories, and others are just bombastic action … we wanted it all! ” he said.
Star Wars: Visions is currently airing on Disney + Hotstar.