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'Visions' Is The 'Star Wars' Anime You Were Waiting For

Ronin (voiced by Masaki Terasoma in Japanese and Brian Tee in the English dub) in a scene from the <em>Star Wars: Visions </em>episode "The Duel."
Ronin (voiced by Masaki Terasoma in Japanese and Brian Tee in the English dub) in a scene from the <em>Star Wars: Visions </em>episode "The Duel."

The Star Wars universe is expanding.

Star Wars: Visions is the latest series in the franchise, produced by Lucasfilms in collaboration with seven well-known Japanese anime studios.

While this technically is the first time these worlds have collided, George Lucas has been inspired by Japanese entertainment since the original trilogy.

"What he really got from the director [Akira] Kurosawa was an attention to detail," says Kelly Knox, freelance writer for StarWars.com and author of Marvel Monsters. "To [Lucas], it was very important that the galaxy felt real by making it feel used and lived in. That's why you see piles of junk and dirt on the Millennium Falcon."

So the pairing of anime and the Star Wars universe was as destined as Luke's mastery of the Force.

Not many familiar faces, but there are familiar themes

Visions is a nine-episode series that runs about 2 1/2 hours in total — so, totally binge-worthy if you want it to be. Each episode is an isolated story, a slice of life in the Star Wars galaxy, and you can watch them all in the original Japanese or dubbed in English.

You won't see many of the Star Wars staples, but Visions takes popular themes — and sometimes inspiration from our favorite characters — and gives them a new twist.

Take an episode called "The Twins." The two main characters are twin siblings, a boy and a girl. They're SUPER powerful and at one with The Force. Remind you of anybody?

Except these twins are evil. Or at least, they were born in the Empire.

Am (voiced by Ryoko Shiraishi in Japanese and Alison Brie in the English dub) and Karre (voiced by Junya Enoki in Japanese and Neil Patrick Harris in the English dub) duel atop Star Destroyers in the episode titled "The Twins."
/ Lucasfilm Ltd.
Am (voiced by Ryoko Shiraishi in Japanese and Alison Brie in the English dub) and Karre (voiced by Junya Enoki in Japanese and Neil Patrick Harris in the English dub) duel atop Star Destroyers in the episode titled "The Twins."

Hiromi Wakabayashi, creative producer for Studio Trigger, wrote this episode.

"Many of the Star Wars protagonists are a nobody who becomes a chosen one, like Anakin, Rey and Luke," Wakabayashi says. "I wanted to portray that same idea, but doing the opposite — where the chosen twins become nobodies."

Deep ties to anime and Japanese cinema

There are also recurring anti-war themes and deep connections to the environment. Both of these themes have been explored before in previous Star Wars TV series and in graphic novels.

And all of these topics are no strangers to anime and Japanese cinema. Nichole Sakura voices Haru in the English dub of "The Village Bride."

"I think it's a part of Japanese culture to include really important, meaningful themes like community [and] nature, a lot of these things that you might think children don't understand," Sakura says. "But I think it's very Japanese in nature to touch on really meaningful things and values."

And if you're not into that, at the very least you can enjoy the rock concert in "Tatooine Rhapsody."

Kat Lonsdorf contributed to this story, which was edited for radio by Petra Mayer and adapted for the web by Victoria Whitley-Berry.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.