Anime Expo Lite: 20 Things We Learned from the Star Wars: Visions Panel

Catch up on all the new details revealed for the upcoming Disney+ mashup of Star Wars and anime.

Anime and the Star Wars galaxy are (finally!) coming together. Star Wars: Visions, a new anthology of animated shorts celebrating Star Wars through the lens of some of the world’s best anime creators, is coming to Disney+. In a special panel today at Anime Expo Lite, Lucasfim pulled back the curtain on the series — and it looks to be a wholly unique collection of inventive, visually stunning, and personal Star Wars tales. Hosted by Chastity Vicencio and featuring James Waugh (executive producer), Josh Rimes (executive producer), Jacqui Lopez (executive producer), Justin Leach (co-executive producer), and Kanako Shirasaki (producer), the panel showed concept art, revealed the studios and creators behind several shorts, and offered plot details for the diverse and creative stories on the way. Here are 20 things we learned.

1. Mark your calendars. We won’t have to wait long for the series: Star Wars: Visions will arrive September 22 on Disney+.

2. Star Wars: Visions storytelling didn’t have to fit in the timeline. In developing the series, Lucasfilm made the decision to let creators tell the stories they wanted to tell — whether they featured established or original characters — without a need to tie into the larger chronology. “We really wanted to give these creators a wide creative berth to explore all the imaginative potential of the Star Wars galaxy through the unique lens of anime,” James Waugh said. “We realized we wanted these to be as authentic as possible to the studios and creators who are making them, made through their unique process, in a medium they’re such experts at. So the idea was, this is their vision riffing off all the elements of the Star Wars galaxy that inspired them — hopefully to make a really incredible anthology series, unlike anything we’ve seen before in the Star Wars galaxy.”

3. The studios behind Star Wars: Visions make for an all-star anime lineup. In total, Lucasfilm confirmed seven studios and nine shorts for Star Wars: Visions, including: 

  • Kamikaze Douga – The Duel
  • Geno Studio (Twin Engine) – Lop and Ochō
  • Studio Colorido (Twin Engine)  Tatooine Rhapsody
  • Trigger  The Twins
  • Trigger  The Elder
  • Kinema Citrus  The Village Bride
  • Science Saru – Akakiri
  • Science Saru – T0-B1
  • Production IG  The Ninth Jedi

 As can be seen in the concept art shown during the panel, no two shorts have the same visual aesthetic or tell the same story. “What’s really exciting is how unique and special each one of these shorts are,” Josh Rimes said. “Each studio has different styles and tones.”

4. For Lucasfilm, Star Wars: Visions was a long time coming. Several panelists expressed their fandom for anime, while also noting the influence that Japanese culture has had on Star Wars since the beginning. “The combination of Star Wars and anime is something that I’ve really wanted for a really long time,” said Justin Leach. Waugh concurred. “Anime has influenced us in a huge way,” he said. “We’re all fans.”

5. It wasn’t a prerequisite, but the creators behind the Star Wars: Visions shorts are all Star Wars fans. “Each one of these studios jumped right in,” Jacqui Lopez said. “They were huge Star Wars fans. It was very easy for them to jump in and do what they do within our universe.”

6. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Star Wars: Visions met with some production hurdles. Lockdown forced a mostly remote production, making things especially complicated considering the differences in time zones and production pipelines. “It was not easy since we managed many shorts simultaneously during this challenging time,” confirmed Kanako Shirasaki.

7. The Duel from Kamikaze Douga infuses Star Wars with Japanese iconography. The concept art revealed for this short features Samurai-esque Jedi and Sith, an astromech droid with straw hat, and more that embraces Japanese culture. “It was just irresistible,” said Lopez. “We were all overwhelmed when we saw this artwork.”

8. Director Takanobu Mizuno had one goal with The Duel. The thing he was really clear on was that he just wanted this to be a love letter to Star Wars,” Waugh said. “The core theme of this short ends up being such a Star Wars story.” The tale is ultimately about someone who must choose selflessness, a core Star Wars theme. As far as visuals, The Duel will be told in black and white with splashes for color for certain elements — like lightsabers.

9. For Geno Studio’s Lop and Ochō, the visuals reflect its messaging. “The design style on this short really focuses on the collision between natural beauty and encroaching industrialization,” said Lopez, with the Empire representing the march of technology.

10. Lop and Ochō features a space bunny-person. Her name is Lop and we love her already. “She is cute and expressive and completely unwavering in her devotion to good and family and loyalty,” Lopez said. “She’s awesome.”

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11. Put down your blasters and grab a guitar for Studio Colorido’s Tatooine Rhapsody. Told through a more Chibi art style, Tatooine Rhapsody is heading into uncharted Star Wars waters. “It’s a Star Wars rock opera,” said Rimes of the story, about a band with a dream to make it big. “We took a chance and they just blew us away with the style and the characters and the tone, and really the heart of what is best in Star Wars about found family and the dream.” It’s also one of the few shorts to feature classic characters, as our heroic band will run into Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt.

12. Tatooine Rhapsody would influence the entire Star Wars: Visions project. As Waugh told it, Tatooine Rhapsody was one of the first pitches Lucasfilm received. Though the far-out concept initially caused some trepidation, that feeling soon changed. “It allowed us to go, ‘You know what. That’s what Visions is going to be about,'” Waugh said. “We’re gonna roll the dice, we’re gonna tell stories that we couldn’t tell anywhere else.”

13. Trigger’s The Twins and The Elder will offer new spins on hallmark Star Wars motifs. The Twins “subverts the idea of Luke and Leia and imagines a brand-new set of twins born into the dark side, and how far the brother will go to save his sister,” Leach said. This is even represented visually with a co-joined Star Destroyer. The Elder, however, takes a closer look at another kind of Star Wars bond. “The Elder is a homage to a classic Star Wars master and Padawan relationship,” said Shirasaki. “You’ll also find the dual meaning of the title after you watch the short.”

14. The Village Bride by Kinema Citrus follows a fallen Jedi, but not in a way you’d expect. The guardian of peace and justice observes a local tradition in a far-off village through the eyes of a bride on the eve of her wedding day, and an unexpected choice she must make to save her people. “It’s poetic, meditative, and romantically bittersweet,” Shirasaki said. “This short also approaches the Force in a really unique and surprising way, too.”

15. Science Saru’s two shorts, Akakiri and T0-B1, share a similar cartoonish style but differ in tone. “It’s a beautiful yet painful story about a princess,” Shirasaki said of Akakiri. TB-01, however, is more heartwarming fare. “It’s a cute and fun story of an adorable droid who dreams to be a Jedi.”

16. Science Saru founder Eunyoung Choi draws influence from many of the same sources as Star Wars. “I think it’s really interesting to see how the East and West influence each other, and there’s a cycle of creativity that goes back and forth,” Leach said. “It’s interesting to see her take on the classic [Akira] Kurosawa melded with the Star Wars mythology, then taking her own Science Saru expression and putting it all in this mix. It looks really great.”

17. Lucasfilm was especially excited to work with Production IG, makers of The Ninth Jedi. “They are true anime pioneers, from Ghost in the Shell to the anime sequence in Kill Bill,” Lopez said. “They have an amazing pedigree as innovators.”

18. The Ninth Jedi “is an absolutely epic story,” according to Rimes. But it actually began as two separate shorts. One was to be set in a time when Jedi have fallen into legend and need to come back as darkness threatens the galaxy, with the daughter of a lightsabersmith seeking out the Jedi and delivering their weapons. The other story was to be told from the point of view of eight warriors coming together, learning if they are indeed Force sensitive and can trust each other. Ultimately, the decision was made to combine the stories in order to achieve something on a grander scale. “We brought those two tales together to create something really epic and special,” Rimes said. “They had us at ‘lightsabersmith,’” added Lopez.

19. While all the shorts have original scores, there’s something extra special about the music for The Ninth Jedi. The score was recorded at the Muza Kawasaki Symphony Hall, an acclaimed, modern venue.

20. Star Wars fans who don’t know anime, fear not. Lucasfilm is confident that you’ll find something to enjoy in Star Wars: Visions. “These things go together like peanut butter and chocolate,” Waugh said. “So hopefully they love this combination as much as everybody on this panel does.”

Watch the Star Wars: Visions Special Look below!

The full Star Wars: Visions panel will be available to watch from July 5-16 at the official Anime Expo site. Note: there is a registration fee.

Dan Brooks is a writer and the editor of StarWars.com. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, Yankees, and Knicks. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks.

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