In advance of the upcoming Disney+ anime anthology series, StarWars.com speaks with executive producer Josh Rimes and producer Kanako Shirasaki for insight into some of the new heroes we’ll encounter.
Star Wars is going to a new galaxy of storytelling. Star Wars: Visions, an anime anthology featuring nine shorts from some of the world’s best anime creators, is set to debut September 22 on Disney+. With Inside Star Wars: Visions, StarWars.com will pull back the curtain on the series for exclusive early insights into what might await us. In this installment, StarWars.com finds out about some of the starring heroes.
When it comes to Star Wars: Visions, you must unlearn what you have learned.
Visions will present unique takes on the Star Wars galaxy from some of the anime world’s greatest talents -- and with these visionary stories come all-new heroes. Some are similar to those we know yet just a little different, others seem like they’re from a galaxy even further away. StarWars.com caught up with executive producer Josh Rimes and producer Kanako Shirasaki of Lucasfilm to learn more about five of these future fan favorites, whose stories we’ll soon experience in a Star Wars series like no other.
Spoiler warning: This article discusses characters and story details from Star Wars: Visions.
Kara, “The Ninth Jedi”
“The Ninth Jedi” from Production I.G imagines a galaxy in which the Jedi Order is long gone, but a mysterious master named Juro hopes to revive it. And central to this possible Jedi renaissance is Kara, who has never been trained in the ways of the Force but still holds a connection to the guardians of peace and justice. “Kara’s father is a legendary lightsaber-smith, which is totally unique to this tale,” Rimes tells StarWars.com. “The lightsabers he makes are also different from anything we’ve seen before in Star Wars. Writer/director Kenji Kamiyama really leaned into this new and different vision of what a lightsaber can be and how it can reflect the nature of those who might wield it. Of course, Kara is in awe of her father and his very important job, and feels that one day she’ll have what it takes to wield a lightsaber and learn the ways of the Jedi.”
For Rimes, Kara follows in a tradition that’s key to Star Wars -- but with a Visions twist. “Thematically, Kara has familiar hopes and dreams as heroes like Luke or Rey. She longs for more, wishes to become a hero and get off her tundra planet where great harpoon cannons farm for kyber crystals from the asteroids above,” he says. “What’s new, though, is that Kara has a stable, loving relationship to her father. He’s everything to her and she’s everything to him. He has an important job and when trouble comes she must take up her father’s mission and become the hero she’s meant to be -- but despite her natural skill, she realizes this adventure is only the beginning and will need all the training she can get as she becomes a part of a group with a mission that’s bigger than herself.”
“She’s gifted with the use of a sword” adds Shirasaki, “but she’s not aware of her hidden power.”
When it comes to design, one of Kara’s looks takes direct influence from Leia -- but not the famous hair-buns.
“Kamiyama-san took inspiration from the anime stories that have excited him and the staff at Production I.G, but the Return of the Jedi speeder chase was such a huge influence on the creative team for a big action set piece,” Rimes teases. “You’ll see that Kara wears a helmet and poncho that uses similar design language to Leia’s garb in that iconic Return of the Jedi action sequence.”
In “The Ninth Jedi,” the stakes will be high for both the galaxy and Kara. Rimes and Shirasaki promise it will be an adventure long remembered.
“Kara’s journey is an epic one that brims with the scale and excitement one would expect from a feature film,” Rimes says. “The score is sumptuous, the battles are epic, and Kara’s ultimate destiny hangs in the balance.”
“Kara suddenly gets caught up in an unexpected destiny,” says Shirasaki, “and faces the ultimate choice of her life.”
Karre, “THE TWINS”
Trigger’s “THE TWINS” follows dark side siblings Karre and Am, an almost flip-version of the Skywalker saga’s well-known brother and sister. This is no hero’s journey, however. When the story begins, the twins already hold great power. Still, always in motion is the future, especially for Karre. “Along with his sister Am, Karre was created by dark side forces who plan for the powerful twins to rule the galaxy,” Shirasaki says. “However, Karre makes his own choice to free himself from a life that had been designed by the people around him.”
“Imaishi-san at Trigger really dug into his own style and the ‘twin’ themes with Luke and Leia to create dark-side twins Karre and Am,” adds Rimes. “While this set of twins has a destiny that is seemingly already written, with them both sitting up on their thrones on a giant Twin Star Destroyer, Karre has a crisis of conscience born out of love for his sister that drives his choice.”
Indeed, the conflict for Karre forms the heart of “THE TWINS.” And by inverting a classic Star Wars motif to follow protagonists aligned with the dark side, storytelling possibilities opened up.
“Karre brings a whole new point of view to Star Wars, but it also feels so familiar,” says Rimes. “He’s fighting for Am, the only family member he’s ever loved or known -- and she is against it with every fiber of her being. Karre’s drive to protect and hold onto those he loves can be traced back to Anakin with his love for his mother or for Padmé, and Luke when it comes to his love for his friends and his ultimate forgiveness of his father. He’s making a choice that will forever shape his destiny. What’s really unique is that he’s doing it from an all-powerful position that’s set against a wild, exaggerated, burst of sound and fury and color. But it’s all because he wants his sister to live.”
In terms of design, Karre continues the Star Wars Sith tradition of looking, to put it plainly, incredibly cool. He sports very Vader-esque black armor, complete with flowing cape, chest box, and mask. But underneath it all is a more personal connection for the studio and filmmaker. “So much has been said about Karre’s look!” says Rimes. “This truly is Star Wars meets Promare. Promare was Imaishi-san’s breakout movie hit for Trigger. While Karre wears garb and helmet influenced by Darth Vader, his boyish blonde look underneath it all has a passing resemblance to the fan-favorite character Lio from Promare. We find it delightful as an homage to both Star Wars and Promare, but this melding of Imaishi-san’s special style of anime onto a galaxy far, far away is exactly what we were looking for when it came to making Star Wars: Visions.”
Karre’s struggle is, in a sense, to break free of everything that armor represents.
“He is a strong believer that you can choose your own destiny and forge your own path,” says Shirasaki.
“Karre is on a classic journey of his own,” Rimes says. “But his tale has shades of both Anakin and Luke as he pushes against his own destiny and holds out hope that he may one day save and redeem his sister.”
Dan, “The Elder”
"The Elder," also from Trigger, explores the classic master-Padawan relationship. And the short’s Jedi learner, known simply as Dan, has much to learn.
“Dan is a Jedi Padawan who is a bit impatient and sarcastic -- he just wants to see a little Jedi action. His master Tajin is wise and cautious, but trusting,” Rimes says. “Dan learns the hard way about what it means to seek out a fight or to underestimate an opponent.”
Dan, however, still has the heart of a Jedi.
“Despite his impatience and flashes of sarcasm, Dan brings a sweet, youthful energy to the galaxy. It’s hard not to fall in love with him or see yourself in his shoes,” Rimes says. “This short really dissects a particular master-student relationship in a really deep and incisive way.”
As established in the Star Wars prequels, there’s a uniformity to Padawan learners. Still, Dan carves out some individuality.
“Dan has a typical Padawan hairstyle with a braid, but I love that he added his own twist with shaved lines to it,” Shirasaki says. “His curiosity and lack of experiences land him in dire straits, but his master teaches him the lessons needed to overcome his challenges.”
And it’s the interplay between Dan and his master that forms the center of “The Elder,” and also acts as a personal statement from the short’s director.
“Themes of youth versus experience and everything that comes with it hang on every frame of this story. It makes sense since this might be director Otsuka-san’s final film for Trigger,” Rimes says. “In many ways, this is a love letter from him, the older master, to the newer, younger generation of artists starting up.”
F, “The Village Bride”
Kinema Citrus’ “The Village Bride” finds a fallen Jedi, known only as F, observing a small village’s wedding rituals. Little is known about F, but what she does not reveal speaks volumes.
“From her cloak, to her mask, to her one letter name, F is mysterious, hidden, cautious due to a great tragedy in her past,” Rimes says. “Despite her Jedi heroics in an earlier time, she is really much more of an observer here as she takes in an unfamiliar world and village and must decide: will she step back into her old Jedi life and reveal herself?”
One avenue explored in “The Village Bride” is the idea of the Force, and how different cultures might interpret the mystical energy field. For F, it represents a chance to learn. “This short introduces the Force in a unique way,” Shirasaki says. “People of Planet Keelia don't know the concept of the Force, but they interpret in their own way. They call it ‘Magina’ and use it to connect them with the nature around them.”
As such, “The Village Bride” is a more transcendental tale, yet not without action. The feel of the short is reflected in the nature of F herself.
“F brings a sense of serene calm to this piece. ‘The Village Bride’ is as much about the natural world, customs, traditions, and a new and unexpected way people might worship and wield the Force. It’s a meditative story, almost a tone poem, as F reflects on what is happening in front of her, but also on her own tragic past,” says Rimes. “As danger escalates and F is drawn into conflict once again, her ultimate choice is such a moment of catharsis and release.”
Still, it will be a journey for F to get to that point, and her design represents that battle.
“F is guarded in every sense of the word. She wears an elaborate mask and cloak that figuratively and literally shields past traumas,” Rimes says. For Shirasaki, however, it’s a particularly successful look -- and there’s good reason for that.
“I personally love her combination of boots with Japanese hakama!” she says. “The staff at the animation studio behind the short, Kinema Citrus, actually dressed up like her to test the costume design, and that really paid off.”
As a tale of redemption, “The Village Bride” echoes one of Star Wars’ greatest themes.
“F’s journey is bittersweet and stirring as she reconnects with others and herself after running for so long,” Rimes says. “It’s thrilling to see her finally embrace the hero within.”
Ronin, "The Duel"
Taking inspiration from Samurai lore and films that inspired Star Wars itself, along with a mashup of newer forms and other genres, "The Duel" follows a Jedi known simply as Ronin.
“Ronin is a wanderer, an anti-hero, a mysterious warrior directly influenced by Toshiro Mifune and Kurosawa films like Yojimbo,” Rimes explains. “He exists in a realm where old Kurosawa films, manga, Westerns, and Star Wars all collide in a feudal style world full of stormtrooper remnants and alien bodyguard squads -- and his sidekick is a killer droid in a straw hat. Everything about this character feels so right for Star Wars: Visions and the kinds of stories and influences we wanted to explore.”
“Nobody knows who he is or where he is from,” adds Shirasaki. “He doesn’t talk about himself. The only one who knows his true identity is his droid and it doesn’t speak, either. As viewers, we are only given the same limited amount of information about the protagonist that is given to the other characters of this short.”
The designs of Ronin and his droid were some of the first created for Visions. Taking Star Wars back to its Samurai roots, but with bold colors and a sense of humor, they came to represent everything Visions could be.
“Very early on we saw Takashi Okazaki’s design for Ronin and his droid and were utterly blown away -- black and white, with a flourish of red for his lightsaber. We knew we were onto something with Visions,” Rimes says. “Okazaki-san is just an amazing artist that captures so much depth and detail, and creates these characters with so much love and care.”
Though Ronin has been wandering, it will soon be time to face his destiny.
“We’ll find out about further adventures of our hero in the Visions novel Ronin, but this tale is about a man with a strong sense of justice and right and wrong,” says Rimes. “The way he’s animated and performed in both original Japanese and the English dub shows that he really carries the weight of his own past with him on his journey toward self-discovery -- and he’ll dispense some eye-popping, lightsaber-clashing justice along the way if he must.”