Star Wars Visions Reviews – Episode 1: The Duel

I wasn’t expecting Disney Plus to drop this entire series in one go. Unlike Netflix’s binge model, Disney seem to prefer to release their episodes week to week, promoting that water cooler discussion and online speculation that comes with a more traditionally releases series.

Which kind of threw my plans into disarray as I planned to review these episode week by week rather than in one big chunk. So when they all dropped together, I had a think about it and decided to say sod it and just review them all individually anyway.

This choice is helped somewhat by the fact that episodes are only around 13 minutes long and they take a more conceptual approach to their content than most other stories taking place within the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars Visions are a collection of one-off collaborations with various figures and studios within the world of anime. Given free reign to make whatever they want using Star Wars as a jumping off point, Visions is a collection of shorts that don’t fit into the greater Star Wars continuity and simply allow the creators to flex their creativity and give us something cool for the sake of coolness.

Speaking of which, after that prolonged preamble, I’ll start talking about the first episode here: The Duel.

The Duel was directed by Takanobu Mizuno, an animation director who has experience working in character animation in video games. Which is something that shows in the Duel as this episode is created using 3D models rather than the more traditional anime style you’d expect to see when you first heard about a collaboration like this.

It makes me wonder what the decision making process behind making this episode one was. The episode is presented in a mostly black and white style accented by the occasional coloured light source. Almost exclusively emanating from technology. The whole thing feels like its emulating a traditional style of Japanese paining

Google Kanou style and you’ll probably see what I’m getting at. As someone who watches anime, I would have thought the series would kick off with a more recognisable anime style in their premier episode. But maybe the opposite is true. Considering this is being marketed to a Star Wars fandom rather than an anime fandom, maybe the choice to start with the Duel was a calculated move to avoid scaring the skeptics away.

The episode itself takes place within a world that feels like a combination of both the Star Wars setting we know and one of traditional Japanese history. One in which Samurai are the roaming warriors that the Jedi were originally based on.

Within the lore of this particular story, The Jedi are much more compatible to the Samurai of history, serving the Empire as honoured warriors. However, a faction of Jedi who wanted to sever their connection to their Imperial masters broke away and became the Sith. I only know all of this because this particular story is getting novelisation expanding upon the content of this episode.

So all that other information comes from the blurb of that book, Ronin: A Visions Novel, which is coming out on the 12th of October this year.

We follow the character only known as Ronin; a former Sith who turned his back on his own faction and wanders the galaxy with his astromech droid. When resting at a small village, a group of bandits led by a female Sith warrior show up, leading to a duel between her and the Ronin.

This episode is so cool. It’s recognisable as Star Wars, but brings so many new and interesting concepts to a very well established setting. The Lightsaber parasol alone is a concept as ridiculous as it is badass. Not just that though, the nature of the duel isn’t simply one of swordplay and force usage, but of trickery and fighting dirty.

I guess that this being a battle between Sith, that would make sense, but honestly, it’s not something you generally see in Star Wars at all, even in the Sith duels that have been shown in various media. The way the fight concludes is great.

I was a little hesitant about the series when I learned the stories were going to take place outside of the established continuity, but after seeing the Duel, my doubts have all been swept away. There are fantastic ideas and concepts at play here that could very easily influence future Star Wars projects.

We always hear about dark Jedi in so much Star Wars media, but the counter to that: the concept of an altruistic Sith not something I think I’ve ever come across outside of The Old Republic MMO.

The Duel is a super stylish short heavily inspired by the Kurosawa-esqe samurai stories that you see throughout anime and manga and a super cool jumping off point for the visions series. I’m looking forward to seeing what other fresh new directions these directors take us in for the rest of the series.

I don’t think the every review for Visions will be this long, but I plan on reviewing an episode of the series throughout the next couple of weeks, posting one every day that I don’t make a regular post.

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