Who says Star Wars only happens in a single galaxy far, far away….?
During my lifetime, there were two sets of Star Wars “dark times.” Both occurred during on-screen downtime between trilogies. Long gaps of on-screen content characterize both. In each instance, my imagination remained buoyed by non-Star Wars anime and manga.
In fact, how crazy would my nine-year-old self think his aged 46-year-old avatar? Especially, if he heard me exclaim to my three boys, “Let’s watch Star Wars: Visions – it’s Star Wars anime!”
But here we are.
What’s my non-spoiler take on Visions (watched on a small screen while waiting to head to a PTA meeting)? Like its progenitors, it makes you feel young and hopeful and eager, eager to see and enjoy and decipher more. Like my sons, aged 5, 9, and 11, I had no idea what was coming. I loved every second of discovery (even if I discovered every second didn’t stand on its own).
Full disclosure. I am not objective about Star Wars. I can’t be. It was the first film I saw with my dad. The Empire Strikes Back holds that distinction with my mom. Much as I love the collected works of Raymond Chandler (which I discovered after reading Rober B. Parker’s “Spenser” novels), I am not discerning about each story.
Therefore, I can watch and rewatch (or read and re-read) constantly and without boredom. “A New Hope” remains the on-screen monolith, with The Big Sleep doing the same on my bookshelf.
However, if I am honest, there are moments where you stop and wish that the original creators could do more; that you could see more variations on a form. That said, “Yes,” I would like to see Phillip Marlowe or Luke Skywalker in new and different situations. But, “No,” I don’t want to see anyone else play Luke in Episode IV. Nor would I think I’d want anyone else to write Marlowe (though several, like Parker, have tried).
Thankfully, in the case of Marlowe (and with the seminal novel L.A. Confidential in mind), James Ellroy transcended Chandler’s form and gave us something new and fresh – if not necessarily better. Moreover, we see similar things with The Mandalorian. Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau took Star Wars — George Lucas’s original vision — and renewed it.
Sure it looks familiar. And, just like Marlowe’s LA is “the same” as Ellroy’s LA, there are significant differences in how they portray in-story. The same could be said for “The Filoniverse” as it relates to the galaxy created by Lucas.
And that, my fellow padawans, is a good thing.
Finally, speaking of “good things” and back on the subject of Visions; I think the crews that pulled together these variations on a theme did so with much success. I see and understand allusion and homage to many, many pieces. Yes, much of the Visions series is derivative. However, so was the original “Star Wars” (and so much of the anime “homaged” in the new animated show).
An aside: Was the first incarnation of Luke Skywalker (Tatooine farm boy “Wormie”) as initially provocative as Ronin or Lop or the Ninth Jedi? Think about it.
That pondered, some of the hops (pun intended) from A to B were simply breathtaking. As was the way that each of the shorts was designed left audiences wanting more and more. Even if — and it can be fairly said — taken as a whole is better than several of its individual parts.
Meanwhile, I think the success of any derivative art remains directly proportional to the inspired desire one finds to watch the original.
After watching Visions, I realize now that there are massive gaps in my understanding of anime. With those holes in mind, I had somehow forgotten how intertwined Star Wars: A New Hope was to Kurosawa. That said, the echoes (if not rhyming), of Visions and “Star Wars,” are purposeful. They are a testament to both anime history and the imagination of George Lucas.
In the end, EVEN if you don’t love Visions, it’s my guess that the new shorts will inspire you to go back to the source material. If taken with an open mind and a tall glass of blue milk, Visions will awaken a memory or a thought or an emotion you haven’t felt in a long, long time.
Lucasfilm, please give us more – even if the stories occur in an additional galaxy far, far away….