Anime Short: Star Wars: Visions – The Duel

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Star Wars: Visions was born. 

Once the last few minutes of this anime anthology’s trailer ended, my dad told me, “This is what Star Wars was meant to be, not all that Luke bullshit.” 

I don’t share a lot of interesting memories with my dad. 

He’s the type to work many hours to provide for his family, but one thing I really liked doing with him was watching science fiction television shows together (Star Trek Voyager, Star Gate SG1 and Andromeda to name a few) and listening to his fun facts about his favourite fandoms. My connection to Star Wars isn’t as strong as his, despite how he felt let down by the recent films, but seeing his bit of confidence in this project’s potential was heartwarming. 

Star Wars: Visions may be a huge money grab scheme to expand the Disney+ empire, but inviting and inspiring Japanese animation studios with an epic space opera to create their own interpretations of this franchise, so rich with lore and potential for mass world-building, is amazing and a complete win for Star Wars and anime fans.

(Before continuing onto this post, please note that there are spoilers in the details. )

Kamikaze Douga – “The Duel”

If anyone could pull off animation with cool stylistic flair, it’s Kamikaze Douga. Known for working on Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures seasons one through three, the studio used 2D drawings overlaid on 3D animation to create their short (a style used to create the opening themes for Jojo).

Animated in monochromatic black and white with cross hatched lines, strong shadows, a textured old film filter with red streaks from blazing lightsabers dancing across the screen, The Duel’s aesthetic truly deserves a “chef’s kiss” for paying homage to Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films (which influenced the Star Wars films).

Its world invites us to Feudal Japan with highly technical weaponry and machinery. A lone samurai accompanied by a droid stops at a tea house overseeing a large village. Unfortunately, the village is attacked by bandits, who do a sufficient job of keeping their enemies at bay until their Sith leader takes center stage. Upon their appearance, the lone samurai enters the village and challenges the Sith to a duel.

Takashi Okazaki’s designs for the villains in this short were great.

Instead of having bandits wearing the same clothing to mirror the Storm Trooper’s iconic white uniform, Okazaki took inspiration from Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and dressed them like nobushi. Armour shields the bandits’ bare skin and they wear underwear and no shoes. Each bandit either has a unique helmet or does not wear one at all. Their clothing gives them personality.

In The Duel’s featurette, Okazaki notes how his first design for the Sith bandit leader was a courtesan, but her design transformed from being not only elegant but sadistic (and deadly) with the grinning oni mask covering the bottom half of her face and the large black hooded cloak covering her entire body. 

The featurette notes her magnificence is reflected in her crazy fighting style where she utilizes an umbrella attachment to her lightsaber. Her demeanor is cold and cruel. Blocking bullets by quickly spinning the attachment right before stabbing and opening the umbrella attachment to impale her opponent’s limp cold body on her blade makes the Sith bandit leader a complete badass. 

Akeno Watanabe and Lucy Liu’s voice work as the Sith bandit leader (in Japanese and English respectively) adds to the character’s cold and cruel demeanor. While Watanabe’s performance makes the leader aggressive and domineering with her lower tone, Liu uses a soft, calm tone which highlights the leader’s elegance.

To be frank, these ladies killed it.

The Duel is also a fun watch for Star Wars fans because it does a nice job of paying tribute to the early chapters of Star Wars, notably Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith during the fight scenes between the lone samurai and the bandit leader.

With the lead’s mysterious character and how the storytelling in The Duel suggests the lone samurai’s long journey, I read an article on the Star Wars website promoting, Star Wars: Ronin: A Visions Novel by Emma Mieko Candon. A novel based off of the animated short which is expected to be released on October 12th. Penguin Random House features an extended excerpt over on their site with the first five chapters of the novel.

Star Wars: Visions made its home on Disney+ on September 22nd, 2021. It is a collection of nine original anime shorts created by seven Japanese animation studios (that some anime fans will recognize) including: Kamikaze Douga, Studio Colorido, Geno Studio, Trigger, Kinema citrus, Science Saru and Production I.G.

What are your thoughts on Star Wars: Visions? (My dad hasn’t and I’m waiting to see what he thinks.) Let me know down below!

6 thoughts on “Anime Short: Star Wars: Visions – The Duel

      1. The Village Bride was an interesting one. I liked how the animation studio integrated Japanese culture’s respect toward nature into the Star Wars universe. Also, the FL was cool too. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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