From Kamikaze Douga, “The Duel” kicks off the 9-episode first season of Star Wars: Visions, an anime anthology that looks at the Star Wars universe through a new lens. Star Wars Visions Episode 1 is directed by Takanobu Mizuno, produced by Kamikaze Douga, and written by Mitsuyasu Sakai. Heavily inspired by Akira Kurasawa’s samurai epics, this episode brings the franchise full circle.
If you’re unfamiliar, like many of the United State’s Westerners, George Lucas credited Akira Kurasawa as a heavy influence on the original Star Wars trilogy. Kurosawa’s influence is on full display in John Favreau’s The Mandalorian. Now, with “The Duel,” we get a chance to see what happens when Star Wars becomes a literal samurai story.
In Star Wars Visions Episode 1, we meet a ronin (Brian Tee), a wanderer, as he enters a small town. Soon, it’s overtaken by bandits and their unnamed sith leader (Lucy Liu). When the village’s chief steps forward and puts up a fight, the ronin decides to join the town and duel the bandit Leader. What transpires is a 13-minute work of animation art that embraces the beauty of black and white samurai classics and their tropes, marrying them with Star Wars.
With an epic orchestral score, the 13-minutes feels grand and manages to hold an impact beyond its runtime. “The Duel” gives audiences a new sith to fall in love with. For her part, the bandit leader is equipped with a stunning lightsaber that we haven’t seen before. She is imposing and mysterious, but most importantly, she’s powerful. When she faces the “simple wanderer” in a battle, the full strength of the Kamikaze Douga’s animation is on full display.
Animated all in black and white, color is used to accent the technology in the episode. The lightsabers hum with vibrant color, and the droid lights and buttons on the ship offer up slight hints of light that make Star Wars Visions Episode 1 feel both classic and epic. Additionally, the animation team manages to strike a balance between making the entire episode look like a sketch coming to life without losing details in the dark shading.
Overall, Star Wars: Visions Episode 1 has set the bar high. It’s a breathtaking testament to how much the franchise owes to Japanese cinema and, ultimately, a natural storytelling path to take.
Star Wars: Visions is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.
Star Wars: Visions Episode 1 – The Duel
- Rating - 10/1010/10
Star Wars Visions Episode 1 has set the bar high. It’s a breathtaking testament to how much the franchise owes to Japanese cinema and, ultimately, a natural storytelling path to take.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.