Unbeknownst to some viewers, “Star Wars: Visions,” the new anime anthology airing on Disney +, shares its title with both a museum exhibit, which visited Japan from 2015 to 2017, and a book Coffee Table, published in 2010. The book is out of print now, but you can still find copies from Amazon sellers. It featured illustrations from over a hundred artists, including cartoonists, painters, designers, concept artists and legendary comic artists like Moebius, Boris Vallejo, HR Giger, Syd Mead and Alex Ross.
Creator George Lucas, in his own words, asked these artists “for pieces inspired by ‘Star Wars’ but interpreted in their own way.” The artwork was, in turn, exhibited at the “Visions” exhibit along with other artwork, costumes and props from the “Star Wars” films (similar to the “Identities” exhibit, which passed through the Japanese capital two years ago.)
I was at the “Visions” exhibit in Tokyo on the day of “Star Wars” 2015, before “The Force Awakens” or one of the blockbuster Disney movies. He then toured in other cities of the country such as Yokohama, Shizuoka, Okayama and Nagoya. In the lobby, there was a message from Lucas to visitors where he spoke of being “a devoted admirer of Japanese culture“, and of course, spoke of Akira Kurosawa’s enduring influence on “Star Wars” .
Message from the George Lucas Museum
Here is what Lucas wrote to visitors:
“Japan is a country for which I feel a deep affinity and love. Through my exposure to Japanese cinema during my film school years, I became a devoted admirer of Japanese culture and learned all about it. as I could about Japanese artwork, feudal-era clothing, and more. Akira Kurosawa, a master in the world of cinema, was an artist whom I deeply respected, and the pursuit of “humanity. “Through his works had a considerable influence on” Star Wars “.
This ‘Star Wars:’ VISIONS exhibition was aimed at Japanese people, who have a high aesthetic sense and a deep understanding of artistic works. As stated in the title, the theme of this exhibit is vision. The classic storytelling of the “Star Wars” saga is a universal vision that still applies to people in the modern age. The vision of “Star Wars” could only be realized thanks to the skills and talents of the many artists who worked there. The VISIONS art project resulted in a book and a collection of paintings inspired by ‘Star Wars’. For this project, I asked artists around the world for pieces inspired by ‘Star Wars’ but performed in their own way. They have used various styles, from classic to avant-garde, to convey the massive scale and essential qualities of “Star Wars”, far exceeding my highest expectations.
I hope that this exhibition – an integration of art, costumes and props from the “Star Wars” movies with the collection of paintings from the “Star Wars” VISIONS book will offer a new take on the world of “Star Wars” and inspire young people to study the arts. “
“A New Look at the Star Wars Universe”
True to “Star Wars” and its Japanese roots, you could see a sensitivity to the meeting of East and West in some of the artwork on display at the “Visions” exhibit. One image that has always stood out to me is “Dawn of Maul” by Will Wilson, who reinvented Darth Maul as a figure resembling a Buddha.
While the exhibit may have been “planned for the Japanese people,” “Visions” on Disney + offers a reverse flow from Japan to the people of the world. It is the logical continuation of the ideal Lucas designed for new unique visual interpretations of “Star Wars”. Each of the seven Japanese animation studios behind it brings its own aesthetic. The episodes also advance some familiar Japanese concerns.
The first episode, “The Duel”, is pure “Yojimbo” and “Seven Samurai”, while the last, “Akakiri”, pays homage to “The Hidden Fortress”. Meanwhile, “The Twins” erupts the Holdo kamikaze maneuver, which Ebizo’s 2019 “Star Wars” kabuki play also highlighted.
“The Village” explores the Force as something different cultures can experience in different ways, here taking on a new name and animistic quality as “Magina”. “T0-B1” is inspired by Osamu Tezuka’s “Astro-Boy” and even Capcom’s character, Mega Man. Other notable episodes like “The Ninth Jedi” and “The Elder” continue the senpai-kohai dynamics and the use of lightsabers as a replacement for samurai swords.
By giving animators the freedom to act out and filter the myth through a Japanese lens, “Star Wars: Visions” delivered something that brought the franchise back to life. Like a lot of “Star Wars”, it can all be traced back to that germ of an idea Lucas once had: in this case, for a “Star Wars” art project.