A Star Wars: Visions Anime Primer

A Star Wars: Visions Anime Primer
Some fine choices for your watchlist, even if you're not interested in Star Wars: Visions. (Image: Netflix, Crunchyroll, and HBO Max)
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In a few weeks, we’re going to see the Lucasfilm galaxy through the lens of some top-tier creative teams from Japanese animation studios in the form of Star Wars: Visions. Airing on Disney+, the series is a short anthology collection presenting a unique twist on the saga. The work the studios have done previously is incredibly impressive; here are a few titles you can watch to get a feel before these special “visions” premiere.

Where can I watch Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken? (Science Saru)

Image: Science Saru Image: Science Saru

You can watch Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! on Crunchyroll The famous Masaaki Yuasa studio has plenty of certified hits under its belt, and Yuasa’s own adaptation of Owara Sumito’s manga of the same name is no exception. Following three young school girls — Midori, Tsubame, and Sayaka — who use the cover of an after-school club to start their own animation studio, Eizouken! is a wonderful little slice of life comedy about the romance of making anime. The series blurs the lines between the fantasies dreamed up in Midori and Tsubame’s creative brainstorm sessions with gorgeous, dreamlike sequences. And that works to contrast the mundane details of the real world (and limited scheduling and budgeting constraints) that Tsubame keeps trying to drag them back into. It’s a complete joy to experience.

Where can I watch The Night is Short, Walk On Girl? (Science Saru)

Image: Science Saru Image: Science Saru

You can watch The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl on Amazon Prime Video Science Saru is one of two studios providing two shorts for Star Wars: Visions, so why not give two recommendations, too? When Yuasa’s not helming great TV series, he’s also creating gorgeous, mind-bending movies that frame the real and surreal in some truly incredible ways. The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (another adaptation, this time of the Tomihiko Morimi novel) is no exception. It’s the tale of a wild night out for a pair of young, unnamed university students as they’re whisked through an evening of missed connections and drunken escapades — and perhaps, some fantastical encounters along the way — as the young man of the duo attempts to confess his feelings for his fellow graduate. It’s a sensory overload that once again uses some incredibly inventive animation to blur the lines between the mundanity of life and a world of dreams and ideas, and a night worth checking out.

Where can I watch Batman Ninja? (Kamikaze Douga)

Image: Kamikaze Douga Image: Kamikaze Douga

You can watch Batman Ninja on Netflix  — Kamikaze Douga is better known for its shorts, video game and show openings, and music videos than full-length projects of its own. But if you’re looking for a sample of how one of these studios takes to adapting a western franchise, look no further than the batshit antics of Batman Ninja, an original Warner Bros. animated movie that flings the Dark Knight through time back into the Sengoku period. An audacious, action-packed spectacle, it’s a complete and utterly wild time — and yet still wears its love of Batman’s long history earnestly on its sleeve.

Where can I watch Golden Kamuy? (Geno Studio)

Image: Geno Studio Image: Geno Studio

You can watch Golden Kamuy on Crunchyroll  — Satoru Noda’s smash hit manga series has a (still ongoing) equally intriguing anime adaptation that explores a post-Russo-Japanese War Hokkaido at the turn of the 20th century. Following a young Japanese soldier, Saichi Sugimoto, the series sees the young man on the hunt for a vault of gold from a legendary folkloric tale and battling for survival between rival groups seeking the treasure. But its real heart comes in its portrayal of Sugimoto’s travelling companion, the young Ainu girl Asirpa, one of the original indigenous people of Hokkaido, and its exploration of their culture in a Japan that is slowly leaving them behind.

Where can I watch Moriarty the Patriot? (Production I.G.)

Image: Production I.G. Image: Production I.G.

You can watch Moriarty the Patriot on Funimation  — Production I.G. has many, many, many projects under its belt, and many of them are excellent options to check out. Ghost in the Shell and Standalone Complex! FLCL! Psycho-Pass! Haikyuu!!! Patlabor 2! The list goes on, and on, and on (and on!). Hell, if you want to see how it does what it’s doing in Visions already, but with another sci-fi icon, you can check out its short in the Halo Legends anime anthology.

But if you want something different and fun of an altogether different sort, its recent adaptation of the Ryōsuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi manga Moriarty the Patriot is well worth your time. The story utilises younger versions of Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic creations Sherlock Holmes and William James Moriarty and is a gripping cat-and-mouse mystery that sets its sights on the corrupt class structures of 19th century England. It follows Moriarty’s perspective as he seeks to destroy the elite of the country from within while dancing around the genius investigative skills of the man who will become his legendary rival.

Where can I watch Promare? (Trigger)

Image: Trigger Image: Trigger

You can watch Promare on Amazon Prime Video Hiroyuki Imaishi’s “The Twins” is already a standout short to look out for in Visions, if only for its technicolor, over-the-top aesthetic. But if you’re craving more of that incredibly colourful kinetic action, look no further than one of the most delightful anime movies in recent times, Promare. This one is set in a future where a chunk of humanity is transformed into “The Burnished,” mutants who suddenly and violently manifest neon-tinged pyrokinetic manipulation abilities and are ostracised by the surviving human population for it. We watch as ace firefighter Galo uncovers something much more complex going on behind the scenes of the Burnished’s persecution when he has a chance encounter with their dazzling ringleader, the anarchist Lio Fotia. It’s sumptuously animated, completely bonkers, and a rollercoaster ride of hyper-action fun from start to finish — if you watch one thing from this list before or after Visions, make it this.

Where can I watch SSSS.Gridman? (Trigger)

Image: Trigger Image: Trigger

You can watch SSSS.Gridman on Crunchyroll  — Trigger also has two shorts in Visions, so we’re offering two recommendations that riff on similar central themes — mecha-fuelled supeheroics — but with very different approaches. A spin on the classic Tsuburaya (the makers of Ultraman) ‘90s Tokusatsu series Gridman the Hyper-Agent, SSSS. Gridman follows three high schoolers: the amnesiac Yūta Hibiki and his classmates Rikka and Shō, as they find their town plagued by violent kaiju attacks that mysteriously reset the city back to normal after each invasion. Encountering the spirit of Gridman in an old computer, the trio forms the Gridman Alliance to solve the mystery of the kaiju and their town’s disappearing population. What follows is both a glorious tribute to Tokusatsu as a genre and a touching story about trauma and connection that makes for one of the most fascinating robot anime around. If you like it, check out its spiritual successor that aired this year, SSSS. Dynazenon, for more.

Where can I watch Made in Abyss? (Kinema Citrus)

Image: Kinema Citrus Image: Kinema Citrus

You can watch Made in Abyss on Amazon Prime Video A gorgeous, bittersweet adaptation of Akihito Tsukushi’s manga, this fantasy series follows a young girl named Riko who lives in a town built around a massive cavernous opening into the titular “abyss.” The cavernous system buried deep into the earth is full of remnants of a past civilisation and attracts treasure hunters and cave raiders in spite of a mysterious malady that resides there. As Riko dreams of becoming a cave raider in her missing mother’s footsteps, she finds a young robot named Reg in the early levels of the abyss, going on adventures together to uncover more and more of the system’s secrets.

Where can I watch A Whisker Away? (Studio Colorido)

Image: Studio Colorido Image: Studio Colorido

You can watch A Whisker Away on Netflix Colorido is another interesting studio, perhaps more known for its short-form animation like recent entries of the Pokémon: Twilight Wings anime anthology (or, weirdly enough, several viral McDonalds recruitment adverts!). But one of its more recent and intriguing long-form projects is the sweet, supernaturally tinged A Whisker Away. The movie follows a young middle schooler named Miyo, who finds herself unable to connect with a boy at school she has feelings for, Kento, who repeatedly rejects her. But when a mysterious mask seller gives Miyo a magical noh mask that transforms her into an adorable kitten, Miyo uses the opportunity to get closer to Kento… only to find wishing yourself into a cat comes with a few complications.

Star Wars: Visions premieres on Disney+ September 22.