The Force remains strong with the Star Wars franchise. In the nine years since Walt Disney Studios purchased Lucasfilm, along with George Lucas’s beloved films, there has been a wide variety of movies and television series released. However controversial among the fanbase, the saga has never been more popular. Now, in 2021, Star Wars has taken a step back from common live-action projects that consumers have come to expect and debuted a tribute to the franchise’s Japanese influences in a new anime series, Star Wars: Visions.
While Star Wars: A New Hope was in the midst of development in 1973, Lucas was heavily inspired by the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa, an incredibly influential Japanese filmmaker, who is regarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of the most important figures in the history of cinema. As A New Hope bears many structural similarities with Kurosawa’s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress, Japanese cinema has had an overt influence on the saga as it stands today. At Disney Investor Day in December 2020, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy announced that seven Japanese animation studios would be joining together to create a nine-episode anthology series known as Star Wars: Visions. It was also revealed that the short films would owe no credit to the existing Star Wars canon and would rather be allowed to freely explore the parameters of their own stories and pay homage to their Japanese influencers. Several episodes, namely the premiere titled The Duel, received critical acclaim for the highly stylized animation and inspired storytelling.
With the success of Visions, the doors to a wider range of diversity in the saga have been opened. The increasing representation of different cultures in the Star Wars franchise, and Hollywood in general, has proven to give unheard ethnic groups a chance to shed their light on the world through incredibly popular outlets, such as Disney+. Fans will patiently wait for the second season of Visions throughout the next year, feasting their eyes on the cultural celebration introduced in the show’s first season.
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