This weekend, Disney announced Star Wars: Visions, an animated anthology of original short films. Seven anime studios are giving their unique tour of the world of Star Wars, a first for the franchise. Still, it looks like Star Wars has finally come full circle.
“Japanese animation has inspired a lot of people at Lucasfilm over the years,” executive producer James Waugh said. “We loved the idea of seeing Star Wars expressed this way.”
Studios include Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio (Twin Engine), Studio Colorido (Twin Engine), Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Science Saru and Production IG.
Here is the official description of the project:
As the first formal adventure in the anime, each “Star Wars: Visions” short carries a unique Japanese sensibility, which in many ways aligns with the tone and spirit of Star Wars storytelling. From the beginning, the stories told in the Star Wars galaxy have counted Japanese mythology and Akira Kurosawa’s films among their many influences, and these new visions will further explore this cultural heritage through the unique animation style and perspective of each animation studio.
For years, films have resonated deeply with Japan and its culture. After Star Wars: A New Hope was first released in Japan, it would inspire Japanese animators, and help drive to an anime boom in space operas.
Star wars draws from various sources, but commonly Japanese culture and cinema were among the many inspirations of George Lucas. For example, from a design perspective, Imperial and Rebel crests were influenced by Mon or emblems traditionally used in Japan by families, or more recently, companies.
Japanese period films, called jidaijeki, were clearly a big inspiration for Star Wars. Akira Kurosawa occupies an important place, with The hidden fortress perhaps being the biggest single source, inspiring the characters, their relationships and even the plot points. The Kurosawa-style “wipe” transitions would even become a mainstay of the series, but having Kurosawa’s styles apparently wasn’t enough. Lucas would have wanted the director’s main man. Mika Mifune — the is the star’s daughter–told how Lucas wanted his father Toshiro for the role of Darth Vader.
Star Wars borrowed specific elements from Japan (and elsewhere), incorporated them, reinvented them, and presented them in a whole new way. Japanese culture has done the same for thousands of years, whether it’s taking and reinventing culture or artistic elements from China, Korea, India or, later, the West.
Take Osamu Tezuka, for example. Considered the father of the anime, he was inspired by Walt Disney. However, what he created was not just a Disney animation made in Japan. It was different and inspired a new generation of home entertainers (as well as, it seems, back in Disney). “Anime” is now classified as a style (although there are arguments that “anime” is simply the Japanese word for “animation,” period) and has become fully common in the United States. animated; however, artists draw on a wide variety of sources, including the country’s rich artistic and cultural traditions. The work that follows will inevitably be different.
Likewise, Star wars introduced elements of Japanese culture to the Japanese, but mixed with elements of classic Americana. For example, John Ford films, or Buck Rogers comics and soap operas, in the same way German expressionist films like Metropolis, Arthurian mythology and European history. The result is something different, however, for the ever familiar Japanese audience.
The common thread of Japanese influence in Star wars This is also why an anime anthology makes perfect sense. This is why the movies did a good kabuki show, Why Star wars suited a screen painting in a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, and why Bandai samurai style The Boba Fett and Darth Vader action figures were so perfect.
It’s also why Japanese animators want to try and give Star Wars their own twist. In the clip above, creators like Hitoshi Haga from Kinema Citrus and Kenji Kamiyama from Production IG appear. “A lightsaber is the stuff of children’s dreams,” Kamiyama said. “I took that and added some Japanese flavor.”
Later in the clip, Studio Trigger President Masahiko Otsuka explains how he wants to make period drama with Star Wars, mentioning that this could be his last work. The word Otsuka uses in Japanese is “jidaigeki “– the kind of period samurai movies that inspired Lucas and would have sparked the word “Jedi”. See? Full circle.
By putting their own lens on Star Wars, the anime creators will be leaving their personal mark on a galaxy that is far, far away. The result will undoubtedly be different, fascinating and ultimately Japanese. I can not wait.