Continuing Laughing Place’s reviews for each individual episode of Lucasfilm’s animated event series Star Wars: Visions, the fifth installment is entitled “The Ninth Jedi” and was crafted by Production I.G. (creators of Ghost in the Shell).
Now we’re talking. Unlike “The Village Bride,” “The Ninth Jedi” just feels like Star Wars pretty much immediately. Not only that, even though Visions isn’t beholden to the existing Star Wars canon, this is another of its short films that could theoretically make sense by fitting into the larger continuity by taking place many generations after Order 66 and the decimation of the Jedi. A group of Force-users is summoned to an asteroid orbiting the planet Hy Izlan, where a reclusive figure named Margrave Juro (voiced by Tetsuo Kanao in the Japanese audio track and Andrew Kishino in the English dub) has begun collecting Kyber crystals in an effort to start distributing lightsabers to would-be Jedi and restore the Order to its former glory.
Meanwhile on the planet below, a swordsmith named Zhima (Shin-ichiro Miki / Simu Liu) and his Force-sensitive daughter Kara (Chinatsu Akasaki / Kimiko Glenn) prepare sabers for delivery to the enigmatic Margrave. When Jedi hunters show up to capture Zhima, Kara must find her way up to Juro’s hideout to deliver the lightsabers before it’s too late. Little does she know that most of the beings who followed the beacon to this location are actually aligned with the evil Sith– all except Ethan (Hiromu Mineta / Masi Oka), a noble young warrior who only seeks to follow the path of the light. There are a lot of wonderful moments along the way as Kara seeks to avenge her father’s kidnapping and help the Margrave in his quest, including a speeder chase across frozen ice plains, a hilarious interaction with a lazy old pilot droid who claims to be “on his break,” and a heart-pounding climactic battle sequence that rivals even the best lightsaber duels from the live-action Star Wars films.
I can’t tell you how exciting it is to watch “The Ninth Jedi”– at 22 minutes, the longest of the Star Wars: Visions episodes– and imagine it as a pilot for an ongoing animated series about the rebirth of the Jedi, set many hundreds of years after the Original Trilogy. I know that probably won’t happen, but I hope at the very least that other creators will look to Production I.G.’s work here and examine just how they arrived at the precise formula for what makes this long-running franchise tick. My guess is that they figured out how to combine genuine emotion, intriguing characters, inventive world-building, and entertaining-but-grounded action scenes, all while building upon and expanding the pre-existing Star Wars mythology. It all adds up to exactly what I was hoping for when Star Wars: Visions was first announced– a fresh take on familiar material that breathes new life into A Galaxy Far, Far Away.
My ranking so far:
1 – The Ninth Jedi
2 – The Duel
3 – Tatooine Rhapsody
4 – The Twins
5 – The Village Bride
Star Wars: Visions is available to stream in its entirety exclusively on Disney+.