Concluding Laughing Place’s reviews of each individual episode of Lucasfilm’s animated event series Star Wars: Visions, the ninth and final installment is entitled “Akakiri” and was the second of these shorts crafted by Science SARU, the same team behind “T0-B1.”
How far would you be willing to go in order to save someone else? That’s the question posed by “Akakiri,” the last episode of Star Wars: Visions, which also happens to be another story featuring a wandering Jedi forced to go up against a Sith warlord. I’ve come to the conclusion that Lucasfilm should have given a list of somewhat more varied topics to the anime studios creating shorts for this project, instead of running the risk of them all coming back with movies about lightsaber duels, which they inevitably did. Don’t get me wrong– as I wrote in my full-season review of the series, I believe Visions to be a unique success unto itself as a whole, but when broken down into individual installments, one starts to notice the similarities between each of the stories.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase “Star Wars”? Is it a Jedi? A lightsaber? Fine, that makes sense. But there are plenty of other things on that list as well that could have been the focus of some of these entries. Looking back now after having rewatched all nine shorts, I have much more appreciation for “Tatooine Rhapsody,” which– had it been released on its own– might come off as a little silly, but when looked at in the context of everything around it seems positively groundbreaking in its willingness to take chances with the given material.
Similarly, as a specific short film, “Akakiri” would be getting rave reviews from myself and everyone else who appreciates this long-running franchise had it been released separately. But placed at the end of Visions as it is now, I can’t help but compare it to the half-dozen other analogous narratives we’ve seen so far. A lone warrior named Tsubaki (voiced by Yū Miyazaki in the Japanese audio track and Henry Golding in the English dub) arrives on a war-torn planet to assist an exiled princess called Misa (Lynn / Jamie Chung) in reclaiming her birthright from her Sith-allied aunt Masago (Yukari Nozawa / Lorraine Toussaint). Their guides Senshuu (Chō / George Takei) and Kamahachi (Wataru Takagi / Keone Young) are reminiscent of the peasant characters Tahei and Matashichi from Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, who originally provided George Lucas with the inspiration for R2-D2 and C-3PO in the original Star Wars film, so what goes around comes around I suppose.
“Akakiri” concludes with a delightfully dark turn of events, wrapping up Star Wars: Visions with a surprisingly pessimistic message: you might be able to get what you seek in the end, but it may also come at a great sacrifice. I like that the short was ultimately bold enough to go in that direction and not take the easy, more obvious way out by tying things up in a neat, happy little bow, but at the same time I would have liked to see more variety from Visions overall, and this installment was guilty of delivering so many of the serie’s oft-repeated tropes again. At the same time, I’ll say that I still think Visions was absolutely a worthwhile experiment and I’d love to see another batch of episodes, but next time I’d hope Lucasfilm suggests some alternate avenues to explore instead of just the Jedi.
My final ranking:
1 – The Ninth Jedi
2 – The Duel
3 – The Elder
4 – Tatooine Rhapsody
5 – The Twins
6 – T0-B1
7 – Akakiri
8 – Lop & Ochō
9 – The Village Bride
Star Wars: Visions is available to stream in its entirety exclusively on Disney+.