I quite like Star Wars, but I hadn't expected ever to watch any more of Disney's ones. I saw their first one in the cinema and wasn't interested in what I heard of the rest. This, though, is a Disney+ series by anime studios, like the Animatrix. Samurai films inspired George Lucas and this would be the real thing. I could even watch in Japanese. I gave it a whirl and it's pretty good.
I won't continue with Season 2, but I'm sure that's worthwhile too. Each second season episode is from a famous animation studio from a different country. Nine episodes, nine countries. Aardman did one.
Anyway, this batch of stories is strong and sometimes dark. They handle their length excellently, although you'll sometimes be left begging for sequels (in a good way). Sometimes, these even exist, albeit only in print. The first episode, The Duel, has a novel spin-off and a one-shot prequel manga from Marvel.
1. THE DUEL (Kamikaze Douga)
It's an Akira Kurosawa homage with monochrome CGI that's been done to look rotoscoped. Extraordinary. This one's so much a samurai drama that you'd assume the characters had time-travelled to Edo-era Japan.
2. TATOOINE RHAPSODY (Studio Colorido)
A rock band gets in trouble with Jabba the Hutt. It's charming.
3. THE TWINS (Studio Trigger)
How many Studio Trigger shows have you seen? They're next-generation Gainax, responsible for Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia, SSSS.Gridman and its less good sequels, BNA: Brand New Animal, etc. They also have a recognisable style, with loose animation that's a bit mental and is perfect for going over the top.
This episode is exactly what I'd expected given all that, which is a good thing. I like the twins themselves and of course the flamboyant Trigger action. (An Imperial Star Destroyer gets cut in half with a lightsaber.) Apparently the dialogue's a bit cringeworthy in the English dub, though.
4. THE VILLAGE BRIDE (Kinema Citrus)
The first half is slow and uneventful, but stick with it. It's good. It has a particularly vile baddie and a cool "I'm a Jedi" declaration.
5. THE NINTH JEDI (Production I.G)
The production team have said that they'd like to continue this story. I agree. After finishing this, you'll want to see Part 2. It's set in an era when lightsabers are lost technology... mostly. The slob pilot droid on his break is a light-hearted touch. The red lightsabre reveal is cool. It's engrossing.
6. T0-B1 (Science SARU)
This is one of two Science SARU episodes here, although neither was directed by their superstar co-founder (Masaaki Yuasa). This one has a Tezuka-like beardie oldster and an adorable droid called T0-B1 who idolises Jedi. I didn't quite believe that the episode's fight would have had its actual victor, but that doesn't stop the episode from being lovable.
7. THE ELDER (Studio Trigger)
Another Trigger episode! This one's less mental than The Twins, though. It has a gentle pace that lets you get to know the characters, then we meet an old bloke who looks harmless but isn't.
8. LOP AND OCHOU (Geno Studio)
Lop and Ochou become sisters, despite being different species. Ochou's human and Lop's a rabbit girl. We meet them when they're children and Ochou saves Lop's life. They (and Ochou's dad) become a family. This is all-important when the Empire moves in years later and everything goes pear-shaped. There's an interesting discussion of progress and development, with the Empire presenting themselves as good guys and having a beneficial effect on this planet's economy (while damaging it environmentally). The Empire is us.
This is another episode that will leave you wanting a sequel, or even a spin-off series.
9. AKAKIRI (Science SARU)
Well, that was dark as hell.
Overall, they're good. I'd recommend them. It uses no shared characters, incidentally, because Lucasfilm made it non-canon to let the creators do whatever they wanted. (I approve. Experiencing all these unfamiliar splinters makes the Star Wars universe feel bigger.)
Apparently this was a gateway series into anime for Star Wars fans, and into Star Wars for anime fans. I can believe it.