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Anime Series Star Wars: Visions Brings Lucas Films Full Circle

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Anime Series Star Wars: Visions Brings Lucas Films Full Circle
Star Wars creator George Lucas has never been shy of acknowledging his debt to the legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. In the early ‘70s, as Lucas began developing the first film, he looked to Kurosawa’s 1958 Edo-era period drama The Hidden Fortress. It tells the story of a civil war through the eyes of two peasants, the lowest characters. It’s why Star Wars is told from the viewpoint of two droids, the lowest characters. The Jedi, meanwhile, are essentially Lucas’ take on ronin — masterless samurai — who were the centrepiece of many a Kurosawa movie. The lightsaber is their sword, except cooler. It’s quite poetic then that Star Wars: Visions — premiering Wednesday on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar — brings Lucas and his films full circle.

The new anthology anime series Star Wars: Visions hands the keys to the galaxy far, far away to seven Japanese studios. Nearly all of the nine short films — I’ve seen all — involve the Jedi and the Sith in one way or another. This inevitably results in duels, which forms the core of their third acts. The Jedi-Sith stories get repetitive, for most Star Wars: Visions shorts are just 13–18 minutes in length, leaving little room to iterate before ending in the eventual showdown. A couple — one goes full Kurosawa with black-and-white, and another is psychologically haunted — do manage to set themselves apart, though it’s more due to their background score.

The latter features tabla (an Indian connect I was not expecting and was delighted by), while the former mixes Western instruments with Japanese instruments such as hand-drum tsuzumi, temple drum nagado, Buddhist cymbal myohachi, short-necked lute biwa, and bamboo flute nohkan.

It’s refreshing and all-new to the Star Wars universe, which is exactly what Star Wars: Visions needed to be. That’s also why the lone non-Jedi tale works so well too — even as it’s the only one to bring in existing Star Wars characters — though more so for other reasons. It’s unlike anything that’s been served up before in the galaxy, as it evokes joy and is full of happiness, closer to being Ted Lasso than Star Wars emotionally.

What does set them all apart is the Japanese dialogue, which I always preferred over the English dub, as it seemed fitting in more ways than one. I couldn’t always watch it that way though, as Disney’s preview site for critics didn’t offer English subtitles for every short. But those watching on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar won’t have this problem.

From Kota Factory to Star Wars: Visions, What to Watch in September

The most out-there of them all is Star Wars: Visions episode 2 “Tatooine Rhapsody” (from Studio Colorido and director Taku Kimura). It follows lead singer Jay (voiced by Hiroyuki Yoshino/ Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose band is being torn apart after Jabba the Hutt tasks Boba Fett (Akio Kaneda/ Temuera Morrison) to bring in Huttese bandmember Geezer (Kousuke Goto/ Bobby Moynihan). Described as a Star Wars rock opera, “Tatooine Rhapsody” lives up to its billing. It lends further credence to music being a universal language and its ability to win hearts galaxy-wide. It also expands the Star Wars galaxy in a way the films never could.

Star Wars: Visions episode 1 “The Duel” (from Kamikaze Douga and director Takanobu Mizuno) and episode 9 “Akakiri” (from Science Saru and director Eunyoung Choi) are the highlights of the Jedi tales. In monochromatic “The Duel”, a ronin (Masaki Terasoma/ Brian Tee) and a female Sith Dark Lord (Akeno Watanabe/ Lucy Liu) clash in a village — with their fight animated at a lowered frame rate. “The Duel” is the one with the Japanese instruments. “Akakiri” follows a Jedi (Yu Miyazaki/ Henry Golding) plagued by visions who makes a deal with the devil to save someone close to him (Lynn/ Jamie Chung). It’s eerie, haunting, and benefits from U-zhaan’s tabla score. U-zhaan has learnt from two of India’s greats, Zakir Hussain and Anindo Chatterjee, and it shows.

None of the other six Star Wars: Visions shorts are on quite the same level, though some show promise before fading. In episode 4 “A Village Bride” (from Kinema Citrus and director Hitoshi Haga), a wandering masked Jedi (Asami Seto/ Karen Fukuhara) visits a village in servitude to the Separatists that rule over them with an iron hand. There are some lessons about living in harmony with nature, but not conveyed with much depth. The masked Jedi’s powered boots are quite cool though.

On episode 5 “The Ninth Jedi” (from Production IG and writer-director Kenji Kamiyama), the daughter of a lightsaber smith (Chinatsu Akasaki/ Kimiko Glenn) must come to the aid of surviving Jedis in a dark time for the galaxy where lightsabers and the Jedi Order have been long lost. But “The Ninth Jedi” feels rushed, and it wastes Shang-Chi star Simu Liu in a small role.

Star Wars: Visions Full English and Japanese Voice Cast Announced

Chinatsu Akasaki/ Kimiko Glenn as Kara in Star Wars: Visions “The Ninth Jedi”
Photo Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm

Star Wars: Visions episode 3 “The Twins” (made by Trigger and director Hiroyuki Imaishi) attempts to put a spin on the Skywalker origin story: what if a pair of Force-sensitive twins were delivered to the Dark side? Like Luke and Leia, they have versions of R2D2 (R-DUO) and C-3PO (B-2ON) as well, with one supporting the brother Karre (Junya Enoki/ Neil Patrick Harris) and sister Am (Ryoko Shiraishi/ Alison Brie), respectively. And unlike the Skywalkers, they have their own Death Star: two Star Destroyers joined with a mega cannon in the middle. “The Twins” features some lightsaber action shots that wouldn’t work in live action. It also feels inspired by Star Wars: The Last Jedi in two key moments and how R-DUO riffs on BB-8, though it does have its own flair in Am’s spider-y tentacle-like lightsaber weapon.

Episode 8 “Lop & Ochō” (from Geno Studio and director Yuki Igarashi) finds bunny-eared orphan Lop (Seiran Kobayashi/ Anna Cathcart) caught between her rebel patriarch foster father Yasaburo (Tadahisa Fujimura/ Paul Nakauchi) and his Empire-sympathising daughter Ochō (Risa Shimizu/ Hiromi Dames). “Lop & Ochō” feels incomplete and leaves us hanging. Plus, the shout-y English is a detriment for this Star Wars: Visions chapter.

The remaining two Star Wars: Visions films are minor efforts in my opinion. In episode 7 “The Elder” (made by Trigger and writer-director Masahiko Otsuka), a Jedi (Takaya Hashi/ David Harbour) and his Padawan (Yuichi Nakamura/ Jordan Fisher) land on a remote planet in the Outer Rim after feeling a strong disturbance in the Force. Though it sets up the Padawan as reckless and craving action, it doesn’t deliver on that despite being an inch away from that lesson. “The Elder” ends up being just a couple of lightsaber duels and nothing more.

That leaves episode 6, “T0-B1”, (from Science Saru and director Abel Gongora) about a cybernetic boy (Masako Nozawa/ Jaden Waldman) who dreams of being a Jedi. T0-B1 unearths a secret his armless master Mitaka (Tsutomu Isobe/ Kyle Chandler) is hiding — and then must prove himself in battle. The duel has a couple of flashes of something different — thanks to the boy being cybernetic — but other than that, it’s too plain and straightforward. “T0-B1” also tries to touch upon the ultimate role of a Jedi, but it’s unable to scratch below the surface.

star wars visions review the elder star wars visions

Kenichi Ogata/ James Hong as The Elder in Star Wars: Visions “The Elder”
Photo Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm

And that’s really the issue with many Star Wars: Visions shorts. When they do have ideas worth exploring, they are unable or refuse to ask questions. Star Wars: Visions is great when it’s willing to take risks.

But I’m happy that Lucasfilm came up with Visions, because it is making me crave a full anime series, or an anime feature film. And maybe that’s the bigger plan. Get several studios to make a short film as an audition, to see what they bring to the floor and if any are capable of delivering a full-fledged Star Wars anime. I hope this leads to something and doesn’t end up as an experiment.

After all, what better way for Star Wars to expand its horizons than to return to its roots — and trust the next generation of filmmakers from whence it came? It’s the circle of life.

Star Wars: Visions is out Wednesday, September 22 on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar.

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Microsoft Partners With Inworld to Bring AI Game Development Tools to Xbox

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Microsoft Partners With Inworld to Bring AI Game Development Tools to Xbox


Microsoft is teaming up with Inworld AI to create game development tools for Xbox, enabling developers to create characters, generate entire scripts and quests, and more. The multi-year deal brings an AI design copilot and an AI character runtime engine to the forefront, both of them being totally optional to use and to varying degrees. Of course, the use of AI in art has been criticised by many for simply lacking originality, in addition to running the risk of fewer jobs for artists — a growing fear among many considering the alarming number of layoffs seen at game studios this year in an attempt to cut costs.

“At Xbox, we believe that with better tools, creators can make even more extraordinary games,” Haiyan Zhang, GM, Xbox Gaming AI, said in a blog post. “This partnership will bring together: Inworld’s expertise in working with generative AI models for character development, Microsoft’s cutting-edge cloud-based AI solutions including Azure OpenAI Service, Microsoft Research’s technical insights into the future of play, and Team Xbox’s strengths in revolutionizing accessible and responsible creator tools for all developers.”

The aforementioned AI design copilot is a toolset that will help game designers turn prompts into scripts and dialogue trees. In contrast, the character runtime will enable dynamically generated plot beats and quests. We’ve already seen heavy AI integration in games by way of procedural generation — a more recent example being the 1000+ planets in Starfield. Not to mention, enemy AI has been around for way longer.

Inworld made headlines in August when it launched a modded story mode for Grand Theft Auto V, Sentient Streets, in which players had to investigate the rise of a bizarre AI-worshipping cult — a segment loaded with characters that spoke in AI-generated dialogue, on the fly. The mod was later taken down by publisher Take-Two, leaving a permanent strike on the creator Bloc’s YouTube channel. As per The Verge, Inworld’s AI technology can also be used for narration in top-down RPGs to warn players about any events awaiting off-screen and respond to questions like we’ve seen in the past year with AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Bing Chat. Microsoft has also been heavily banking on artificial intelligence, having made a $10 billion (about Rs. 83,254 crore) investment in OpenAI. The company has also integrated AI tools into its popular suite of services and also added an AI copilot to Windows.

Despite being a Microsoft-affiliated AI toolset, it would be interesting to see whether titles using them will be allowed to thrive on other platforms. In July, Valve claimed that it would be cracking down on games that included AI-generated assets if the developer didn’t own the copyright to the piece of art. For the uninitiated, when you insert a prompt to create something in AI, the software simply repurposes existing assets found online and mushes them together — basically stealing from other artists and writers without appropriate commercial licenses. Infringing them would lead to the game not being distributed on Steam, forcing the developers to seek proper licenses for the asset by reaching out to the AI companies involved. It’s unclear how Microsoft’s partnership will play out — as long as AI content is being used as a catalyst to innovate and create something new, it should be fine.


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BSNL Offers Free 4G SIM Upgrade: Here’s How to Get It

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BSNL Offers Free 4G SIM Upgrade: Here’s How to Get It


BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) is a state-owned telecommunication company in India. Earlier this year in May, the government said that the firm started rolling out 4G services in the country. By December, the networks were said to be upgraded to 5G. However, at the India Mobile Congress, BSNL chairman P K Purwar said that the company will launch 4G services in December and then roll it across the country by June 2024. The chairman added that the 5G upgrades will take place after June next year.

In a post on X shared by BSNL’s Andhra Pradesh (@bsnl_ap_circle) unit, the company confirmed that BSNL users can upgrade their older 2G or 3G SIMs to a 4G SIM for free. Not only will the upgrade be free, but a promotional image shared with the post suggests that users who opt for the upgrade will also receive 4GB of free data that will be valid for three months. It is speculated that BSNL is aiming to boost its upcoming 4G services with this offer. The announcement was first spotted by Telecom Talk.

To access the free data offer and the free upgrade, BSNL users are requested to get in touch with executives at BSNL’s Customer Service Centre, franchisee or retailer stores, or contact one of their Direct Selling Agents (DSA). The promo image also adds in a finer print that the offer is available with certain terms and conditions, but hasn’t detailed any, so far.

Reliance’s Jio recently launched the 4G-supported Bharat B1 feature phone in India. The handset is priced at Rs. 1,299 in India. Alongside 4G connectivity, the phone comes with JioCinema and JioSaavn applications pre-installed.

The Jio Bharat B1 is equipped with the JioPay application, which is said to allow users to make UPI payments. Aiming to increase accessibility, the phone supports 23 languages overall, including multiple regional languages.


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Realme GT 5 Pro Teased to Feature 3,000 Nits Display; More Details Revealed

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Realme GT 5 Pro Teased to Feature 3,000 Nits Display; More Details Revealed


Realme GT 5 Pro’s launch date is not far away. The Chinese smartphone brand on Tuesday (November 7) confirmed the arrival of the new GT series smartphone in its home country. The Realme GT 5 Pro is teased to come with a display with over 3000 nits of peak brightness. It is also confirmed to pack a larger heat dissipation area for thermal management. The handset will ship with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC. The Realme GT 5 Pro is expected to come as a successor to the Realme GT 5 that debuted in China in August.

Realme, via Weibo, announced the arrival of the Realme GT 5 Pro in China. The display of the handset is confirmed to offer 3000 nits peak brightness. It has also been teased to offer heat dissipation with a surface area of around 10,000mm2. It is confirmed to ship with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC. The post doesn’t specify the exact launch date of the smartphone, however, given the release of the teasers, the launch could be just around the corner.

The Realme GT 5 Pro has been in the news a lot lately. It is expected to feature a 6.78-inch (1,264×2,780 pixels) AMOLED display and is tipped to come in 8GB, 12GB, and 16GB RAM options along with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB inbuilt storage options.

For optics, the Realme GT 5 Pro is said to have a triple rear camera unit comprising two 50-megapixel sensors and an 8-megapixel shooter at the rear. The camera setup might include a Sony LYTIA LYT808 sensor, an OmniVision OV08D10 secondary sensor, and a Sony IMX890 telephoto sensor. For selfies, there could be a 32-megapixel sensor at the front. It is said to carry a 5,400mAh battery with support for 100W wired charging and 50W wireless charging.

The Realme GT 5 Pro is expected to come with upgrades over Realme GT 5. The latter was launched in China in August with a price tag of CNY 2,999 for the base model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.


The Motorola Edge 40 recently made its debut in the country as the successor to the Edge 30 that was launched last year. Should you buy this phone instead of the Nothing Phone 1 or the Realme Pro+? We discuss this and more on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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