As Star Wars television shows have grown increasingly complex, tying together several animated series and movies with their lore and characters, the animated anthology series Star Wars: Visions remains a breath of fresh air. The nine shorts in its second volume embrace the themes and spirit of Star Wars without the baggage of canon while providing a great showcase of the diverse styles of animation studios around the world.
Even with brief running times between 11 and 18 minutes, each episode of Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 manages to feel like a complete and powerful story – and many of them also seem like they could easily become pilots for a new series. Some of the individual characters are so inspired that the creators of future Star Wars shows and stories might be strongly tempted to bring them back.
The first episode of the volume, “Sith”, is the most spectacularly beautiful. Spanish studio El Guiri brings to life the story of a repentant Sith seeking to combat the darkness within her through art with lush imagery loaded with purples, reds and oranges. It’s immediately captivating, with the backgrounds of his ship appearing barely sketchy compared to his vibrant works using Force-animated paint. Its thematic aesthetic recalls the work of Sabine Wren in star wars rebels but taken one step further, the brilliant vision of the ancient Sith serving as a psychic battleground that offers a powerful alternative to the usual lightsaber versus lightsaber combat.
“Journey to the Dark Head” also brings novelty to the traditional Sith versus Jedi duel. The Studio Mir team, the Korean studio behind The Legend of Korra And The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, are masters of anime-style action, and that skill is demonstrated in a dramatic tale set at the height of the Jedi-Sith wars. The episode has both a spectacular setting – a planet that houses two huge sculptures representing the two sides of the Force – and an ominous villain who uses a chain whip as much as his red lightsaber. It’s one of the shorts that most closely resembles the start of a new adventure rather than just a standalone story.
Volume 2 suffers from the same problem as Volume 1 in that there doesn’t seem to have been enough coordination between the studios to avoid overlap in their independent stories. A third of the episodes, for example, focus on young girls who find mentors to teach them how to use the Force. Indian studio 88 Pictures has created a beautiful setting positioning the Empire as a parallel to the British Raj in ‘The Bandit of Golak’, but the final story of a boy trying to find a safe haven for his over-attractive little sister the focus in playful use of the Force relies too heavily on the dubious Jedi philosophy of letting go of all attachments. “Aau’s Song” is a more traditional magical girl’s tale enhanced by superb animation by Triggerfish from South Africa, which makes the characters look like they’re made of felt and string.
The strongest of the three is “Screecher’s Reach” by Cartoon Saloon, the Oscar-nominated Irish studio behind Kels’ secret And song of the sea. The episode draws on their extensive background in coming-of-age stories where adventurous children encounter the supernatural, then flip it and the very concept of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey on its head to devastating effect. The fact that this is the second installment in the volume makes the later ones following the same theme far too safe in comparison.
This volume also delves much more into the political aspects of Star Wars than Volume 1. “In the Stars” uses the same theme of Empire-led genocide and cultural suppression. Andor for a touching story of love and loss. Even darker is “The Pit,” a collaboration between Lucasfilm and Japanese D’ART Shtajio, which involves forced labor, brutal murder, and a populace desperately trying to make the people of a town aware of the atrocities committed in their own backyard. . It’s an intense thing, going back to the opposition to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq that inspired the films of George Lucas.
The theme of resistance is particularly well executed in France’s Studio La Cachette’s “The Spy Dancer,” which follows a rebel cell operating in a theater frequented by Stormtroopers. The titular diva’s acrobatic movements are beautifully rendered in bursts of silk and fabric. While the episode reaches a powerful emotional resolution, the plot the rebels are working on is never really executed, which makes these characters feel like they deserve a second outing in a future volume.
Images from the Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 trailer
Fans of Volume 1’s newest story, “Tatooine Rhapsody,” will likely appreciate the equally light-hearted “I Am Your Mother” from Wallace and Gromit Aardman animators. The band’s craziest story follows a young racer embarrassed to bring her mother to family race day, where the team to beat is a posh mother-daughter duo armed with their own miniature Death Star. It’s a particularly nice break from the higher-stakes drama of the rest of the series.