Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 Review

Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 Review
Star Wars Visions Volume 2
Star Wars: Visions Volume 2
Editors Choice

Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 is coming with a fresh anthology of shorts, now pulling from a broader range of animation studios with a more authentic tone.

In 2021, Disney+ released Star Wars: Visions, an anthology of nine animated shorts produced by various renowned anime studios. While the first batch of stories ran a broad spectrum of tones and art styles, most revolved heavily around the Jedi or a new interpretation thereof, with jaw-dropping lightsaber battles in almost every one. The second set of Star Wars: Visions shorts, however, begins to break free from these trends—expanding beyond anime to feature nine different studios from around the world and reducing the laser sword screen time (somewhat).

Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 Review
“Aau’s Song” by Triggerfish

Like the first season, the new batch is nine episodes long and spans a variety of different scenarios, all practically unburdened by direct connections to existing Star Wars events or stories (one does feature Wedge Antilles, but it’s a far cry from Tatooine Rhapsody in the first block, which had Boba Fett head-bobbing to Joseph Gordon Levitt’s rock band.) Each spans 13-20 minutes long and tells a pleasingly self-contained story.

Drawing upon talents from across the world pays dividends for the anthology. I appreciate anime and a good lightsaber battle as much as the average millennial, but it’s refreshing to see how other cultures can inform and reinterpret the storied series’ themes. Star Wars: Visions‘ second volume kicks off with Sith from Spanish studio El Guiri, which seems at first to be one of the slower entries—until it erupts into a dazzling display of colour and a battle that puts the intensity of volume one’s The Twins into a few strokes.

Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 Review

Others continue in volume one’s footsteps by revolving around a lightsaber duel, like Studio Mir’s Journey to the Dark Head. Director Hyeong Geun Park’s entry would have fit right in with the previous batch but shines in this anthology with its smart use of prophecy and Lucas-esque banter between a Jedi and a confident non-believer.

Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon offered one of the more surprising entries, Screecher’s Reach. Playing at first with the familiar theme of a stranded youth longing to see the wider galaxy, it ventures into a sort of full-fledged horror that the series doesn’t often dare and ends on a gut-wrenching note.

“Arguably, the most well-known of the teams featured in Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 is Aardman, the English studio behind Wallace & Gromit.”

The Spy Dancer from Studio La Cachette and The Pit from D’art Shtajio/Lucasfilm both resonate with real-world history in a profound yet subtle way—using the Empire to evoke themes of colonialism and WWII occupation in ways that feel authentic to Star Wars, and wrench at the heartstrings. Similarly, Indian studio 88 Pictures tells a familiar story in The Bandits of Golak, but with a visual style that evokes their homeland; if you know the storytelling DNA of Star Wars, you may know where it’s going, but the journey feels fresh and genuine.

Arguably, the most well-known of the teams featured in Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 is Aardman, the English studio behind Wallace & Gromit. Admittedly, I’ve never really enjoyed their claim to fame; I respect claymation as an animation form but haven’t historically vibed with it. Their entry, I Am Your Mother, surprised me at first with its clever use of references (like the aforementioned Wedge Antilles cameos), but had me rolling my eyes at a later Death Star-related gag. Though it’s a fun romp, it’s my personal least favourite of the batch.

Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 Review

My favourite of Star Wars: Visions‘ sophomore class might just be Aau’s Song by writer-directors Nadia Darries and Daniel Clarke, from South African studio Triggerfish. It has everything that the anthology series has excelled at so far: it presents a fresh, original nook of the Star Wars galaxy, playing with the series’ universal themes to forge something original, and has plenty of heart. In particular, their characters’ unique textures were stunning—a species and ecology we’ve never quite seen before but feels like it could’ve been here all along.

All told, Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 is a more even collection than the first, for good and bad. Certain tales in the first batch struck me like a pilot episode and left me wanting more (I’m still hungry to see more from The Village Bride and The Ninth Jedi), while others didn’t quite land. Conversely, I enjoyed all of Volume 2 in the moment, but these shorts stand truly self-contained, and I don’t feel like most of their beats will stick with me that long.

Nonetheless, Star Wars: Visions remains an important side project. Short fiction is a powerful tool, which these nine studios have demonstrated they can wield with lightsaber-like aptitude, and who knows what fruits their labours here will produce—inspiring more future storytellers or flexing the series’ boundaries in necessary ways.

As I said of the first volume, if nothing else, it’s refreshing to turn off the part of our brains that says, “That’s not how Star Wars works” once in a while. Just let storytellers play in the space and enjoy this ride.

Final Thoughts

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