English Title: Star Wars – Visions 2
Studio: Various Released: 2023
Runtime: 9 episodes, ~15 each.
My Verdict: Whilst not a bad effort overall, they are nothing great. A few are recommended.
Visions 2 is the second anthology of short animation films. Unlike the first volume, this branches out to non-Japanese studios so only one is anime with a second more like westernized-anime.
Like the first season, these stories are outside of the main storyline as depicted in films and take a liberal interpretation of the lore. If one doesn’t like the first season, then one would unlikely find this better. The storytelling in the second season is no better; if anything, they are arguably worse.
All 9 episodes have main female characters, not to say there aren’t main male characters. Only “Journey to the Dark Head” has the main male character in a more balanced fashion. There is nothing wrong with main female characters without having male characters—for example, “I Am Your Mother” understandably does not even have a main male character—but when most of the season is like that, it just comes across as woke even if individual episodes do not.
If one is only interested in anime, then only “Journey to the Dark Head” may be of interest, which happens to be one of the better pieces anyway.
If one is interested in claymation or something like it, then “I Am Your Mother”, “In the Stars” and “Aau’s Song” may be of interest.
On balance, “Journey to the Dark Head” and “I Am Your Mother” are probably the best of this season. “The Spy Dancer” and “Sith” seem worse than they are when described but are not too bad.
Below are a few comments for each episode.
“Sith” – Director: Rodrigo Blaas, Screenwriter: Rodrigo Blaas, Studio: El Guiri (Spain)
Lola lives alone in some facility with her droid. She tries to paint the walls using the Force but struggles. One day, there is a signal indicating a down droid and perhaps unwanted visitors.
Consistent to the theme, the style is deliberately bare at times with what looks like posterized effect. At other times, more detail is preserved and can look great. Whilst it is consistent to the theme and Lola’s state of mind, it comes across as too arty at times.
“Screecher’s Reach” – Director: Paul Young, Screenwriters: Will Collins & Jason Tammemägi, Studio: Cartoon Saloon (Ireland)
Dall works in a factory but dreams of escaping to a better life. One day, she and her friends steal a few speed bikes in order to visit some cave rumored to be haunted. Dall seeks strength from and is presumably driven by an amulet she wears. When they arrive at the forest, they indeed find something there…
The opening sequence at the factory is brief but effective and reminds one, at least a little bit, of the anime “Cannon Fodder” in Memories (1995). But the story goes in another direction, which is fine.
Thematically, it is consistent. Dall wants to escape and that is what the story is about. However, a few more hints regarding the origins of the amulet would make the work more complete.
“In the Stars” – Director: Gabriel Osorio, Screenwriter: Gabriel Osorio, Studio: Punkrobot (Chile)
Two sisters try to survive on their planet which the Empire occupies, taking their clean water whilst polluting the rest of the planet. The sisters’ Force-sensitive mother led a failed rebellion and the imperial forces subsequently committed genocide with only the two sisters surviving. The younger one wants to take down the occupiers whilst the older one just wants to remain hidden and survive.
This is another “bad guys ruin nature and killed the local noble savages” blah blah blah.
The narrative is clumsy, the younger sister being Ms Exposition telling the background when it can be shown differently.
Whilst the younger sister is intended to be a brat, she is just way too annoying even given the short runtime.
Done in the style of claymation, this aspect is executed well but the storytelling is mediocre.
“I Am Your Mother” – Director: Magdalena, Screenwriters: Osinska Holly Walsh & Barunka O’Shaughnessy, Studio: Aardman (UK)
A young Twi’lek named Anni is a promising cadet at a flight academy. Anni does not tell her caring mother who is actually easygoing about the end-of-year family race because Anni feels embarrassed by her. Her mother is also a skilled pilot and technician. Of course, her mother finds out anyway.
Also done as claymation, somewhat like Wallace and Gromit, this is obviously a lighthearted story. It does not involve the Jedi or the Sith.
Although predictable, this piece at least knows how to follow the formula. The characters and situation are relatable. The progression is steady and reaches a proper resolution. It could use a twist in the final act but that is a minor issue.
“Journey to the Dark Head” – Director: Park Hyeong-geun, Screenwriter: Rang Chung-se, Studio: Mir Studio (South Korea)
A young monk named Ara is raised on a planet where two giant statues, one supposedly of light and the other dark, impact prophetic images. Ever since a child, she wished to use the knowledge to help the Jedi win the war against the Sith. As an adolescent or young adult, she convinces the Jedi Council to sanction a mission in which she intends to destroy the dark head, hoping it will help. A young Jedi named Toul is assigned to accompany her. He had lost his master to a Sith named Bichan and is still traumatized.
Although the introduction of the two main characters—the shifting between Ara and Toul—is a little jarring, the overall progression is well-executed. The plot is simple: Ara wants to blow something up and Toul is to protect her, not surprisingly from Bichan who turns up.
This film is done like anime with the corresponding action.
“The Spy Dancer” – Director: Julien Chheng, Screenwriter: Julien Chheng, Studio: Studio La Cachette (France)
On a planet occupied by the Empire is a particular high-class club that many imperial stormtroopers and officers frequent. The establishment is run by Loi’e who is the acrobatic dancer. During her performances, she places trackers on imperial personnel so the Rebels can track imperial movements. One day, she sees a familiar officer and intends to kill him…
The plotting and pacing are not bad. We are introduced to the situation and Loi’e does her act. Later, there is the flashback to her past; it is clear and we don’t dwell on it.
However, the animation style is… well, a matter of taste.
Setting that aside, the story is not bad. The premise is simple, the pacing is solid and enough happens to keep one’s attention. And it does this by deliberately being “ordinary”, there are no overtly Force-sensitive characters and no lightsaber action.
“The Bandits of Golak” – Director: Ishan Shukla, Screenwriter: Ishan Shukla, Studio: 88 Pictures (India)
Charuk and Rani are on a train having just escaped their destroyed home. Rani uses her Force abilities, bringing attention to herself, including attracting imperial forces who are looking for people like her.
Rani may be young but she is old enough to know better. The fact that she can’t help using her powers publicly is just unrealistic and annoying.
The film tries to make up for it by having a lightsaber duel. Whilst the duel itself is not bad, it doesn’t make up for it.
The rendering, a little like painting-style as seen in Arcane: League of Legends (2021), is nicely done although the motion is not very convincing.
“The Pit” – Directors: LeAndre Thomas & Justin Ridge, Screenwriter: LeAndre Thomas Studio: Lucasfilm (US) & D’ART Shtajio (Japan)
A bunch of people are used as slaves by imperial forces to mine kyber crystals in the desert which somehow builds a city nearby. These slaves dig with pickaxes, basically digging an open-pit mine. After some time, the slaves are simply left at the bottom and they try to call for help.
This film is done like westernized-anime, not that that helps either way. I am not belittling the history of slavery but the premise is simply too forced. Initially, there seems to be a haul road (like any open-pit mine) that allows access to the surface but this just disappears later. Besides, after all that experienced digging and still having their equipment, one would think that a group could dig a narrow pathway so one need not climb out.
Many of these slaves are dark-skinned. Not subtle there, Disney. Also not so subtle is the way the one escapee is presented… this individual just happens to be a young black male and is treated by stormtroopers who may as well be cops.
“Aau’s Song” – Directors: Nadia Darries & Daniel Clarke, Screenwriters: Nadia Darries & Daniel Clarke, Studio: Triggerfish (South Africa)
The Korba help the Jedi by mining and purifying kyber crystals that have been “poisoned” by the Sith. Aau, daughter of a miner who works with a Jedi, has some mysterious connection to the crystals and is able to trigger the crystals by singing. She is curious by nature and her father worries about her abilities.
There is very little plot and what is there is predictable. The problem is that this is another case of the main character having too much natural ability. Aau is a likable character and it’s a film I want to like but, even for a short film, the plotting is just too convenient since it’s ultimately Aau using her abilities.
The style is like claymation but the characters are rendered to be like felt dolls rather than clay. It is visually impressive if nothing else.
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