Podcast of the Whills
Casting a Vision (Volume 2)
The first season of Star Wars: Visions was a gift to Star Wars fans in September of 2021 and at the time many (myself being at the top of the list) didn't know how amazing the present we were given was. Having not previously been that familiar with anime as a medium, aside from "big rock" pop culture standards like Dragon Ball Z, My Hero Academia, Naruto, etc...that I mostly knew because of my kids, I was intrigued by a "Star Wars version." What I was not prepared for was something that I would find truly captivating and at the same time would open my eyes to a breadth and depth of styles I had not anticipated.
Star Wars: Visions Volume 1 showed me stories that came from a wide range of studios with their own unique perspectives and styles that also gave me a new avenue to explore my favorite Galaxy Far, Far Away. I loved so many of the stories we received (The Duel, The Village Bride, and The Ninth Jedi topped my list) and they spoke to me each in their own way. From stories of the classic "wandering samurai" to Jedi on the run, and even that of an intergalactic pop-punk band. Star Wars: Visions Volume 1 literally gave me so much to enjoy.
Fast forward to 2023 and I must admit that while I loved the stories that we got in Visions Volume 1, I hadn't revisited any of them as I, a creature of habit, am prone to do with most Star Wars properties. But, as I watched Star Wars: Visions Volume 2, I was not at all prepared for what lay in store with this next iteration. Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 takes the ball that Volume 1 handed it and ran with it. With studios from Spain, Ireland, Chile, the United Kingdom, South Korea, France, India, Japan, the United States, and South Africa one can safely say that Visions volume 2 "took its first step into a much larger world."
While I enjoyed Star Wars: Visions Volume 1, I was so surprised by how moved I was by the stories in Volume 2 and more specifically how naturally the myth and lore of Star Wars would lend itself so flawlessly across so many cultural lines. Let's take a quick (potentially spoilery) look at each episode:
SITH (El Guiri - Spain)
"A former Sith apprentice, leading a peaceful, but isolated life, is confronted by the past when her old master tracks her down." Filled with vibrant colors, another great droid companion, and the story of a dark Jedi seeking a new path, the story of "Sith" is one of redemption and survival that is simultaneously powerful and captivating. It is a great first entree into the second season as it tells the story through the art of the protagonist.
SCREECHER'S REACH (Cartoon Saloon - Ireland)
"A young girl, seeking reprieve from her days in a rural workhouse, discovers a legendary haunted cave with her friends. The cave's dark pull will change the trajectory of her life forever." Equal parts horror, Goonies, and Saturday morning cartoon, this story grabs the viewer and leads them on a path that, as Luke Skywalker might say, "does not end the way you think."
IN THE STARS (Punkrobot Studio - Chile)
"Two sisters, the last of their kind who live in hiding on their ravaged land, squabble about how to survive with the Empire encroaching. On a water run, the sisters must fight back when they are discovered." Driven by a unique stop-action style, Punkrobot captures the familial element of Star Wars and delivers the first of the stories that will catch you dabbing the tear from your eye by the end.
I AM YOUR MOTHER (Aardman - United Kingdom)
"Young pilot Anni, who is embarrassed by her sweet, but clingy mum, must team with her for a madcap family race at the academy. Along the way, their relationship is tested by the elements, their old ship, other racers...and each other." Best known for Shawn the Sheep and Wallace and Grommit, Aardman presents the most light hearted entry into the series. It features the voice of Wedge Antilles himself, Denis Lawson, and is pure fun that again captures a theme that runs through not just many of these stories, but Star Wars itself: the importance of family.
JOURNEY TO THE DARK HEAD (Studio Mir - South Korea)
"A hopeful mechanic and disillusioned young Jedi team up for a risky and unlikely quest to turn the tide of the galactic war, but dark forces tail them." Studio Mir understood the assignment. In 18 minutes they tell a complete arc of two characters, a galactic-level conflict and build the perfect relationship between the protagonists. Of all the stories, this is the most traditional Anime in style and, like The Ninth Jedi from season one, begs for continuing adventures.
THE SPY DANCER (Studio La Cachette - France)
"The premier dancer at a famous, Imperial-frequented cabaret uses her unique skill-set to spy for the Rebellion, but the presence of a mysterious officer threatens to derail her mission." French studio, La Cachette, comes hot out of the gate with big Mata Hari vibes. Full of intrigue and stunning visuals this short is hypnotic and action packed all at once. The family theme presents itself once again and provides a powerful punch to round out the tale.
THE BANDITS OF GOLAK (88 Pictures - India)
"Fleeing from their village by train and pursued by ferocious Imperial forces, a boy and his force-sensitive younger sister seek refuge in a vibrant and dangerous Dhaba." With an animation style that is the most "live action" of all the shorts, this installment is also the most adventurous. At times part Indiana Jones and others Jedi: Fallen Order, 88 Pictures delivers one of the most memorable chapters in Star Wars: Visions Volume 2.
THE PIT (D'art Shtajio & Lucasfilm Animation - Japan & United States)
"A fearless young prisoner, forced to dig for kyber by the Empire, plans a risky escape for he and his people." This tale of Imperial oppression reminds us that so many don't even realize what is going on around them until a you realize its too late. Echoing these sentiments from a world in galaxy far, far away and, simultaneously, maybe our own, this short feels very connected to our modern society.
AAU'S SONG (Triggerfish Animation - South Africa)
"An alien child who longs to sing is raised by her loving, but stern father to stay quiet because of the calamitous effect her voice has on the crystals in the nearby mines." Joyful and visually stunning Aau's Song reminds us to look for the power in our future (the younglings) and that spirit and determination are all that it takes to change ones path forever.
Star Wars Visions: Volume 2 is a visual and emotional feast. To have stories seamlessly told across so many different canvasses, cultures, and points of view reminds us just how truly special the Star Wars universe is and how incredibly visionary "The Maker" was when he started this journey nearly fifty years ago. Even if you thought Star Wars: Visions Volume 1 was not for you, I highly recommend Volume 2. The viewer will find themselves pulled out of hyperspace and into an adventure that will fill your heart and dazzle your senses. Star Wars Visions: Volume 2 is an absolute victory for Star Wars fans and animation fans alike.