I ranked the first season of Star Wars Visions based on the likelihood of converting anime fans to Star Wars fans. Because Visions 2 is a collection of different animation styles from across the globe (only one studio is Japan-based), I will rank these based on the story and unique spin on Star Wars themes.
I want to emphasize that I enjoyed most of these shorts and will revisit them many times (unlike last season, where I only returned to a few), but the top four set the bar quite high for the series moving forward.
**Mild Spoilers for Star Wars Visions 2**
9. In the Stars from Punkrobot (Chile)
Summary: As the last of their kind, two sisters, must battle Imperial forces that have colonized their world to survive.
Aside from siblings dealing with the death of a parent and a colonized world being typical Star Wars fair, In the Stars has a bigger issue: an exposition dumb early in the 15-minute short that is glaring and disruptive. I lost interest before the story had a chance to get going, and it never pulled me back in. I do appreciate the commentary on colonialism, its affects on population and environment, and the particular way colonial powers try to prevent populations from rising up; unfortunately, the story did not connect with me.
Like “Sith,” the animation is beautiful, and I put it below the former only because “Sith” has some clever action sequences and flows better.
8. Sith from El Guiri (Spain)
Summary: A painter grows frustrated when darkness threatens her creations and must confront the past to move forward.
From the opening and first view of the art style of paint strokes against a white palette, “Sith” certainly makes an impression. We follow a droid rolling through a hanger to wake up a woman having a nightmare surrounded by black. Color and paint are a large part of this simple story about a woman haunted by darkness. She wants to paint but has the worst painter’s block.
This simple story hangs in the background of the style, which carries the short from beginning to end. The third-act fight sequences are wonderful as the scene transforms into a Western color palette before the final fight in the hanger. But this is the definition of style over substance.
7. The Bandits of Golak from 88 Pictures (India)
Summary: A brother escorts his Force-sensitive younger sister across the desert, hoping to get her safely from Imperial Forces.
The character designs, and locations carry this short, particularly the Inquisitor and the Elder Jedi. Still, I never really cared about any of the characters and was even frustrated by the carelessness of the little girl. Rani seems too old to act how she does, unaware of the seriousness of using her powers openly, and puts her and her brother’s life in danger several times within this short. And even though it is a setup for fake out near the end, it is still unrealistic. This is also the second story with a similar end beat (the first being “Screecher’s Reach” and “Aau’s Song”), but it is the least effective.
6. Journey to the Dark Head from Studio Mir (South Korea)
Summary: When a pilot brings a plan involving light and dark side statues on her homeworld to the Jedi Council, she enlists the help of a jaded Jedi to try and end the war between the Jedi and Sith.
The animation style will be familiar to Legend of Korra fans (raising hand), and there are more than a few stunning shots. We also get some standard settings, like a Jedi Council and a Sith showdown.
This is the most straightforward Star Wars story that feels like it could be its own mini-series. It is the Vision 2 equivalent of “The Ninth Jedi,” and I suspect it will be a lot of traditional Star Wars fans’ favorite as it leans into the space opera.
The story does show what happens to some people when wars continue for long periods: you can resign yourself to certain inevitabilities and lose hope. But sometimes, the effort of trying, even if you fail, can be enough to renew hope.
“Journey to Dark Head” has the reverse problem of “Sith” and “In the Stars.” There is almost too much story in the 17 minutes, but it ultimately works, balancing the conflicts of the two main characters well to a satisfying conclusion.
5. The Pit from D’Art Shtajio and Lucasfilm Ltd. (Japan/US)
Summary: A group of enslaved people excavating for Kyber crystals are left to die in the pit they dug.
“The Pit” is one of two shorts this season that does not involve Jedi or Sith; it is also one of two stories that involve kyber crystals. It comes behind the other two, but it does parallel the real world more than the others.
Imperial Stormtroopers are forcing enslaved people to dig for kyber crystals. When they have dug a massive pit and reached the end, the Imperials leave them there. Desperate for survival but hopeful that others will do the right thing, a young man climbs out to seek help from the citizens of a nearby city.
You could probably find traces of what happens next in the history books, but there is only an inkling of the Force as a bookend. However, the light is discussed as an appeal to better halves. A statement that when many people decide to do the right thing, they can overcome evil. They do not need to be Jedi to make a difference.
D’art Shtajio is also the only short where Lucasfilm Ltd. is also listed as the main studio because director LeAndre Thomas has worked on other Star Wars series (The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Tales of the Jedi) so it would not be surprising to see more from the studio within or outside of Star Wars Visions.
While the story doesn’t reinvent the wheel in Star Wars, it remains a reminder to those open to the message.
4. Aau’s Song from Triggerfish (South Africa)
Summary: A little girl’s voice causes an unusual reaction to the kyber crystals within the mines of her small community.
The most original story in the most unique character designs (the texture of these characters’ faces!) is that of a girl named Aau who wants to sing. But her father warns her that her voice is dangerous as every time Aau sings, the kyber crystals around them react.
Music and the Force are fascinating combinations and have shown up in Star Wars in the High Republic through Jedi Master Avar Kriss’ way of seeing the Force (as musical notes with each Jedi having their own song). So, while Aau connecting to the Force through music is not entirely new, using her song to purify a mine of kyber crystals is. And so close to seeing the bleeding of a kyber crystal in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
Naturally, this means that she has to leave her father to fulfill her destiny and nurture her gifts; however, unlike “Screecher’s Reach,” the goodbye is a happy note to end on and one of the best of the season.
3. I Am Your Mother from Aardman (UK)
Summary: A young Academy pilot trainee seeks to hide a family race from her overbearing mother, but she should have known better…
From the beginning, Denis Lawson’s Wedge Antilles opens “I Am Your Mother,” the short reminds us why Aardman is a beloved animation studio. The world of Anni and Kalina Kalfus feels both a loving parody of Star Wars and a real potential place in the universe. But the story weaves between humor and heartfelt so well that you can forget how stunning the stop-motion animation is in this short.
And as for the story— sometimes the lesson to not take your mother for granted is enough. We do not have long on this earth, and our time with our parents is a variable that could change at any moment. Cherish those moments while you can. Not all stakes in the galaxy have to be life or death.
Either way, Aardman Studios always knows how to have a good time in any universe. And this one is worth several rewatches for all the easter eggs in the background.
2. Screecher’s Reach from Cartoon Saloon (Ireland)
Summary: A young girl named Daal, who works in a mining facility, takes a journey with her friends to a haunted cave, hoping it will lead her to a better life.
Cartoon Saloon brings a ghost story to Star Wars with dream-like animation to a chilling effect.
“Screecher’s Reach” is a story I could see nested in a Star Wars short story as a cautionary tale Jedi tell the Younglings. A tale of those who would take advantage of a child’s circumstance.
Add to that some excellent child voice actors, and it is the most somber ending out of the nine, as one cannot help but wonder what future awaits Daal.
When they settle camp one night on the way to Screecher’s Reach, Quinn tells Daal that there are worse lives than in the workhouse, and Daal counters that there are better lives. Unfortunately, I think Daal is meant for that worse fate.
1. The Spy Dancer from Studio La Cachette (France)
Summary: A dancer and secret spy at a nightclub has to take matters into her own hands when her cover is blown.
While watching “The Spy Dancer,” immediate comparisons to French Resistance spies, particularly the efforts of dancer and singer Josephine Baker during Nazi-occupied France, come to mind.
And, of course, a French studio made fighting the Empire look so graceful. I have never seen fighting choreography like this in Star Wars, and I would LOVE to see this in live-action. In fact, I would love to see the lives of these characters (on both the Resistance and Imperial side) play out in an official canon series. And the ending certainly left room for the story to continue.
Overall, “The Spy Dancer” is an excellent French caper set against a Star Wars backdrop that feels like the beginning of a compelling journey between and mother and a son and is at the top of the Star Wars Visions list.