Follow the Light – Star Wars: Visions Season 2 (2023)

Star Wars: Visions is a really great idea that, unfortunately, didn’t quite come together during its first season in 2021. Honestly, the first batch of episodes were mostly duds. Two years later, the series returns with an expanded focus that thankfully yields some improvement. The second season has a higher ratio of good, or at least interesting, episodes. However, it’s still a mixed bag overall and can’t avoid throwing in a few turkeys.

Visions is an anthology project that allows a variety of animation studios to produce short-form (and often experimental) Star Wars-themed content outside the restrictions of franchise canon or direct ties to the damned Skywalker storyline. Season 1 was comprised of nine episodes around 15-20 minutes long each, all produced in Japan. Of them, one of the episodes was pretty great, and another kind of decent, but the rest were a bunch of dumb anime nonsense. Season 2 branches out to include new studios from around the world, resulting in fresh perspectives and some fascinating creativity, but many of the episodes are still not as fully formed in storytelling as they are in animation quality.

Star Wars: Visions season 2 - Sith
Title:Star Wars: Visions
Number of Episodes:9
Release Date: May 4, 2023
Watched On: Disney+

Just as the first year did, Season 2 opens with its strongest episode right out of the gate, letting rest of the season deflate afterwards. Sith, from El Guiri Studios in Spain, is animated to look like it takes place inside an Impressionist painting, with images formed from swirls and splotches of color. It’s perhaps the most visually striking of the season’s nine new episodes, and also has a strong story about a Force-sensitive woman who expresses herself through art, until attacked by a trio of Sith, at which point she and her droid sidekick must fight for their survival. At just 16 minutes long (a few less minus credits), the piece is inventive and exciting, and easily the high point of the season.

Many of the following episodes might require more than one watch before I can fully solidify my opinions about them. Failing that, my initial reaction would place The Spy Dancer (from France) as my next favorite. Set in a cabaret frequented by Imperial Stormtroopers on leave, the short is built around a dazzling action set-piece and builds to an emotional climax. It also works in a fun appearance for the silly MTV-7 Multi-Terrain Vehicle that was originally created for the 1980s Kenner toy line.

The characters in Aau’s Song from South Africa look to be made of felt. Their textures are wonderfully tactile, and their personalities are almost as adorable as their appearance. I’m not sure that the story amounts to much, but I found it plenty enjoyable.

Going into the season, I was most excited to see I Am Your Mother from Aardman Animations, the British stop-motion wizards behind the beloved Wallace & Gromit. Indeed, the story of a young Republic pilot trainee forced to participate in a “Family Race” with her mom is very cute and filled with tons of the signature Aardman style and charm. It’s incredibly slight, however. As much as I wanted to love it, the episode’s writing is disappointingly bland and the humor mild.

For me, the season’s remaining episodes range from only somewhat interesting (Screecher’s Reach from Ireland, In the Stars from Chile) to quite weak (The Pit from Japan), to a couple I found outright awful. Both lead characters in The Bandits of Golak (India) are annoying as hell and I rooted for them to get killed. Journey to the Dark Head may come from South Korea, but it’s made in imitation of the most clichéd of Japanese anime and the English dub is just atrocious.

Of note, every episode in the season has a female protagonist, even those that may not seem to at first. This will surely drive the anti-“woke” crowd ballistic with outrage at producer Kathleen Kennedy further emasculating their precious boyhood wish-fulfillment power fantasies – as if girls should not be allowed to like Star Wars as much as they do, and as if boys couldn’t possibly enjoy any Star Wars with a girl hero. While I have no sympathy for that point of view, I will admit to finding the season unbalanced in one direction and would’ve preferred a more natural mix of stories.

Star Wars: Visions season 2 - Aaug's Song

Video Streaming

Disney+ streams Star Wars: Visions in 4K HDR. Every episode this season has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, aside from I Am Your Mother at 2.00:1. Although the episodes are animated in very different styles from each other, they all look extremely sharp, vibrant, and colorful in their own ways. Aau’s Song has been given a light coating of simulated film grain for texture. That’s deliberate and should not be counted as a flaw.

The 5.1 soundtrack is surprisingly bassy for a Disney production, to the point that it’s almost a little obnoxious at times, especially in episodes Sith and The Bandits of Golak. Surround use is also very aggressive.

Regardless of where they were produced, all episodes default to playback with English audio when streamed in the United States. Sadly, the dubbing is terrible on some of them. If you play around in the Disney+ user interface menus, you’ll find a host of alternate language options, including Spanish, French, Korean, or Japanese. These might be more appropriate for episodes Sith, The Spy Dancer, Journey to the Dark Head, and The Pit, respectively. I’m curious to know whether the weaker episodes play any better in their original languages, but haven’t given that a try yet, myself.

As I recall, Season 1 did not offer the original Japanese audio for those episodes when it premiered, and could only be watched in English. However, when I look at them now, several language options including Japanese are available. The episodes must have been updated with that feature at some point since I last watched.

Be aware that changing the language like this will change the audio default for everything you watch on the streamer, so you’ll need to manually switch back after each episode. Also, when listening to a foreign language, the only English subtitling option comes in the form of Closed Captions with sound effects annoyingly spelled out in text. On episodes with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the subtitles are positioned with one line in the image and one in the lower letterbox bar, and are thus unsafe for Constant Image Height projection. Thanks for nothing on that, Disney.


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