ESCAFLOWNE: THE MOVIE (2000)

 

Format: 96-minute feature

Rating: PG-13+ (GV)

Type:  Fantasy

American Production: Bandai Entertainment

Japanese Production: Sunrise

 

Grading

 

Premise:

C

Story:

B+

Writing:

B+

Character Design:

B+

Mecha Design:

B+

Animation:

A-

Artistic Merits:

A

English Dub:

A-

Musical Score:

A-

Songs:

A-

 

 

Humor Content:

n/a

Action Content:

A-

Drama Content:

B+

 

 

DVD Presentation:

B

DVD Extras (normal/deluxe):

C+/A

 

 

OVERALL:

A-

 

Synopsis

      Depressed teenager Hitomi feels alone and isolated despite the efforts of her best friend. She contemplates suicide, but feels too cowardly to go through with it, so she wishes she would just fade away. She should have been careful what she wished for.

      On the world of Gaia, nihilistic Lord Folken, head of the powerful Black Dragon Clan, summons Hitomi to his world because he seeks just such a person to play the part of Wing Goddess. This figure of legend and song is capable of summoning and awakening Escaflowne, a gigantic suit of “dragon armor” that is more or less the avatar of a god of the same name. It represents world’s ultimate fighting force but is also capable of such tremendous destruction that it is said to have annihilated the ancient civilizations of Gaia in times long past, so its summoning is a two-edged sword - but that’s fine with Lord Folken, since he wants to destroy the world anyway. Although the Wing Goddess cannot pilot Escaflowne - only the blood of a descendant of the ancient Dragon line can - it is supposed to resonate with her wishes, so Folken chose Hitomi because he believed that her self-destructive feelings would bend Escaflowne on the path of destruction. What he doesn’t count on is Hitomi instead appearing near, and hooking up with, his younger brother Von, in whom Hitomi finds a kindred soul. Although she cannot fight herself, her feelings end up becoming the pivot point on which the fate of Gaia hinges.

 

Quotes

      “I will stay with him, until his sorrow is no more.” (Hitomi)

 

The Long View

      Escaflowne: The Movie is a revisionist summary of the story told in the popular TV series Visions of Escaflowne. It is entirely self-contained, so one does not need to know a thing about the original series in order to understand and appreciate this movie. In fact, it might be enjoyed more by those who have never seen the series, since fans of the original are likely to find some of the changes rather irksome. All the significant characters from the original series appear in the movie, although most have been aged a couple of years and a couple have different roles. They also start together, which they do not in the series. The basic ideas of Hitomi getting spirited away to Gaia, Van and Folken being at odds, and Hitomi ultimately falling in love with Van are intact, and Hitomi’s pendant plays a key role in the movie just as it does in the series, although in an entirely different way. The biggest changes are that the Zaibach empire does not exist in the movie, mecha are exceedingly rare instead of commonplace (only two appear), and Hitomi’s role, motivations, and abilities are entirely different; she does not use Tarot cards or any other Seer tricks in the movie like she does in the series and the serious depression angle for her is new. Most importantly, whereas the series was ultimately a romantic story, the movie is more of a dramatic story. This isn’t necessarily bad, since the movie also has more depth than the series ever did.

      Although the premise of Escaflowne: The Movie is fairly typical for both anime and fantasy literature - a disaffected person from our world being pulled into a fantasy realm where she is Someone Special - it is beautifully executed in both its writing and artistry. The nihilistic themes provide an interesting angle on a story that otherwise could have been quite ordinary and Hitomi’s efforts to deal with and overcome these feelings both in herself and in the brothers Folken and Van gives the story its dramatic depth. The one fault here is that most of the supporting characters are left underdeveloped. On the plus side, the parallel world of Gaia is an interesting mix of magic and technology, a place where airships exist alongside animalistic humanoids, where cannons or mystic blasts can be used as weapons. It is a place of great violence but also heavenly music, and filled with more ancient ruins than you can shake a stick at. (It would be a fantasy RPG player’s dream.)

      The technical merits on Escaflowne: The Movie are outstanding. The animation is smooth and the artistry is sharp and clear. Characters are rendered with eyes even more oversized than normal for anime, but if you don’t let that bother you then you will find the characters to be remarkably vibrant and well-drawn. All the voice work is quite good, and the musical score is among the best I've yet heard. The songs, which are stylistically reminiscent of those in Fellowship of the Rings, are a wonder to listen to. The English dub cast, with one or two minor exceptions, is an exact carry-over from the series – a nice bit of continuity.

      Finally, a note on the rating: I have given Escaflowne a PG-13+ rating because I don’t feel that it’s too intense for most American 13-year olds. It might pull an R rating in a theatrical release because there is a fair amount of bloody violence (much moreso than in the series), but it isn’t excessive or pervasive or, for the most part, needlessly graphic. It is otherwise a clean production.

      Escaflowne: The Movie is an excellent stand-alone tale that is well worth a look, regardless of whether you ever saw the original series or not.

     

DVD Extras

      Both a bare-bones version and a Deluxe edition exist. The former only has a trio of trailers and a “storyboard” subtitle option (which shows the storyboards for a particular scene in a small window while the movie is playing) as extra features. This is a nice feature which is somewhat different from the storyboard option available in some other recent anime DVD releases. The Deluxe version has an entire disk of extras, includes the OST, and comes in an Escaflowne lunch box.

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Hitomi

Kelly Sheridan

Van Fannel

Rob Morrow

Lord Folken

Paul Dobson

Allen

Brian Drummond

Dilandau

Andrew Francis

Millerna

Venus Terzo

Merle

Jocelyn Loewen

Sola

Sylvia Zeradic

Jajuka

Scott McNeil

Gaddes

Ward Perry

Mole Man

Terry Klassen

Yukari

Willow Johnson

Dryden

Michael Dobson

Shesta

Trevor Duvall

Nukushi

Brian Dobson

 

 

 

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