Escaflowne: The Movie
In this retelling of the story from the TV series Vision of Escaflowne, we follow a jaded, lonely high school girl named Hitomi whose wish for the ending of her sorrow draws the attentions of forces from a mysterious world, the world of Gaea. Drawn into this strange new world, she encounters a land at war, and empire of floating castles at one end, and a ragtag group of rebels in search a giant organic robot known as Escaflowne - a name which in the world evokes the very essence of war and destruction. Can she, the "Goddess of Wings", save this world, and herself, from utter destruction?
You know something is wrong with this movie the moment Hitomi reveals herself to be a suicidal teen on the brink of self-destruction. This is not the Vision of Escaflowne we've grown to enjoy, that people are currently watching on North American television. No, this is some other sort of beast entirely.
I have never truly understood the Japanese obsession with alternate universe stories. Mind you, when it's done well (*some* parts of Tenchi Muyo and El Hazard come to mind), it's very entertaining, but it rarely lends itself to becoming truly classic and memorable. It's like fanfiction, only sanctioned by the original creators. And in this case, it's darkfic gone terribly, terribly wrong.
In the case of Escaflowne: The Movie, not only do the characters seem horribly off-kilter (almost the whole lot of them!), but we are introduced to a story that is brooding, depressing, violent, and remarkably similar to Evangelion or X, neither of which I would particularly want to associate with the original TV series. The television series, at least, had some humorous parts, a well-told storyline, and characters you could care about. Escaflowne: The Movie has precisely NONE of these features.
Again, remember Hitomi from the TV series - a bit on the odd side, but fairly normal and well-adjusted. Not here! It's her wish for everything to vanish that draws the attention of Gaea in the first place. Van? He's a ruthless, head-chopping barbarian who can't see farther than the point of his sword. Alen? Serious Sephiroth complex. Worst off is Millerna, whose riot-grrl duds (I wish I was kidding) make her look more at place in MD Geist than in Escaflowne. Most of the characters, in fact, are relegated to cameo appearances; even Dilandau's appearance is little more than a "Hey, I exist!" role. The only character who improves, oddly enough, is Merle, who isn't nearly as annoying.
Though the animation is technically stunning, especially in the opening fight sequence where Van beheads or bisects a good two dozen enemy soldiers with his sword, it's far too dark and murky (a problem last seen in the red-paint spectacular, Spriggan), and the action in quite a few scenes actually suffers for it. The music, though appropriate and beautiful, is more of a recap of the TV series than anything truly original, though to Kanno Yoko's credit, she doesn't repeat the Escaflowne chanting track more than necessary. Literally the only thing I can rave about here is the ending song, Maaya Sakamoto's "Yubiwa", which frankly belongs in a far better film.
The worst part of this movie, apart from the extremely obtuse plot (now Folken is am interminable, maniacal villain out to annihilate the universe, bwahaha!) is the horrendous and repetitive dialogue that the seiyuu are subjected to reading out.
"Oh my, it's Escaflowne, the God of War!"
"The God of War, Escaflowne?"
"Yes, the God of War that will destroy the world and all existence!"
"And who's that riding Escaflowne, the God of War that will destroy the world?"
"It's the Goddess of Wings, who has called down Escaflowne, the God of War that will destroy the world and all existence!"
"Oh my gosh, Escaflowne, the God of War, is coming this way!"
"Let us hasten toward the Goddess of Wings, who..."
So on and so forth, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum. And in case you missed it the first two-hundred times, each character will repeat this almost verbatim every single scene. It's the same way in the original raw Japanese and in the English subtitles (badly done in the digital source we saw, by the way). I'm sure Bandai did a better job translating this on the DVD, but it's just horrible all the same. And if you think we're resorting to hyperbole to get our point across, you will be sorely disappointed.
As we were. Vision of Escaflowne remains, in my mind, a exciting, well-thought-out, and wonderful television adventure classic that soars among the best of anime. Escaflowne: The Movie is a bad "what if" that simply doesn't translate into theatrical success. In fact, despite the oodles of visual effects, I don't consider it to be Escaflowne at all. Fans of mecha shows will be let down by the fact that there's only one (count 'em, one) mecha action scene where there's actual combat. Loyal fans of Escaflowne might not forgive the utter waste of the characters. (I sure didn't.) And though casual fans of anime might find this enjoyable without the pretext of the Escaflowne background, the plot and characterization still leave a lot to be desired as a standalone movie. Which is precisely the problem - Escaflowne: The Movie tries too hard to be unlike the original but with the same background, that it can't stand alone properly as a serious movie. Unless you're willing to forgive a lot of liberties taken with the franchise, or simply have a morbid sense of curiosity, stay well away from Escaflowne: The Movie.
The animation alone saves this one from being a total loss. And if you think I was being harsh: the Arizona Republic gave this a half-star rating. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: The multiple decapitations in the first fight scene alone should be a clue that this is a movie strictly for older teens and above. No sex, but plenty of violence.
Version(s) Viewed: Pre-license digital source
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Escaflowne: The Movie © 2000 Sunrise / Bandai Visual
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