Escaflowne - The Movie (Ultimate Edition 3-Disc Set) (2000)
Review by Dindrane

Written by Ryota Yamaguchi and Kazuki Akane
Directed by Kazuki Akane
Music by Yoko Kanno and Hajime Mizoguchi


Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

Rating: PG-13

Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Buy it and cherish it.

Hitomi Kanzaki is depressed, even suicidal. Her life, her high school, her (non-existent) friends...none of it touches her or inspires her to keep on living. But when she is mysteriously and magically transported to another world, known as Gaea, she becomes the mystical being known as the Winged Goddess. Because the Winged Goddess can control an invincible set of dragon armour, there is a prophecy saying that she will decide the fate of Gaea. With her in her struggle is Van of the White Dragon Clan, trapped in a war of succession with his brother Folken, who has half-destroyed the world with his Black Dragon Clan. It seems that Van was chosen to be the next king, and Folken would rather destroy the world than live with his broken heart and disappointed hopes. Melding the best of mecha, magical girl, and fantasy Anime, Escaflowne cannot fail to charm viewers.

The plot of Escaflowne is certainly complex enough, perhaps a bit too complex, at least in the beginning, and the disjointed animation style doesn't help any. Luckily for viewers, the director and writer know what they are doing, and the payoff is worth it all. The plot is essentially a pared-down version of the 26-part TV series The Vision of Escaflowne. Due to these space concerns, many of the characters appearing in that longer version have been reduced, redesigned, and re-combined, such as Dryden, Merle, and Allen. Yes, some of the plot elements were rushed a bit to fit into the mere 96 minutes of screen-time. But the film is good enough that you won't care.

The sound and music are splendid. The original score accomplishes what so many movie scores cannot--emphasizing the action and helping create mood without being intrusive. The music is simply beautiful, switching between haunting and energetic as the film demands. The disc's sound quality is good enough to take full advantage of the musical talents of the composers and the voice talent alike.

The extras in this set are incredible. First of all is the addition of the entire soundtrack on a separate disc. How many times have you searched and searched for a Anime soundtrack only to be told that it's out of print, or worse, that it was never in print outside of Japan? Also of great benefit are the plentiful interviews, which serve as a nice way to "meet" the creators of these films, even if their spots are very short and rather lacking in creative detail. The art gallery provided is also nice, including the unusual and welcome addition of the movie poster gallery. The only thing "missing" is a commentary track and a look at why the characters look the way they do, and given what else is included here, asking for such things might just be greedy. Would that other production teams would take a cue from this edition and include even a portion of the riches contained here.

Escaflowne is beautifully drawn and designed. The opening portion of the film is very surreal, almost disjointed, as Hitomi suffers through her depression and then is cast into a world she does not understand. The art has a very mature and lovely feel, and even has some quite painterly moments late in the film. These artists understand the use of light, framing, and color the way not all formal artists do.

All in all, the film and the DVD are both a class production from beginning to end. The initial confusion of viewers watching this movie might be avoided if they've seen the entire series first, but Escaflowne really does stand on its own as a film if you pay attention. Whether you like sword fights, spiritual travails, or blood-sucking mecha battles, then you'll find something to love about Escaflowne.

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