Escaflowne – Review


with Kirby Morrow, Kelly Sheridan, Brian Drummond
By Tim Den

Four years after the end of the TV series (The Vision of Escaflowne), a large movie production/budget has finally turned the franchise into a feature film. Even though the movie, like many Japanese animes, has nothing to do with the TV series in terms of plot (save for the names of the characters and some similarly-rendered physical attributes), we the audience are invited back to stare in awe at Escaflowne‘s grandeur… this time in glorious 24 frame-per-second goodness!

The story of Escaflowne, though unrelated to that of the TV series, still functions on similar themes: The dragon armor’s hidden secrets, Van’s uncontrolled temper. But it’s traded in the whole “fortune telling/fate” thingamajig for a new twist: Hitomi as the world-weary, borderline-suicidal anti-heroine. Huuuuh? Hitomi? The same character who, in the TV series, was a wild romantic and everyone else’s brightest hope? Whose brilliant idea was it to make her the pessimist?

As the movie blossoms, however, the audience quickly realizes the brilliance of the move: Assigning Hitomi as the focal point of all the depression in the movie gives the entire story an axis to spin on. It is through her pessimism that she is invited to Gaea. It is her pessimism that cracks Van’s shell. It is this pessimism that she loses in the end (oops, plot spoiler!) that triggers the unraveling of the villains. In changing the main character’s personality, Escaflowne found cohesion. Purists may whine and bitch, but imagine trying to squeeze the essence of 24 episodes into a 90-minute plot without using some sort of bonding tool.

Animation-wise, this is the shit that rivals Akira and Memories. The attention to detail, shadowing, and facial expressions are so minute, sometimes you forget that this is a cartoon. Watch closely as Van decapitates the head general in the opening sequence… the movement of blood from the dragon armor’s pistons… the recovery time of every swing of the limbs… simply magical.

The movie supposedly opened in select theaters this summer. Or you can now pick up the limited-edition box set of Escaflowne. Each contains three DVDs (the movie itself, trillions of behind-the-scenes interviews, a whole disc worth of film score) and is encased in a hand-crafted wooden box. Believe me: It’s worth it. Cuz there’s no way you can watch this baby only once.