I've always had a certain aversion for series-based movies. It never fails that the movie would be a waste of time; more often than not, it's nothing more than an elongated version of any given episode of the series. The Escaflowne movie doesn't really fall into this trap. Oh, it's a waste of time, but because the series had no fillers, it would have been quite difficult to make such a movie. Instead, it's a miniscule recap of the series events, an alternate reality version in which the characters are stripped (and in a certain case I mean this literally) to unrecognizable proportions and the story is undermined in a ninety minute nutshell.
Although a lot of material is crammed into such a short time, the story itself is not completely irredeemable. As a summary, it works fine (but only if you're familiar with the background to begin with) and I enjoyed some of the twists taken. For example, this movie is considerably more violent than the series ever was and the first five minutes is the best scene in the entire work. I don't know the reason for the amount of bloodshed, but I'm not going to complain about it either. Fight scenes are actually relatively exciting. I also enjoyed the liberties taken with Dilandau and Folken, but more on that later. The movie is a lot of things, but boring isn't one of them.
My problem with the story lies in the very core, mainly with Hitomi being the so-called Wing Goddess. This part of the story reads very much like some amateur writing a fan-fiction while ignoring important facts individualistic to the work. A big part of Escaflowne is questioning the existence of fate. Making Hitomi the "chosen one" who holds the fate of the world in her hands would have been fine... had this movie not contradicted itself with that very premise. X TV does this exact same thing, but was successful. The key difference is that Kamui struggled with his role and tries to beat the odds while Hitomi just sits around looking stupid, hoping things will turn out okay. After all is said and done, I feel that she had little impact at all and I wonder why she was given such an important title. The ending is also very poorly done and is a contradiction because it breaks an anime golden rule. I blame this not on length (I've seen many a movie-or short OVA-that managed to be good) but on poor direction.
The animation, being four years younger than the series, is excellent. There is a lot of detail given to the towns and other surroundings. There's a particularly gorgeous sequence when Hitomi is summoned to the other world. She's in a pool of water and the moon is looming in front of her. Good stuff. Oh, and the movie is not exactly shy with blood. Torture scenes and mecha battles are well-animated. :) The character designs are wildly different than the series. Millerna, for example, is completely unrecognizable. Van went to the gym, Hitomi got a makeover, and Folken decided to grow his hair out. On the most part, I like the new character designs and thought some of them (i.e., Hitomi and Allen) were improved from the series. And they got rid of those damn noses....
It was smart to use the same songs that were in the series. I got to listen to more of that ethereal monk-music. Escaflowne is one of the very few series that can actually get away with such music playing during a mecha scene. Voice acting is above average. I noticed that Van's voice was much deeper this time around.
I've said (in my review for the series) that the supporting cast was weak and that's certainly true. In ninety minutes, the characters certainly cannot be improved upon; therefore, this movie had only two choices: one is to do the smart thing and get rid of the supporting cast all together. The other is to simply keep them despite that they can only be paler than they were before. Escaflowne movie takes the second route and certain characters are given cameo appearances and then discarded.
For example, the two cat girls are given about a minute as singers in a tavern and Dryden is reduced even further as the owner of that tavern. The exceptions to this rule are Dilandau and Folken. Dilandau is just as insane (if not more so) as he was when I first saw him. Just about every scene with him almost makes up for everything else. Folken, in my not so humble opinion, is better than he was in the series because he's a lot less ambiguous. He's the villain here and he's not going to apologize for it.
The two main characters follow the same pattern as the aforementioned supporting cast. Van, who now takes steroids and decided to tattoo his body, doesn't have much meaningful dialogue. In a nutshell, Van is the "silent, strong, and lonely" type merely because it's in the script. Hitomi is even worse. As a result of the shallowness, I found the relationship between Van and Hitomi to be contrived, forced, and fake.
Escaflowne is a popular series and I have a very good idea of why this was made. The creators probably thought fans would enjoy seeing their favorite characters in new clothing and seeing them in similar situations. Although I enjoyed this anime more than I did the first time (I owe this to the fact that it's been a while since I've seen the series), true art doesn't work that way; and as a result, the movie feels less like an interesting abbreviation and more like a fan-fiction gone awry.
Im always very sad when I see a product that has awesome production values and creativity in the worlddesign, but that just cant be bothered to tell a good story and/or have well developed characters. Origins and Brave story had this problem, and now I can add Escaflowne the movie to this list.
A few years ago I watched the Escaflowne tv series and fell in love with it. Naturally I wanted to try out the movie, but I dropped it very fast after discovering how much the characters where altered in a bad way. But since a few years are passed now and the tv series isnt that present in my mind anymore, I thought I give it another shot as a stand alone project. But it still wasnt very good.
The problem is that it alters characters from the series beyond recognition (The positive Hitomi bacame a depressive and passive Hitomi in this incarnation; Van is almost an animal, lusting for the blood of his enemies, Folken is a stock villain), but at the same time tries to include to much from the series, so that it is cluttered with too many useless characters and names. As much as I like Alan, Merle and Dryden; if they are not going to be importent for this short story just exclude them, and focus on developing the central couple.
The Van/Hitomi relationship is totally unbelievable as it is and Van's development from raging murderer to nice guy comes from nowhere. The central theme; that two lonely and pained people can reach each other and heal eachother can be powerfull; but the dialog is so wooden and hasted that we just cant be bordered. And it is hard to sympathise with Hitomi because it never becomes clear why she feels this way and doesnt have many other redeeming qualities and Van doesnt have much character beside being angry. We just have to trust Merle's word on it that he is nicer than he looks.
The story is the same; its pretty simple at heart, but tries to do too many things at too little time and isn't very wellwritten at that. It tells you a lot insted that it shows. The last scene just adds insult to injury; a very minor character who has a motivation that wasnt hinted at before, does something that changes everyhing and the movie suddenly tries to convince us that Folken wasnt always that bad, even denying the movie a cliched but at least slightly sadisfying 'Good vs Bad' ending.
Now what ís impressive are the production values; at times this movie simply looks stunning. The scenery is very imaginative, with floating cities, enormoues skyships, and eyed moon and all the cities that we get glimpses of have a own detailed style with influence from East and West. It is a world I would love to spend more time in; to see more stories about. Escaflowne itself has a more organic look to it and its transformation scenes are gorgeous to behold. Characters are a bit more mudane but also quite nice and they move and turn realisticly. I wasn't really a fan of how some of the male eyes where drawn (especially Allans) but that is a minor detail.
Add to all that the beautifull soundtrack of Yoko Kanno that suited every scene like a glove and that moved me to tears at times, and you have something that scores soaringly high on the esthetics, but crashed down as soons as it tries to be more than pretty.
In the end I did enjoy the movie somewhat for the production values, but I never seen a movie that shouts "Wasted potential!" harder than this one.
Honestly, I was a little bit disappointed with the movie. I thought that the movie would somehow be like a mini-sequel to what happened after the anime series, even a prologue would've been better.
It all turns out to be using just the same plot with the series - Hitomi gets pulled into Gaea, she meets Van, become very important especially when it comes with Escaflowne and they fight off Van's brother and the enemy. What makes it different is that, instead of Folken being just a very important commander of the enemy, HE is the 'head' of the Black Dragon that terrorized the people in Gaea (at least that's what I remembered).
The love story between the two main characters was all shortened - it was really fast paced, no Allen-Hitomi incident, no jealousy, not really that much chemistry all in all. The ending suck too, Folken's death was pretty lame for me - he died from getting stabbed at the chest by one of his men who did it for revenge. ¬_¬
All in all, though the works was all right, the fact that nothing new, maybe except for Folken's hair being really long and somewhat bushy-like, happened is a downer for me. I would rather you guys just watch the anime series, as there is more and it covers what the movie is pretty much telling you about which really was just fast paced version of the anime series, the anime ended better too.
Hitomi Kanzaki es una chica normal que estudia secundaria. Además de ser una excelente atleta, también es portadora de un poder excepcional para vislumbrar el futuro de los demás a través de una baraja del tarot. Su mejor amiga es Yukari, quien siempre está dándole ánimos para que le declare su amor a su superior Amano Susumu, otro atleta de su escuela.
Un día, mientras Kanzaki se encontraba realizando una competencia de atletismo, apareció frente a ella la imagen de un extraño muchacho. Pese a darse cuenta de que se trataba sólo de un espejismo, fue tal la impresión que la chica sufrió un colapso. Mientras descansaba en la camilla de la enfermería, la imagen del joven se repetía en sus sueños junto con otras que no parecían tener sentido: podía ver gigantes robots enfrascados en luchas mortales.
Días después, cuando Hitomi escucha los rumores de que Amano dejaría la escuela, se arma de valor y le pide que le dé su primer beso si ella logra romper su propio récord de 13 segundos. Amano acepta y toma el pendiente en forma de lágrima que Hitomi siempre trae consigo y con el cual puede contar los segundos al balancearlo.
A la mitad de su carrera, Hitomi vuelve a ver al chico con ropas extrañas y al creer que es otro espejismo, continúa su marcha tan sólo para chocar contra la "ilusión": Van, de Fanelia. Van le advierte de esconderse del dragón, pero Hitomi, no creyendo en tales cosas, le pregunta "¿cuál dragón?". Entonces se abre una gran brecha dimensional y por ella aparece un enorme dragón de tierra que arremete contra ambos. Tras una ardua lucha, Van logra matar al dragón y conseguir su corazón. A continuación una luz se forma a su alrededor y los levanta al cielo, donde ambos desaparecen.
Hitomi se despierta en el suelo de un extraño lugar, que resulta ser Gaea, planeta natal de Van, un lugar místico donde desde el cielo se puede observar la tierra y la luna. Desde allí son llevados a Fanelia donde Hitomi se entera que Van es elPríncipe y futuro soberano de esas tierras. En medio de la ceremonia de coronación de Van son atacados por una fuerza que destruye todo a su paso. Van despierta entonces al poderoso guymelef Escaflowne (una especie de armadura humanoidegigante) con ayuda del corazón de dragón. Sin embargo son rodeados por guymelefs enemigos, aunque el pendiente de Hitomi emite una luz que interactúa con el corazón de Escaflowne y son envueltos en una luz que los lleva al bosque.
Al despertarse Hitomi, se da cuenta que Van no esta junto a ella así, que empieza a caminar sin rumbo; de pronto se ve atacada por un hombre topo y rescatada por un joven espadachín de cabellos rubios, que tiene un gran parecido con el superior Amano, le pide ayuda, se abraza a él y se desmaya. Cuando Van llega y ve a Hitomi en brazos de un desconocido se pone en guardia y le pide que la suelte. Pero Allen se niega argumentando que la chica le pidió ayuda y como caballero es su deber resguardarla. Van al darse cuenta que dialogar con él no funciona le reta a una pelea, Allen acepta y en unos segundos demuestra su superioridad ante Van, revelándole que el propio Vargas le enseño todo lo que sabe, al oír el nombre de la persona que Van más respeta de los labios de Allen, este acepta su derrota y empieza a confiar en Allen.
Mientras se encuentran en el campamento de Allen, Hitomi tiene una visión donde el lugar es devastado por los enemigos invisibles, solo que esta vez Hitomi logra ver que se trata de guymelefs con alta tecnología que utilizan un manto que les permite la invisibilidad. Allen y los demás se comportan algo escépticos sobre las predicciones de la chica, pero cuando Van les revela que ella procede de la luna fantasma, Allen empieza a tomarse en serio sus palabras. Como Hitomi había advertido, el ataque se realizó pero Allen ya había previsto un contraataque lo que les permitió poder huir, no sin antes descubrir quien era el enemigo: Zaibach, un reino con la tecnología más avanzada sobre Gaea, con grandes ideas expansivas y la causante de la destrucción del Reino de Fanelia.
Logran escapar y trasladarse al reino de Astoria, donde conocen a la princesa Milerna la cual esta profundamente enamorada de Allen, para disgusto de Hitomi la cual empieza a desarrollar ciertos sentimientos hacia el caballero de Astoria por su gran parecido a Amano. Su estancia ahí no es muy oportuna ya que el Rey desconfía de ellos y los manda encarcelar, después reta a Van para comprobar si Escaflowne es tan poderoso como dicen y se queda asombrado después de la lucha.
El rey pronto muestra sus verdaderas intenciones, ya que él sigue siendo aliado de Zaibach. Folken, quien había llegado mucho antes que todos, ya estaba preparado para la llegada de Van y sus amigos, Dilandau.
Info. gracias a Wikipedia.