Anime Meta-Review


Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaea


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Title Info

  • type: movie
  • grade: worthy
  • made: unknown
  • Review created: Fri Dec 1 00:30:11 EST 2000
  • mod: none

I had such fond memories of the Escaflowne TV series, and the review really needed updating, so I thought i'd watch it again before viewing this movie. Looking back, I have to think this was a serious mistake. It's best to consider this an entirely seperate anime, connected only in that it borrows a couple of characters from the original.

The story begins with us meeting Hitomi Kanzaki, a young schoolgirl. But try and forget the TV model, because this girls got the dark nihilistic / suicidal angst thing going full bore. Indeed in the first minutes she has rejected her best friend and wished she could vanish from the world. She probably didn't expect an answer, but it seems that a dark figure from another world has very similar desires. She finds herself drawn into the fantasy world of Gaea where it is possible she has a mythological destiny. This world is not much of a tourist destination though. Wrapped in a vicious (really vicious, the phrase `we need no slaves, kill everyone' seems to be in vogue) war. The two sides being the black dragon clan against the remaining kingdoms and the dispossessed rebels of those kingdoms already crushed. And it is amongst one of these bands (incidentally containing most of the characters from the TV series) that Hitomi finds herself dropped. It also seems the war is reaching a conclusion with two `dragon armors', awesomely powerful mecha supposedly responsible for the worlds destruction in a prior age, being re-discovered and on the verge of re-awakening.

The first thing you realize is that, in flavor and style, this is a world away from the TV series. At the same time it goes to some effort to re-introduce the `revised' characters, which makes the cast fairly large. This world is full of violence, cruelty and despair and the characters are products of that environment. The main lead, Van, is the king of an exterminated kingdom living only to seek revenge. The remainder of the rebels have both the appearance and attitude of pirates. Likewise the black-dragon clan seems to seek power, but even more so they revel in the destruction. Technology exists, magic exists for those with the `dragon blood' while much of warfare seems crude with swords being the dominant weapon. In such an environment the `dragon armor' would truly be a dominant weapon, and so the conflict over them is quite serious. In addition there is a real worry when they are also capable of global destruction, and placed into the hands of pilots a bit too prone to destructive rage. The only mystery being Hitomi's role, as the mythological `goddess of wings' in this final conflict. At the same time the conflict echo's hitomi's own doubt's about the virtues of existence, which gives an introspective edge to the proceedings.

That said, I must admit I didn't like it much. And I think those who liked the high fantasy and / or shoujo elements of the original Escaflowne will feel the same. While what they've done to the characters is interesting it is fairly extreme. Likewise the morbid rambling philosophy about war, death and destruction and is almost over the top at times. Likewise this focus on ambience and `deep meaning' reduces the amount of time available to a story we can actually follow, or learning who these characters are. Then again, a movie is actually a very limited format given such a large cast.

This focus on atmosphere and style also permeates the production. Of course this might be partly due to the copy I got, but it did seem that the film was very dark and the colors muddy. This second bit seems intentional, at times the animation was almost using paint effects. This can look quite beautiful at times, especially in `still' mode, but it doesn't always work, leading to a variation in quality. Likewise the action animation was very variable. While Escaflowne has gotten more biological and brutal in its action and appearance it didn't seem to move that well. The same was observed for most of the human movement. And then there are a handful of times, such as Dilandau getting tortured were there are incredibly detailed scenes of motion. Strangely enough this just made them stand out. Likewise the voice acting was more agressive, and the music used more as `punctuation' than background. It's an interesting experiment, probably designed for (and would look better on) the big screen, but not always successful and certainly a surprise for those expecting the sumptuous animation of the TV series to make a re-appearance.


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:17 WST 2009