Escaflowne (2000)

escaflowneNot a day goes by when I don’t think that I haven’t watched enough anime, and so I thought of a number of anime films and series’ I may have wanted to try out, and amongst them was Escaflowne (sometimes billed as Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaia), an anime film I found and became interested in last year. Apparently based on a TV series called Visions of Escaflowne (which I must check out before I croak), I’ve heard that it differs from it in various ways, making it a fairly loose adaptation, but on its own, I’d say it was pretty good, with its engaging story in a well-crafted fantasy world.

The film revolves around Hitomi Kanzaki, a depressed high school girl plagued by unusual dreams that cause her such sorrow that she wants to disappear from the world, and her wish is heard in the alternate world of Gaea by a man named Lord Folken, the leader of the Black Dragon Clan who wishes to conquer Gaea and bring about its destruction. In Gaea, she is the prophesied “Wing Goddess” who will revive the Escaflowne, a doomsday weapon that can either destroy or save Gaea. As she develops a close friendship with the rebel leader Van, she becomes more hopeful, and in overcoming her sorrow, she wishes to save Gaea from being destroyed by the man who brought her there.

The story goes in a somewhat familiar direction, and I don’t like that it meanders a bit during the beginning, but it’s not without its character or charm. It has elements of both traditional fantasy and mecha-oriented sci-fi, with hints of romantic drama throughout. It’s quite an eclectic mix of genres, blended together into a neatly paced 98-minute film. Even if it has its flaws, I definitely enjoyed the story from beginning to end, and chiefly because it was simply an entertaining watch.

It has long been established that English dubs of old anime films tended to be mostly cheesy (that was certainly true in the dub of Vampire Hunter D), but I don’t think that’s a problem in Escaflowne. Judging by the Ocean Studios dub, the acting wasn’t that bad, and I liked the characters quite a bit. The main character didn’t appeal to me much, but the film’s deuteragonist, the rebel leader Van, was a much more striking protagonist, mainly because he shows great power, and like many familiar fantasy heroes, is unafraid to unleash it if he thought he was doing good by it. There are a number of interesting side characters, some of them are part animal (including Merle, a likably eccentric catgirl). However, I felt that Lord Folken was a particularly strong character. In fact, he reminds me of a character I wrote and drew for one of my one fantasy stories.

Though I personally think Escaflowne’s art style is as well-drawn as other anime films and series’ (I’ve seen images of the Escaflowne TV series, and they look quite good compared to this), I still think the film looked good, and it definitely had the mark of an imaginative fantasy film, with fantastical characters, costumes, and locations that appeal to my blatant sensibilities as a fantasy fan, complete with the showdown between two mechas (one of them obviously being Escaflowne, which at some point turns into a dragon). I’ve always held the belief that animation as a medium is an enabler of greater creative freedom, and this film certainly proves that.

Even with its flaws, I can’t really critique Escaflowne that much. After all, I genuinely enjoyed that film, and would certainly be interested in other films like it. I can’t help but think that one day, I may be a connoisseur of films like Escaflowne, as I seem to find them innately appealing, with this film being a good example of why.

  • Score: 75%
  • Grade: B
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