Mania Grade: F
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: A+
- Packaging Rating: B-
- Menus Rating: C-
- Extras Rating: F
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Bandai Entertainment
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 110
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Escaflowne
Escaflowne Movie: Standard Edition
By Justin A. Swartz
May 18, 2003
Release Date: July 23, 2002
Oh Lord have Mercy...not another TV series to film conversion!
The only tracks presented here are an English 5.1, a Japanese 5.1, and a Japanese DTS track. Oh, there's also the isolated musical score track, but I don't really count that one as an audio track (more on that later). Since I don't have a DTS setup, I can only comment on the 5.1 tracks. I watched both at various points in the movie, and the Japanese 5.1 wins out in terms of voice acting, scope of sound effects, fullness of music, and punch. The English track sounded tinny and rather thin in comparison. The only problem I had was the fact that there must be a ton of directionality with this on a home theater setup, but because I don't have that, all I got were a lot of muffled sounds and voices coming from way out in left field. Now I know why everyone complains about including the original stereo track.
Anamorphic widescreen transfers are becoming quite the norm for theatrical Anime releases, and this is no exception. No print damage, excellent balance of all video elements, and no compression lines or color bleeding. This is one area of the disc that you can't go wrong with.
Featuring a rather dark red and purple theme, we've got shadows of the characters set against a sunset of some kind with the sword of Escaflowne driving down the middle, with the cryptic message indicated in the trailer about "One Will Take It; One Will Destroy It." The case is pretty straight-forward and has no problems, and the disc has a very dark silk screen of a different take on the cover art (i.e. more shadowed faces and the sword bit). The back of the case is jammed full with information, but I thought the listing of the audio features as a scroll seemed real out-of-place when compared to the dark cover.
The menus are done up in a sky-angel wing type of mosaic, with a traveling through the clouds animation every time you move to a different menu. This got old really fast, since it's the same animation over and over again. It's also very difficult to tell what you have selected, since there's this white feather that highlights your selection, but against the blue sky and almost-white clouds, it's really hard to tell what you're selecting or if you have it selected at all. I wasn't really impressed with the menus, and they could have done better by just using still shots from the movie and having that shot play out for a few seconds on each menu transition. It worked for Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz...
None to speak of really, aside from trailers. The only decent trailer is the one for Char's Counterattack, which is actually an edit of one of the two original Japanese trailers for the film. I thought this was an interesting touch. There's a subtitle track that covers the storyboards for the film, but it's basically this little box in the corner that's hard to see at times, so overall, this was a somewhat-useless extra. There's an isolated musical score track as well, which will probably be some peoples' sweet potato pie, but for me was also useless (again, more on that later).
Content (hopefully, spoiler-free):
What can I say? I had heard good things about Escaflowne, but had also heard strange things about the film adaptation. Of course, I had heard the same things said about the Utena movie, and I adore Kunihiko Ikuahara's reduex on the Utena story, so I had gained the opinion that not all TV series to film conversions were bad.
I had heard good things about Evangelion too, and that quickly became my least favorite Anime series of all time, so the lesson here kids is that a) Justin doesn't use his brain enough and b) never listen to the hype.
Escaflowne: The Movie sports some spectacular animation, but horrible character designs. On the times I've seen the TV series I was never very impressed with the character designs, but the movie certainly wins the award for the worst-looking designs ever. I dangerously assume that most Anime heroines are supposed to have at least a semblance of attractiveness, and while TV Hitomi isn't too attractive, she's got nothing on her movie incarnation, who is the ugliest looking Anime girl to ever grace the big screen.
Equally ugly is the plot, which moves at the pace of an arthritic slug on a rainy day. There's very little explanation of what's going on, and there's some very cryptic messages about the end of the world that really weighs this movie down. On par with the incoherent plot and snail pace is the voice acting, which is pretty stale on both sides, even though the Japanese guys know their jobs a little better than the Ocean Group's boys and gals.
I was fairly surprised at the amount of blood and violence that perpetrated this film; I guess the thinking must have been "Well, it's the movie, so let's make it extra-violent." There's one scene in particular where Von is fighting to protect Hitomi and he splits this one guy's horse into very detailed pieces. In another scene, Folken breaks the fingers on his lackey's hand and actually has his neck muscles twisted like a corkscrew. There's blood flying out of people's heads, lips, and noses, along with the eyeball-about-to-burst-from-the-socket effect, and some generous flying limbs. The most disturbing scene, as far as I'm concerned, arrives when Von is first fighting in the Escaflowne armor, and as he's about to lose, he sees a vision of his brother Folken holding his father's decapitated head, which speaks to him and tells him to keep fighting.
I don't know about you, but that would scare the bejeebies out of me and make me lose a fight, not win it.
If there's one thing I'm not afraid of, it's speaking my mind, so I'll say this now: I hate Yoko Kanno. This entire musical score was very stale to me, down to the seemingly romantic numbers and the battle sequences. I don't know what everyone sees in her music, but all I hear is a very unmoving and dead musical score. That's why I said the isolated music track did nothing for me: it's yet another wasted extra on a movie that's a waste of your time. I'd also like to point out that some of her battle themes, and the majority of the Escaflowne score, is drawn from German-American composer Gustav Holst's suite, "The Planets." You're better off listening to the suite instead of this, due to a better orchestration and better instruments. Equally disappointing was the battle song when Von first fought in Escaflowne against Folken's lackey...it took me a while, but I figured out that the singers are chanting the word 'Escaflowne,' which suddenly made the entire affair seem like a big Saturday morning cartoon.
What to make of the film? All I can say is that it's a blessing I rented this, because I would never have felt right buying this, even from Wal-Mart. The score is borrowed, the movie is gore and eye-candy, and while you don't have to watch the TV series to get it, I can't imagine the TV series being much better, since it revolves around the same overused story about a prophesied one and hopeless shoujo romance. I forced myself to watch Evangelion, and even to finish watching Devil Hunter Yohko, but I shut this off after Von saw his daddy's head talk to him...that was plenty enough for me, and I hope you actually read this and watch yourself something more entertaining, like the original Bubblegum Crisis; at least that didn't resort to blood and gore to tell it's story.