DVD Movie Review: Escaflowne the Movie

By Drew Hurley 12.10.2017

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Escaflowne the Movie (UK Rating: 15)

The original Escaflowne belongs to a whole different generation of anime, a classic '90s series that captured the same sort of style of iconic JRPGs of the time; a fantastical setting with magic infused technology, various humanoid species and, in the middle of it all, a simple human schoolgirl from the "real" world. The original show was 26 episodes and released in 1996. Five years later, Japanese audiences were treated to this 90-minute reimagining of that story in Escaflowne the Movie. This Western release comes at the 20th anniversary of the show and, thanks to a successful Kickstarter by Funimation, it's bringing a whole new dub track with it, too! This movie is available now courtesy of Anime Limited and Funimation.

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While many series of the time hold a special place in the hearts of an entire generation of anime fans of the West, Escaflowne is a series often left off that list. This can be somewhat justified. The original release of Vision of Escaflowne was localised by Saban and it was absolutely butchered. It is almost indistinguishable to the original, with major edits not just to the adult content but to the story and characters themselves. Being released on Fox Kids instead of Toonami and years after the initial anime boom didn't help either. Fans had to wait until 2005 to receive the real version of this story.

Escaflowne the Movie has many big changes compared to the original series, too - as is to be expected when shrinking 26 episodes into just 90 minutes - but many of the story beats are the same. Opening on a high school girl in Tokyo, named Hitomi Kanzaki, a girl that ups the emo level above even Shinji Hikari. She bemoans her existence and even goes so far as to write a suicide note to her friend, who seems to just laugh off the whole situation in a rather disturbing reaction. Like Sarah Williams from Labyrinth, her teenage angst opens the door to another world, transporting her to the magical world of Gaea. This is a very different Hitomi than the original show and it's a horrible change. It's one of many character changes; lots of favourite and familiar characters return but they are often only related to the original characters in name and basic designs alone. It's a comparison similar to the recent slate of DC films - the joy and wonder being stripped out of the film for a dark and brooding story instead, and like those DC movies, this is much to the movie's detriment.

The world of Gaea is filled with the same dark brooding depression as Hitomi; war rages everywhere and Hitomi finds herself being worshipped as the "Wing Goddess," a being prophesied to either save or destroy the world. Hitomi teams with a group of rebels fighting back against the evil Black Dragon clan and its king, Lord Falken. Hitomi finds out the leader of the rebels, Van, is actually brother to Falken and the rightful king but will she help him save the world or will her coming be the first step of its destruction?

As a whole, the story can't hold a candle to the original. The characters feel one-dimensional and flat, and the only saving graces are the occasional cool moments but there are very few of these. There are a few great combat sequences but it's absolutely unforgivable that there is only a single mech combat sequence. It all looks and sounds good, at least, with some beautiful art and designs, combined with the superb new Kickstarter dub.

Rated 4 out of 10


Escaflowne the Movie is an absolutely wonderful story and has an amazing world, but it has really suffered in the West. Firstly there was the butchered original Saban release, and now this dark else-world story that feels like someone completely different trying to tell an alternate version of the original tale (unbelievably, it's actually from the same director!). This movie may once again sully the impression it makes on the audience, stripping out all but a single mech battle, ruining characters by turning them into emo, brooding messes, and generally just being dull and cliché. Fans would be better off investing in Anime Limited's awesome Ultimate Edition of the original.

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