Synopsis (via Wikipedia.org — it was the best one)
Hitomi Kanzaki is in crisis. Her life has lost its meaning, and she is plagued by unusual dreams. She is depressed and wants nothing more than to disappear. After falling out with her only friend she is mysteriously summoned to another world, Gaea, where she finds herself inside Escaflowne, a doomsday weapon destined to come to life at the appearance of a prophesied “wing goddess”. The world of Gaea is facing its own crisis: relentless conquest by the Black Dragon Clan, the rebels against which become convinced that Hitomi is the prophesied goddess who will revive Escaflowne. Never certain of her identity in Gaea, Hitomi finds her destiny as she becomes closer to the rebel leader, Lord Van, and helps to bring about the fall of his vengeful brother Lord Folken, the master of the Black Dragon Clan.
Escaflowne – The Movie was based on a 1996 television show by the same name (minus the movie part) and for the most part it seemed to do justice to it, though there were multiple things lost in translation from television to film (lots of things lost). If you want to see those, then I highly recommend looking at the 26 episode run. For me, I’ve never seen the show, but after watching the film it does intrigue me.
Regardless of translation, the film does a good job, and somewhat bad, to put together an epic world with interesting characters. The main protagonist is a girl named Hitomi, who has lost her way on earth and is going through a bit of depressive state simply because she feels isolated and out of place. Contemplating ending her life, she falls into another world, literally, called Gaea, and is immediately captured by an angry warrior boy named Lord Van, a rebel leader, who believes she is a savior and goddess.
There’s a lot to take in with the first act of the film. If you have no reference to the show or the story, then you’re probably going to feel as confused as Hitomi, which is pretty damn confused. There isn’t a lot of detail of why people believe she is important, other than Lord Van and crew think she is a goddess. The first act really dedicates itself to trying to explain and expand on all the main characters involved in the story, but Hitomi is the only one that really provides any detail, and it’s not that much.
As the second act begins, we get a good glimpse of the antagonist, Lord Folken, who leads the evil group known as the Black Dragon Clan. He wants the goddess and also wants to wipe out the rebels, especially Lord Van. The second act spends a lot of time on action sequences, introducing minor characters and some backstory behind Van, but doesn’t spend enough time filling in some gaps left behind by act one. As the second act comes to a close, Van and crew are down, Folken is up and everything is about to fall apart — including Hitomi’s nerves.
The second act is overblown with too much action and not enough story for the characters, especially the kind that support motivation for each group. Hitomi’s character kind of flounders a bit in the mix, providing only emotional moments that need to happen to keep respectful connections between protagonist alive and kicking. That said, the action is good. It’s beautifully drawn and done, but the substance behind it is shallow at best. I wanted to know a bit more about secondary characters, the Black Dragon Clan and needed a deeper reason for Lord Folken’s bitterness. It just seems a bit of the explanation is all over the place, but the beauty of the animation helps to alleviate that just a smidge.
The third act ends oddly, though I won’t say how. The end of the story ends dramatically and endearingly. It made me want to know more about Hitomi’s final realization of who she is and what she is going to do after the battles. There were a lot more questions left at the end than answers, but maybe that was the intention. I can’t find answers on the Interwebs, rather only theories.
In addition, somewhere along the way you would think the film’s story would build Hitomi up, sorta in the same vein as what Shailene Woodley’s Tris goes through in Divergent, where you see her character start as confused and weak, then slowly starts turning into a powerful leader with solid motivation. Sadly, Hitomi never hits those strides or notes, even in the third act. I wanted her to so bad.
Regardless, the film has some really Fist of the North Star moments, with epic battles and scream-y characters. With that, it also has Fist of the North Star sentiments in its story, where the action seemed to be a bit more of the focus. Missed opportunity? Probably, but the film is still entertaining in its good moments.
Overall, if you’re a fan of the television show, then you might be interested in how Escaflowne ended up in movie format, especially with the changes. If you’ve never seen the show, or know of the story, then you might be a little lost, but also entertained with the action. There’s some good value in this, but it could have been far better.
On the special features side of things, here’s what you’re looking at:
– Promo Video
– U.S. Trailer
– Trailer (?)
Onto the summary.