AKA Vision of Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaea
Starring Maaya Sakamoto, Tomokazu Seki, Jouji Nakata, Shinichiro Miki, Ikue Ohtani, Minami Takayama, Aki Takeda
Directed by Kazuki Akane
I have only seen Escaflowne: The Movie once before, back when I first got a hold of the DVD set, which must have been around 15 years ago by now. In that time I had forgotten pretty much everything about it, except that it had disappointed me all those years ago. The TV series has long been one of my favorite anime series, and I felt like the movie just couldn’t compare. A big part of this was because Escaflowne is a mecha series, and the movie only has one fairly short giant robot fight. I’ve wanted to revisit this film for a while now without having the series fresh in my mind to color my expectations, and that day has finally come.
The movie is drastically different from the TV series, and the first time I saw it, those differences were the main thing I was upset about. This time however, those differences were what I found to be the most fascinating part of the story. I’m actually glad the film isn’t just a simple rehash of the show. Instead it gave me brand new things to see, which makes it much more worth watching than simply retelling the same story I’ve already seen. Even better, because events are so different, there are no spoilers of the show inside the film, so it can be watched all on its own and still leave the series as a fresh experience for later viewing.
The story itself is about as typical as an anime can get. A high school girl named Hitomi gets whisked away to a different world where fantastic creatures and epic battles await. There she meets Van, a king whose country has been destroyed and his family killed. Van seeks a magical robot called Escaflowne, and it seems Hitomi is the key to unlocking its power. And of course there’s an evil empire trying to get the Escaflowne first.
Unfortunately, it just doesn’t have time to do the situation justice. There was certainly a lot of effort to connect this thread of suicidal characters, and I do appreciate its attempts to make Hitomi understand the emotions and motives underlying Van and Folken so that she could reach out to them. But it would have worked better with more time to show those characters evolving. As it is, Hitomi seems to just shift from nihilistic despair to deep concern in a heartbeat, and that kinda undermines her character arc.
Overall, I had a good time with the film. It’s nothing like the TV series, and that can be a good thing if you are able to separate the two. The ideas are good in this movie, and they look beautiful. I just wish those ideas had more room to grow. If you’ve never seen Escaflowne, it’s a good film to check out. And if you have seen the series before, just pretend it’s not Escaflowne; maybe you’ll like it more that way.