Stephen reviews: Escaflowne: The Movie (2000)

Escaflowne: the Movie [エスカフローネ Escaflowne] (2000)
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.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Escaflowne: The Movie (2000) →

Stephen reviews: Slayers: the Motion Picture (1995)

Slayers [スレイヤーズ, Sureiyâzu]

Starring Megumi Hayashibara, Maria Kawamura, Osamu Saka, Tessho Genda, Minami Takayama

Directed by Hiroshi Watanabe & Kazuo Yamazaki


As you might have guessed by the title, Slayers: the Motion Picture is by no means the first product in the Slayers franchise. But unlike other anime movies, this is not a summary of a longer series or a sequel relying on previous events. It has no influence on the rest of the series, nor does the rest of the series influence it in any meaningful way, and its place in the timeline is mostly indeterminate. (Various websites assure me it’s a prequel, but there is nothing in the film to indicate that.) Therefore, it makes as good an entry point as any to the series.

Rather than the usual gang of misfits the series centers around, main character and master wizard Lina Inverse is wandering around on her own and is soon dragged off by fellow sorceress Naga to visit the famous hot springs of Mipross Island. I’m glad they kept the cast small, as the movie avoids the pitfalls of huge casts that plague many other anime films. Instead it is a classic odd couple routine where the two conflicting personalities of Lina and Naga collide.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Slayers: the Motion Picture (1995) →

Mini-Review: Whisper of the Heart (1995)

Whisper of the Heart [耳をすませば] (1995)

Starring Yōko Honna, Issei Takahashi, Maiko Kayama, Yoshimi Nakajima, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi, Takashi Tachibana, Shigeru Muroi, Keiju Kobayashi, Yorie Yamashita, Minami Takayama, Mayumi Iizuka

Directed by Yoshifumi Kondō

Expectations: High. I love Studio Ghibli and even though this isn’t directed by Miyazaki, I have high hopes.


Shizuku is a young junior high school student, busy reading every fairy tale she can get her hands on. It’s much more fun than studying! She soon notices a certain name that keeps popping up on the library index cards of the books she checks out. Who is this boy who reads all the same books? He must be someone very special! Shizuku quickly develops a crush on him that only mystery could facilitate. Written by Hayao Miyazaki, Whisper of the Heart hits every note perfectly and cleverly. Set in the mid-90s when libraries around the globe were undergoing the shift to computerized record-keeping, Miyazaki and director Yoshifumi Kondō manage to tell an enchanting love story completely based around the slowly dying old ways of the library, in what may be the most heart-warming anti-technology tale of all-time.

Whisper of the Heart isn’t your standard Ghibli fare, instead taking a much more realistic angle than Miyazaki’s films. Every frame of the film is filled with the detailed minutia of everyday life, from the quiet movements of a cat to the way the hanging handholds gently sway with the movement of a train car. It is nothing short of breathtaking. The attention to detail present here is absolutely unparalleled. My Neighbor Totoro features a lot of similar strokes of everyday life, but Whisper of the Heart revels in them, as it does not have a fantasy world to jump into as the story progresses. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are moments when fantasy takes hold, but the fantasy here is told in our real world sense of the term, it exists solely within the daydreams of Shizuku’s mind. These moments punctuate the reality of Shizuku’s situation, while also providing the viewer with some fun sequences. How else were they going to work a trademark Miyazaki flying scene into such a realistic film?

Whisper of the Heart is full of genuine emotion, heart and quality morals for any growing person. It is a touching film that is suitable for all audiences, but never seems like it is specifically targeting children. It’s just one of those films that’s so good, you can’t help but be enamored with it. I had been neglecting this film because it was not directed by Miyazaki (and somehow I thought that would effect its quality), and I was completely wrong to do so. If you’re thinking similarly, do yourself a favor and check this one out. Whisper of the Heart is hands down one of Studio Ghibli’s finest films. It’s an absolute shame that Yoshifumi Kondō would never get a chance at making another film as he died only three years later of an aneurysm. Highly recommended.

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